Top 5 Nutrients for Eye Health

Eat Your Way to Healthy Eyes!

Is your vision not quite what it used to be?

Are you worried about the effects of aging on your vision and want to know what you can do to keep your eyes healthy?

If so, then read on. By the end of this article, you’re going to know exactly what your eyes need to stay healthy and clear.

Just like the rest of your body, your eyes need proper nutrition in order to function properly.

There are also several different nutrients that can actually decrease your risk of developing such diseases as macular degeneration and glaucoma. A whopping 60% of Americans over the age of 60 suffer from cataracts and an astounding 25-30 milliion people worldwide are affected by age-related macular degeneration (ARD).

By giving your eyes what they need, you can decrease your odds of becoming one of those numbers. Let’s get started!

Have Some Salmon!

That’s right – omega 3’s are even good for your eyes. The fatty acids in fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna, and mackerel help keep the tiny blood vessels in your eyes healthy. In addition, omega-3’s also play a key role in the structural health of the membrane and photo-receptor cells in your retina.

One study showed that eating fish twice per week can decrease your risk of developing AMD by as much as 30%. When you add the benefits that omega 3’s have on your eyes to all of their other health benefits, it’s a no-brainer that fish oils should be an integral part of your diet. To read more about the benefits of omega 3’s, check out our Benefits of Omega 3’s article.

Provitamin A

Carotenoids are, in essence, the pigments found in certain foods that your body converts into provitamin A. The way that vitamin A works to protect your eyes is two-fold. The carotenoids strengthen the pigmentation in the macula and the anti-oxidants work to protect your eyes from the damage caused by free radicals. Some visible benefits include:

  • The correct amount of moisture in your eyes, which increases acuity
  • The ability to adjust to changes in light
  • Prevention of the formation of cataracts
  • Decreased chances of developing ARD, the leading cause of blindness on the planet

The benefits of incorporating carotenoids into your diet include a lower risk of AMD and other age-related diseases. There are 3 carotenoids that are responsible for good eye health: zeaxanthin, beta carotene, and lutein.

  • Zeaxanthin -This is the carotenoid that’s is found in the highest concentrations in your central macula. It helps protect your eyes from light damage, among other things. Most green, leafy veggies such as kale, broccoli, collard greens and brussel sprouts are great sources. Others that may be a little more surprising include eggs, bell peppers, paprika, and kiwi.
  • Beta-Carotene – Remember when your mother (and that affable cartoon bunny, Bugs) told you that carrots helped you see better? Well, they were 100% correct. Carrots are an amazing source of beta-carotene, the carotenoid that your body converts to retinol and uses throughout your eye for various protective functions. In fact, your eyes NEED it to maintain good vision.

    Men need about 1000 retinol equivalents (RE) per day, and women need about 800 RE’s. To give you a general idea of how much this is, a carrot has about 2000 RE, a mango has about 600 RE, your average sweet potato has roughly 2600 RE, and for those of you who can eat it without cringing, liver supplies a whopping 11,000 RE!

    Other good sources include apricots, yellow squash and cantaloupe. Basically, if it’s orange it’s probably got some beta-carotene in there somewhere! To read more about how retinol helps you fight the signs of aging, read our article on Does Retinol Prevent Wrinkles.

  • Lutein – The final carotenoid that you absolutely must have for eye health is lutein. It works in the highest concentration in your central macula and protects you from damage that leads to cataracts and macular degeneration. In fact, just 6 mg of lutein per day has been shown to decrease your risk of AMD by as much as 57%!

    You can find lutein in such foods as broccoli, peas, and green peppers, or you may choose to supplement with it.

To close out our vitamin A discussion, we need a drum roll…SPINACH is the superfood of this entire discussion. It contains all 3 of the carotenoids, plus vitamin C that we’re going to discuss next, in a high enough concentration that one cooked serving per day can give you all that you need to keep your eyes healthy. That’s right – listen to Popeye – he knew what he was talking about!

Vitamin B

The B vitamins are must-haves for eye health. B2 (roboflavin) and B3 (niacin) are shown to reduce your risk of cataracts. B6 helps with retinol health and B12 helps keep your eyes moist. Therefore, both B6 and B12 may help reduce your risk of developing AMD.

Foods rich in the B vitamins include bananas, avocados, almonds, dairy products, kidney beans, tuna, salmon, mushrooms and peanuts.

Vitamin C Not only does it help you fight off colds, vitamin C is also great for your eyes! You probably already know that you can get it from citrus fruits but other sources that you may not know about include broccoli, kiwis, strawberries and bell peppers.

Zinc

The final nutrient that is amazing for your eyes includes zinc. People with macular degeneration exhibit low levels of zinc in the eye and it’s been shown that this mineral helps assists in enzyme function in your retina. Because zinc can interact with other minerals in your body, it’s best to get it from dietary sources such as peanuts, pumpkin seeds, lamb, oysters and lean beef.

By the way, I nearly forgot the most awesome source of zinc – chocolate. Yep, 100 mg of dark chocolate delivers almost 65% of your daily recommended dose of zinc, so stop feeling guilty and just think of how much your eyes love you the next time that you indulge!

Now that you know what you need to eat in order to increase the health of your eyes and the longevity of your good vision, head to the grocery store or your local market and get what you need. If you follow this guide, chances are good that your eyes will be as healthy in 20 years as they are right now – all it takes is a little bit of proactive eating.

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