You’ve probably heard that carrots can help improve your vision, but there are other foods and their nutrients that have a greater benefit for your eyesight.
A healthy diet for your eyes should include plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables. Lutein and zeaxantin, vitamins A, C and E, zinc, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids all play a role in eye health.
These nutrients help maintain eye function, protect your eyes against harmful light and reduce the development of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Spinach, kale and silver beet
When your cells turn food and oxygen into energy they also produce free radicals. If our body is operating at peak health the free radicals are neutralised by antioxidants before they cause any damage. Leafy greens such as spinach, kale and silver beet are loaded with lutein and zeaxanthin. They protect against eye damage from things like sunlight, cigarette smoke, and air pollution. They function as a natural sunblock and are thought to play a key role in protecting your eyes against harmful blue light. They can also found in naturally yellow fruit and vegetables such as sweet corn and capsicum.
Egg yolks and dairy products
Vitamin A is essential for maintaining your eyes’ light sensing cells called photoreceptors. If you have a vitamin A deficiency you may experience night blindness, dry eyes and it can lead to blindness. Vitamin A is found in animal-derived foods such as liver, egg yolks and dairy products and also in plant compounds such as some fruits and vegetables; kale, spinach and carrots.
Vitamin C is a top antioxidant and can be found in many fruits and vegetables, including bell peppers, citrus fruits, kale and broccoli. Vitamin C may protect against cataracts and prevent glaucoma. Vitamin C also works with vitamin E to keep healthy tissue strong.
Nuts, whole grains and leafy vegetables
Vitamin E is found in nuts, wheat germ, whole grains and leafy vegetables. Vitamin E deficiency can lead to retinal degeneration and blindness and the best dietary source is from your diet, not supplements.
Zinc contributes to the structure of skin and wound healing and is necessary for the structure and function of cells. Natural dietary sources of zinc include meat, seafood (especially oysters), seeds, nuts and whole grains.
Selenium is needed for cell protection from damage caused by free radicals. It helps the other antioxidants such as vitamin C and E to function more efficiently and is found in nuts, seafood and brown rice. It may reduce the risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration.
Oily fish - salmon and tuna
Omega-3 fatty acids are important to your eye health. They are found in high levels in the retina and contribute to cell renewal and development. They are especially important for brain and eye development during childhood. Omega-3 is found in oily fish such as salmon, tuna, anchovies and sardines. Research suggests that eating fish 2-3 times a week can reduce your risk of both developing and slowing down the progression of age-related macular degeneration. Omega-3 may also help with dry eye symptoms by increasing the formation of tear fluid.
The most common eye conditions include cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Your risk of developing these diseases depends on your age, genetics, chronic diseases and lifestyle. It’s best to get most nutrients through a healthy diet that looks after your whole body and will keep your eyes healthy too. If you plan to take dietary supplements make sure you discuss this with your optometrist or ophthalmologist.