Today’s blog marks the first of a two-part blog series focused on the importance of eye health and tips to consider to help you set your sights on healthy vision. In part one of this series we’ll be discussing the importance of nutrition and how the foods you eat can support vision health. We identified several nutrients to incorporate into your daily diet to help keep your healthy vision sharp and potentially reduce your risk of certain eye diseases. So, let’s get started!
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids responsible for the yellow, orange and red pigments in fruits and vegetables and are also found in high concentrations in dark, leafy vegetables. Most notable for their antioxidant properties, these nutrients can help protect against damage from age-related eye health issues.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in high concentration in the macula of the eye. While each person is born with a certain amount of lutein and zeaxanthin in their eyes, we cannot produce any additional amounts and thus have to be consumed adequately through food and supplements. These nutrients can be found in darky leafy greens like turnips and collard greens, spinach and kale and other vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peas and corn. Although there is no recommended daily value, some studies show health benefits from taking 10 mg/day of a lutein supplement and two mg/day of a zeaxanthin supplement.
Omega-3, a family of essential fatty acids, is often linked to supporting cardiovascular health. But, did you know docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are vital to keeping our eyes healthy?
In fact, these nutrients are so critical that infant formula is often supplemented with DHA to ensure infants receive the powerful nutrient they would while in the womb and from nursing. Omega-3s are important for healthy visual development, retinal function and are useful for combating occasional dry eye symptoms. These nutrients are found in cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, and rainbow trout; and oils like sunflower and corn oil.
Zinc is an essential mineral involved in various functions in the body from protein synthesis, immune health to bone formation. It also plays a very important role in transporting Vitamin A from the liver to the retina of the eye to produce melanin which gives our eyes its distinct color. Zinc is found in high concentration in the retina, the light sensitive area in the back of eye, and is required to maintain suitable levels of Vitamin E in the body. Since the body cannot produce zinc on its own, sufficient intake and absorption of zinc is essential to prevent impairment of night vision. Zinc is obtained through the diet in sources like meat, poultry, fish, whole grains and dairy products.
You may recall your parents saying, “eat your carrots” when you were a kid, because they help improve (or preserve) your vision. Well, in a nutshell, your parents were somewhat correct!
Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, a pigment which gives yellow and orange fruits and vegetables their rich color. Beta-carotene is a precursor to Vitamin A, which is essential for good vision, specifically in low light conditions. In fact, Vitamin A deficiencies have been shown to cause night blindness. As a powerful antioxidant, Vitamin A also aids in the protection of age-related eye health issues and helps form a protective barrier against bacteria and viruses. Some foods that are rich in Vitamin A include carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, spinach and kale.
Vitamins C and E
Other powerful antioxidants, like Vitamins C and E, work to ward off damage by free radicals, which can potentially destroy healthy eye tissue. Vitamin C supports the health of blood vessels in the eye, and along with Vitamin E, helps prevent the formation of cataracts. Vitamin C is mainly found in citrus fruits, green peppers, broccoli and potatoes. Eggs, whole grains, vegetable oils, sunflower seeds, almonds and nuts are great sources of Vitamin E.
So, what’s the main point here? Enjoying a balanced diet filled with healthy fats and a colorful array of fruits and vegetables as an everyday lifestyle is essential to maintaining eye health. Which nutrients do you consistently incorporate into your diet to support your healthy vision?