Eating a nutritious whole food diet is great for overall health. Not only do whole foods contain macro-nutrients like Vitamin C and E that we learned about in school, they also contain enzymes and micro-nutrients. Science has not yet uncovered all the benefits that these vital building blocks can have on our body so it becomes hard to isolate these nutrients and turn them into over the counter vitamins.
If you’re turning to supplements for eye health, start by looking at to your plate first. These 7 nutrient-rich foods for eye health help keep eyes healthy and vision strong:
1. Cold-water fish
While you may find catfish or bass more common on a plate in some parts of the country, it’s the cold-water fish that provide the most eye health benefits. These include tuna, sardines and mackerel.
Cold-water fish are packed full of Omega 3 fats. These healthy fats not only reduce inflammation, which can improve dry eye symptoms, but studies have shown that they may also reduce abnormal vessel growth in those with diabetic retinopathy. That’s one of the leading causes of blindness in middle age adults1.
Similar studies have shown a reduction in risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD)1. You’re never too young to make eye-healthy food choices like eating more cold-water fish to prevent eye problems down the road.
2. Nuts & seeds
If you don’t like fish, you’re in luck. Many nuts and seeds also have Omega’s 3’s. You can easily serve these up as healthy snacks or grind them. Add them to yogurt, pancakes or other foods for better eye health.
Some of the nuts and seeds with the highest Omega 3’s are:
- Flax (milled is best for better nutrient absorption)
- Pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas)
3. Dark greens
Dark leafy greens contain vitamins and nutrients essential for eye health. These include primarily lutein and zeaxanthin. These nutrients provide plants with their the yellowish pigment found in many green foods.
When humans consume them, they act as natural UV blocker for your eyes. We’re not suggesting that you trade out your prescription sunglasses for kale, but by blocking UV rays they may prevent cataracts and AMD that can be caused by excessive sun exposure.
To protect your eyes, eat more of these green foods:
- Green peas
Add some dark greens to a salad. Eat some guacamole and carrots for lunch. Help yourself to more green peas at dinner time. These antioxidants are also found in yellow vegetables like squash.
If greens aren’t your thing, eating more eggs can help you get more lutein and zeaxanthin in your diet. One study showed that eating 12 eggs a week significantly decreased the symptoms of AMD and it improved retinal health. When tested, the participants showed increased levels of these antioxidants. This provides more solid proof that these antioxidants protect vision2.
Citrus fruits like grapefruit, oranges and lemons are high in the antioxidant Vitamin C. According to the American Optometric Association, Vitamin C helps reduce the risk of cataracts. It’s believed that the Vitamin C helps the eye recover more quickly from environmental damage like cigarette smoke or steroid use3.
In a 10-year study, participants showed a 64% reduced risk of developing cataracts by regularly eating vitamin-rich foods. Another study showed that macular degeneration progression rate could be slowed with Vitamin C found in citrus3.
This isn’t free reign to abuse your eyes, but it’s nice to know that the food we eat can help our bodies heal more effectively.
6. Beans & peas, including peanuts
Do you love a great bean salad? How about a hardy chili overflowing with kidney beans? What about lentil soup? Then you’ll love that beans are great for eye health.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology states that any kind of legume contains loads of zinc. Studies have shown that zinc may also protect the eyes from UV rays4.
7. Red meat
We don’t often hear of the health benefits of eating more red meat but it does contain nutrients that are important to your eyes, especially if you don’t get these nutrients anywhere else.
Beef contains fat, which helps you absorb fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A in carrots and squash. Like other antioxidants we’ve discussed, Vitamin A helps protect the eyes from environmental damage. Red meat also contains zinc.
Whole foods & your eye health
These foods will help keep your eyes strong. They may also prevent or slow many age-related eye conditions you may face later. Eat a variety of these healthy foods for eye health!