Protecting Eye Health And Easing Eye Strain With Food!

July 31, 2015

Sweet potatoes, salmon, chia seeds and more...foods that can keep your eyes healthy!

Approximately 10 million Americans suffer from macular degeneration, and over half of all Americans over 80 have cataracts. According to the CDC around 21 million Americans have some sort of functional vision problem or eye condition, and vision loss is among the top 10 reported disabilities in adults in the US. 

So can what we eat help protect our eyes? Yes! Research conducted by the National Eye Institute demonstrated that there are several nutrients that are beneficial for eye health. The most important foods are those that are rich in the antioxidants beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as zinc and omega-3s.

Here are some foods to make sure are on your shopping list today!

Brussels sprouts and bell peppers pack vitamin C - another antioxidant that protects the entire body including our eyes.

Carrots, sweet potatoes, and apricots are loaded with beta-carotene, an antioxidant that helps reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.

Turkey, oysters, and pumpkin seeds, are all rich in zinc. Low levels of have been linked to impaired vision and poor night vision as well as cloudy cataracts. In addition to zinc, turkey also contains niacin, the B-vitamin that specifically protects against cataracts. Other food rich in niacin are tuna, chicken, salmon, lamb, sardines, shrimp and brown rice.

Salmon, sardines and other omega 3 rich foods including hemp, and chia seeds are also beneficial for eye health. Studies have shown that regularly eating foods rich in omega-3s can help protect tiny blood vessels within the eyes. Sprinkle chia and hemp seeds on salads, soups and breakfast oatmeal, and aim for two to three 4 oounc portions of oily fish per week.

Spinach provides four eye-protecting nutrients: vitamin C, beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Studies have shown that eating foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin can increase the pigment density in the macula; and greater pigment density means better retina protection, and a lower risk of macular degeneration. Because they absorb 40 to 90 percent of blue light intensity, these nutrients act like sunscreen for your eyes. Other great sources of lutein and zeaxanthin include, dark green leafy veggies, squash, peas, corn, pumpkin, peppers, kiwi, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. Eggs and oranges also contain small amounts.

Vitamin E rich foods may also boost eye health and include wheat germ, almonds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, cooked spinach, apricots, olives and more.

Keep in mind that for the best absorption of these eye health nutrients you don’t want to skimp on the healthy fats – so have some great olive oil with your salad, or if you steam your veggies sprinkle with hemp or flax seeds.  Snacking on carrots, have some hummus as well!

Shopping for eye health is similar to shopping for general health, choosing fresh produce (seasonal if possible) and making most meals at home are two tips that will have you headed in the right direction in addition to adding the foods above to your shopping list. And don't forget to schedule regular eye exams with your optometrist to keep your eyes in optimum health!