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February 10, 2020

11 Foods That Can Improve Your Eye Health

Did you know that you can improve your overalleye healthby simply opening up your mouth and eatingKrispy Kreme? That’s right, foodies, you were born for this! Your risk of eye health problems is not inevitable, so don’t assume that you’ll be legally blind by 60-years-old just because it happened to Grandma. Genetics, eyestrain and aging can all play a role, but there ARE steps you can take that will significantly reduce your risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, and more. Here are 11 eye-friendly foods that you’ll never see the same again (pun intended, sorry not sorry).

  • Fish. No, we’re not referring to the all-you-can-eat fried flounder and shrimp at Myrtle Beach, although that would be nice. Certain types of fish, like salmon, provide omega-3 fatty acids that contribute to overalleye health and protect against age-relatedmacular degeneration, dry eye syndrome and glaucoma. Essential fatty acids (EFAs), which cannot be produced by the body on its own, are required for the formation, production and healthy functioning of cells, muscles, nerves and organs. In addition to benefiting adults, studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids are also added to infant formulas due to their ability to stimulate vision development in babies. Not a big salmon fan? Beneficial levels of omega-3s can also be found in mackerel, sardines, tuna, trout, anchovies, herring, and dietary supplements such as fish oil. 
  • Nuts And Legumes. No one says they’re going to pick up some “legumes” at the store, so before we explain the visual benefits, it’s time for a quick botany lesson. The “legume family” is made up of plants that produce pods with multiple seeds inside, like lentils, peas, chickpeas, beans, soybeans and peanuts. Nuts, however, are typified by a hard outer shell that protects one seed only (walnuts and almonds, for example). Like fish, nuts and legumes are chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids, but they’re also great sources of Vitamin E, an antioxidant that has been proven to lower your risk of macular degeneration and cataracts by neutralizing free radicals in the body. Next time you’re in the mood for a snacky snack, do your eyes a favor and grab a handful of cashews in lieu of flaming hot cheetos.
  • Citrus. Ah, the benefits of good old Vitamin C. Not only does Vitamin C protect against immune system deficiencies, it also heals and helps prevent inflammatory conditions of the eye. Fruits that are rich in Vitamin C include oranges, kiwis, lemons and grapefruit, so prepare to go bankrupt at Whole Foods (or...just shop at Food Lion instead). According to the American Optometric Association, Vitamin C may also lower the risk of developing cataracts (yay for not going blind)! 
  • Leafy Greens. I know, nothing gives you flashbacks of your childhood like being told to eat your “leafy greens,” but hear me out. Collard greens, spinach and kale all contain high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, potent antioxidants that have quite the reputation for protecting the eye. For those who aren’t familiar with fancy antioxidant jargon, lutein and zeaxanthin are “carotenoids,” or plant pigments responsible for the bright red, yellow and orange hues in those 3-packs of bell peppers. Interestingly, these two dietary carotenoids accumulate in the retina (specifically toward the macula in the back of the eye) and are known as “macular pigments.” To save you from googling, the rest of the retina processes our peripheral (side) vision, but macular disease causes loss of central vision. In other words, if you want to keep from losing your eyesight, you’re going to want as many antioxidants in that area as possible, so put on your hipster hat and start making kale chips STAT.
  • Carrots. My mom always told me to eat my carrots because they were “good for the eyes,” and I always wondered if she was full of crap. This is the same woman who told me that gum stayed in my stomach for seven years, so can you blame me for questioning her? As it turns out, she was right about the carrots (not about the gum though). Thanks to their high levels of Vitamin A, carrots HAVE actually been scientifically proven to improve your vision. Vitamin A, which helps us maintain a clear cornea, is essential for healthy vision and is associated with a reduced risk of cataracts and AMD (age-related macular degeneration). Vitamin A is also a component of rhodopsin, an eye protein that allows you to see in dim conditions. If unaddressed, Vitamin A deficiency can result inxerophthalmia, a progressive eye disease that leads to night blindness. Vitamin-A rich foods are recommended over supplements, but if you’re not a fan of carrots, other foods rich in Vitamin-A include peppers, cantaloupe, apricots, squash, and much more. 
  • Sweet Potatoes. Like carrots, sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene, a red-orange food pigment that your body converts to Vitamin A. Yes, I could have just included them in the list of “other Vitamin-A rich foods” in the previous entry, but sweet potatoes are just hearty and delicious enough to deserve their own spot on the list (not to mention they’re also a great source offiber and minerals). 
  • Sunflower Seeds. Seeds aren’t just for the bird feeder in the backyard (although you might want to purchase a different variety for yourself). The birds are onto something, because sunflower seeds are packed with nutrients and are especially high in selenium and Vitamin E (selenium is a nutrient that helps the body absorb Vitamin E, so it’s like a BOGO). 
  • Eggs. Good oldzeaxanthin and lutein are back again, but this time in eggs! Seriously, who doesn’t love a good egg? Sunny side up, scrambled, over-easy, you name it.  Zeaxanthin, an antioxidant found in egg yolk, protects your eyes from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation as well as reducing your risk of cataracts. Egg yolks are also high in lutein, a carotenoid that fightsmacular degeneration. Although lutein can be found in leafy greens, it’s easier for the body to absorb them via eggs, so why not make yourself an omelet?
  • Water. Technically water isn’t a food, but something this important for your eyeballs can’t be left off of the list! A large percentage of your eye is made up of water, so staying hydrated naturally protects againstdry eye syndrome. Dehydration occurs when you are losing more fluid than you’re taking in, so remember to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water (or more) a day in order to maintain a healthy balance of fluid in the eye.
  • Whole Grains. Hold onto your butts, because whole grains pack a pretty amazing ocular punch. Foods like brown rice, wheat, oats, quinoa, and barley contain Vitamin E, zinc and niacin, all of which reduce the risk of AMD and cataracts. Interestingly, replacing simple carbs that have a high glycemic index with whole grains can slow the progression of AMD by as much as 8%. BUT THAT’S NOT ALL! The zinc in whole grain plays an important role in bringing Vitamin A from the liver to the retina to protect the eye from light and inflammation. 
  • Dairy. Lovers of cheese, milk and yogurt can REJOICE, because dairy products are where it’s at!  Dairy products contain zinc, which helps take Vitamin A from the liver to the eye, and Vitamin A, which maintains the health of your retinas. Cow milk provides the most benefits (sorry, vegans), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that adults drink approximately 3 cups of dairy a day. Dairy products are also a great source of calcium, a mineral that benefits bone health, skin and eyes. More specifically, calcium facilitates the communication between the nerve cells in your eyes and your central nervous system so your brain can process what your eyes see. 

Interested in learning about other ways to improve your eye health?Schedule an appointmenttoday!