Healthy Foods to Protect Eye Health

Eating right can keep our eyes healthy and lower the risk of eye disease.  There are some foods that are particularly important for maintaining eye health.  These are the foods that are rich in lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber.

Kale:  Like other leafy dark green vegetables, Kale is rich in lutein and zeaxanthin.  These nutrients are concentrated in the retina and lens, playing an important role lowering risk of AMD and cataracts, and providing protection against retinal damage.

  • Protection: Lutein and Zeaxanthin protects our retina from free radicals produced by blue light.  Exposure to excess blue light can be harmful to the eyes and can lead to the development of AMD.  Blue light can be emitted from cell phones, laptops, tablets, fluorescent light bulbs, etc.
  • AMD: Studies suggest that supplementing with lutein and zeaxanthin can increase pigmentation in the macula.  This increase in macula pigmentation decreases the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
  • Cataract Development:  Research also suggest that increasing lutein and zeaxanthin consumption can lower the risk of cataract development, a condition that causes the lens to become opaque, obstructing light from entering the eye to reach the retina.
  • Healthy Vision:  Lutein and zeaxanthin consumption can also improve visual performance and decrease light sensitivity.

Other sources of lutein and zeaxanthin include spinach, collards, turnip greens, lettuce, broccoli and whole eggs.

Oranges:  This fruit contains vitamin C (ascorbic acid), which is an essential nutrient that our body cannot produce.  This vitamin is also an antioxidant, and lowers the risk of cataract development and age-related macular degeneration.  Other foods rich in vitamin C include peaches, strawberries, grapefruit, lemons, tomatoes and red bell peppers.

Carrots:  This root vegetable is rich in beta-carotene and gets converted to vitamin A in our body.  Vitamin A can help lower the risk of night blindness, a condition making it difficult to see clearly in dim light. This condition can occur due to a number of reasons but the most common reason is due to the deficiency of vitamin A.   Other sources of beta-carotene include apricots, sweet potatoes, yam, cantaloupe, and pumpkin.

Almonds:  Nuts are rich in vitamin E and can help slow the progression of cataracts and AMD .  Other foods rich in vitamin E include almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts and avocados.

Salmon:  This fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids – EPA and DHA.  Consuming salmon can help support healthy vision and vision development, improve dry eye and lower the risk of age-related diseases.  Other potent omega-3 sources include tuna, sardines, walnuts and flaxseeds.

Legumes:  Beans and lentils are rich in the mineral zinc.

  • Zinc brings vitamin A from the liver to the retina to produce melanin, a pigment that is responsible for the color of our eyes and protects our eye from bright light or sunrays.
  • Studies also show that zinc slows the progression of age-related macular degeneration, cataract development and vision loss.

Other foods include oysters, lean red meat, seafood, poultry and pumpkin seeds.

Whole Grains:  Consuming high fiber whole grains can help maintain a low glycemic index (GI), which may help lower the risk of AMD.  Whole grains can reduce the likelihood of spike in blood sugar and can prevent retinal damage over time.  Foods high in fiber include quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat breads and pasta, whole oats.