Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can improve your overall physical health, and this includes your eye health and vision. Refraining from smoking, wearing sunglasses in the sun, staying active, and eating a healthy and balanced diet can all enhance vision and the health of your eyes.
Diets rich in vitamins and minerals can help to maintain eye health and even reduce the risk for chronic and degenerative eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or cataracts.
Vitamin A, a precursor to beta-carotene found in foods like carrots, can improve the metabolism of your retina. This can support healthy eyes and good vision, although just eating large amounts of carrots will not do much more than turn your skin yellow.
Leafy green vegetables, fish, nuts, whole grains, citrus foods, and balanced nutrition in general will support your immune system and overall workings of the brain and body. This in turn promotes healthy eyes and vision.
Eating a healthy and balanced diet — rich in whole foods and light in processed foods, refined sugars, and junk food — can benefit your eyes as well as the rest of your body.
Eating for Your Eyes
A nutritious diet can promote a healthy lifestyle as well as enhance your vision and general eye health. A diet like this can include plenty of vegetables and fruits, fish, lean meats, whole grains, dairy products, eggs, and nuts. It is low in added sugars, salt, trans and saturated fats, and cholesterol.
There are several vitamins and minerals that can help to prevent, minimize, or delay the onset of degenerative and chronic diseases, such as cataracts and AMD. The Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS and AREDS 2) performed by the National Eye Institute (NEI) showed that there are certain vitamins that can actually decrease your risk for advancing AMD by 25 percent.
While there are many supplements on the market for eye health that can be beneficial when combined with a healthy diet, there are also many foods you can eat that contain these vitamins.
Vitamin A, Carrots & Eye Health
It is a long-held belief that carrots are good for your eyes. They contain beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, which can enhance night vision, reduce inflammation, and protect the surface of the eye.
Vitamin A acts as an antioxidant and supports the immune system, which can help you to fight off infections, keeping both the eyes and the body healthy. In addition to carrots, the following foods are rich in vitamin A:
- Sweet potatoes
- Bell peppers
- Leafy green vegetables
While most Americans eat a balanced enough diet to avoid vitamin A deficiencies, malnourishment and low levels of vitamin A can cause dry eyes, damage to the cornea and retina, poor night vision, and blindness.
Eating carrots for every meal around the clock is not necessary, however. It will not enhance your vision any further. Instead, it will likely lead to your skin turning a yellowish color. Too much beta-carotene, usually in the form of a supplement, may increase your risk for lung cancer if you are a smoker.
Eating carrots as part of your regular diet, however, can enhance vision and eye health to some degree.
Additional Diet-Based Vision Benefits
Eating a diet that primarily consists of whole foods, while limiting refined sugars and processed foods, can greatly improve your overall physical well-being. This can translate to a better immune system, improved eye health, less risk for eye and vision-related disorders, and better overall vision.
Based on the AREDS, the following list of vitamins can promote eye health, minimize the odds for AMD, and enhance vision:
- Vitamin C: citrus fruits, cantaloupe, strawberries, green and red bell peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes
- Vitamin E: swordfish, pumpkin, seeds, nuts, peanut butter, vegetable oil, and asparagus
- Zinc: beans, whole grains, fortified cereals, milk, nuts, crab, lobster, and oysters
- Lutein and zeaxanthin: dark leafy greens, corn, egg yolk, carrots, peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, winter squash, and asparagus
- Copper: nuts, shellfish, potatoes, yeast, dark leafy greens, organ meats, whole grains, and dried fruits
Vitamins C and E are great antioxidants that can reduce inflammation and increase the functions of your immune system. Zinc helps your body absorb vitamin A better, and it also helps with night vision and building up the protective pigment melanin in your eyes.
Lutein and zeaxanthin aid your eyes in filtering out potentially harmful high-energy blue wavelengths of light. This can help to prevent degenerative eye diseases.
There are other foods and vitamins that can enhance vision and eye health.
- B-complex vitamins can minimize vascular issues that may involve the retina and also help to lower the risk for cataracts. Meat, dairy products, fortified cereals, eggs, and fish contain B vitamins that can promote eye health.
- Vitamin D can help to decrease the risk for diabetes, which can lead to vision problems. The vitamin also regulates healthy cell action. It can be found in cold water fish and foods rich in fatty acids.
- Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids also support eye health and vision. Fatty fish and seafood, as well as fish oil, contain essential omega-3 fatty acids called EPA and DHA. These aid in visual and brain development, lower the odds of dry eyes and related issues, and improve retinal function.
- Populations that eat diets loaded with whole foods and high in phytochemicals found in plants-based foods have fewer age-related vision issues and degenerative eye diseases. Fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals that can enhance vision and decrease the odds for eye conditions later in life.
Remaining physically active, controlling your blood pressure, refraining from smoking, getting enough sleep, and maintaining a healthy diet (high in dark green, leafy vegetables) can limit problems with vision that can arise as you age and improve your eye health in general. Supplements and vitamins can help to maintain eye health too, but they should be used in addition to a balanced and nutritious diet and positive lifestyle choices.
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