Nutrition and well-being are integral in keeping your body and mind healthy and your eye health is no exception to the benefits that nutrients and antioxidants can provide.
Mounting evidence and research have shown that certain nutrients can slow and help prevent ocular disease including macular degeneration, cataracts, dry eyes, diabetic and hypertensive retinopathy, and even glaucoma to a certain extent.
As a general rule, the same nutrients that are good for your heart and arteries are protective of your eyes. This is no surprise since the retina and surrounding ocular tissue is made up of an extensive network of arteries, veins, and capillaries. Certain key vitamins and nutrients have been identified as particularly important for eye health and preservation of vision.
Eye benefits of beta-carotene: When taken in combination with zinc and vitamins C and E, beta-carotene may reduce the progression of macular degeneration.
Food sources: Carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, butternut squash.
Eye benefits of bioflavonoids: May protect against cataracts and macular degeneration.
Food sources: Tea, red wine, citrus fruits, bilberries, blueberries, cherries, legumes, soy products.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Eye benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin: May prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.
Food sources: Spinach, kale, turnip greens, collard greens, squash.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Eye benefits of omega-3 fatty acids: May help prevent macular degeneration (AMD) and dry eyes.
Food sources: Cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring; fish oil supplements, freshly ground flaxseeds, walnuts.
Eye benefits of selenium: When combined with carotenoids and vitamins C and E, may reduce risk of advanced AMD.
Food sources: Seafood (shrimp, crab, salmon, halibut), Brazil nuts, enriched noodles, brown rice.
Eye benefits of vitamin A: May protect against night blindness and dry eyes.
Food sources: Beef or chicken liver; eggs, butter, milk.
Eye benefits of vitamin C: May reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
Food sources: Sweet peppers (red or green), kale, strawberries, broccoli, oranges, cantaloupe.
Eye benefits of vitamin D: May reduce the risk of macular degeneration.
Food sources: Salmon, sardines, mackerel, milk; orange juice fortified with vitamin D.
The best source of vitamin D is exposure to sunlight. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun stimulates production of vitamin D in human skin, and just a few minutes of exposure to sunlight each day (without sunscreen) will insure your body is producing adequate amounts of vitamin D.
Eye benefits of vitamin E: When combined with carotenoids and vitamin C, may reduce the risk of advanced AMD.
Food sources: Almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts.
Eye benefits of zinc: Helps vitamin A reduce the risk of night blindness; may play a role in reducing risk of advanced AMD.
Food sources: Oysters, beef, Dungeness crab, turkey (dark meat).
The best way for your body to absorb the nutrients it needs to protect against ocular disease is through the foods you eat. Aiming to eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, fish, eggs, and nuts is always the best plan. However, life is busy and our diets are not always what they should be. High quality nutritional products help ensure that we will get adequate amounts of these protective vitamins, minerals, and bioflavenoids. Dr. Fowler will gladly make nutritional recommendations pertaining to your personal eye health and risk for ocular disease.
Information adapted from All About Vision and American Optometric Association.