by Melissa Jabour
our diet has a significant impact on your overall health, including your vision. According to the Age-Related Eye Diseases Study, funded by the National Eye Institute, as well as professional organizations such as the American Academy of Ophthalmology, foods rich in vitamins A, C and E, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids are good for eye health. These nutrients are linked to lower risk for age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and dry eye. Research supports the following nutrient-rich foods for eye health:
- Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and contain vitamin E, which can protect the eye from age-related damage. Nuts that are good for eye health include almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts and cashews. Seeds that are good for eye health include chia seeds and flax seeds, as well as sunflower seeds. In fact, just one ounce of sunflower seeds has half the amount of vitamin C that is recommended for adults each day.
- Dark, Leafy Greens
Leafy green vegetables are rich in vitamins C and E, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin, which are good for eye health. Leafy greens, like spinach, kale and collard greens, reduce your risk of long-term eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
- Raw Bell Peppers
Bell peppers give you the most vitamin C per calorie, which is good for blood vessels in the eyes. Cooking will break down vitamin C, so raw veggies are best. Brightly-colored peppers also contain vitamins A and E.
Many fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Your retinas need two types of omega-3 fatty acids to function properly. Both of these types of omega-3 fatty acids are found in salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, anchovies and herring. Omega-3 fatty acids also protect against age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma, as well as dry eye.
- Orange-colored Fruits and Vegetables
Beta-carotene is a form of vitamin A, which helps with night vision. Orange-colored fruits and vegetables, including carrots, cantaloupe, mangos, apricots and sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene. One sweet potato also has more than half the amount of vitamin C adults need per day.
- Beef and Poultry
Beef, pork and chicken are all good sources of zinc. The eye itself contains high levels of zinc, particularly in the retina. Zinc has been shown to delay age-related vision loss and macular degeneration.
- Beans and Legumes
For those that prefer a vegetarian, high-fiber source of zinc, choose chickpeas, black-eyed peas, kidney beans and lentils.
Eggs, particularly their yolks, are a valuable source of lutein and zeaxanthin, which can reduce the risk of age-related vision loss. Those compounds block harmful blue light and protect against damage to your retina. Eggs are also a good source of zinc, which helps your body use the lutein and zeaxanthin from the yolk.
- Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits, including lemons, oranges and grapefruits, are full of vitamin C, which helps to defend against macular degeneration and cataracts.
Broccoli is rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, which act as protective pigments in the back of the eye. Broccoli is also a valuable source of vitamins C and E.