As we age, there are many health concerns that we need to make sure to tend to. What may be overlooked (no pun intended) is the health of our eyesight. Often, people do not worry about their eyesight until there is already a problem. Aside from physical injury, there are a number of other factors that can contribute to the deterioration of your eyesight, including environmental ones like wind and air pollution. Having an ophthalmologist tell you that you need glasses should not be the primary point of tending to your eye health. Rather, you should take preventive steps to prolong healthy eyesight.
The Connection between Eyesight and Nutrition
We know and have discussed in previous articles the impact of nutrients on many aspects of health and there is a similar connection between some of these same nutrients and our eye health. They help to both improve the regular function of the eye as well as prevent age-related vision and ocular problems. Macular degeneration is one of the main age-related eye diseases that one may be at risk for, but there are other eye issues that can be prevented or deterred with the use of proper nutrition that supports eye health.
The Healthy Eye Diet
In order to make sure that you get in a quality serving the following eye-healthy nutrients, you should aim to create a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy products. Lean protein, like legumes and fish are also necessary for the unique elements contained within them.
“Superfoods” and Food Categories essential for Healthy Eyes
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: This healthy source of fat is beneficial to eye health, the optic nerve in particular. Most sources of the nutrient come from cold-water fish, such as salmon, tuna, cod, haddock and sardines.
Selenium is another element found in many types of seafood as well as in Brazil nuts, noodles, and brown rice.
Carotenoids: This is another food category that has been associated with the prevention of age-related eyesight aliments, such as macular degeneration. Lutein and zeaxanthin are two types of carotenoid that have specifically been linked to eye health. Dark leafy greens tend to be the items that carry carotenoids, so look to add collard greens, kale or spinach into your diet.
Beta Carotene: This nutrient is known for giving carrots their bright orange color and it is very important as it is converted into Vitamin A in the body. This essential helps reduce oxidative stress of the ocular components, such as the lens and other cells and tissues that are in the eye.
Blueberries have been claimed a “superfood” for many reasons, but eye health is yet another as they appear to prevent the effects of eye fatigue. They belong to the bioflavonoid family.
Anthocyanosides are another food category that provides eye health support. Bilberries are a rare fruit that fall into this category to help support night vision.
While you can find these eye health nutrients in many foods, some may be easier consumed in supplement form. These are not essential if you have a comprehensive diet, however, if you do have holes in your diet, especially as it relates to eye health, these are a great way to fill in that gap and protect your eyesight.
Zinc has the capability of keeping your macula and retina healthy. Increased levels of zinc have been associated with improved eye health.
L-Taurine serves as a protector against UV light and allows the cells in the retina to remain strong.
N-Acetyl Cysteine is another nutrient that protects your eyes from UV light all while supporting a healthy immune system.
Quercetin is an element that can actually be found in red wine in small amounts, and its main eye health benefit is its ability to keep the lens transparent.
Vitamin C has been mentioned in previous articles, especially for its contributions to the immune system, however, in terms of eye health, its prevention effects on oxidation of cells is what makes it useful for the eye as we age.
Vitamin D is another nutrient that has been associated with decreased risk of macular degeneration. During the winter months, when it is not readily available, supplements are a great way to get this vitamin into your diet.
Vitamin E is linked to lowered risk of cataracts, another popular eye ailment.
Vitamin B Spectrum: Many of the nutrients that fall under the Vitamin B umbrella, including B12 and Biotin, have been known to decrease the likelihood of uveitis, a diseases that leads to blindness.
While you are making the strides to improve your eye health through nutrition, also consider partaking in other eye-protective behaviors. These include protecting your eyes from UV rays and not smoking. You also want to get into the habit of seeing an eye doctor every two years. In the meantime, making these nutritional adaptations may lower your risk for age-related disease and vision problems.