Diet and Nutrition Tips for Optimal Eye Health

Published: 09th September 2010
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Mothers have, over the years, routinely told their young children to eat their carrots for healthy eyesight. That is still excellent advice today. Carrots are rich in Vitamin A—beta carotene—which is one of the primary nutrients for optimal eye health. This crunchy orange veggie has a high level of Vitamin C as well. Both of these vitamins have been shown in studies to reduce eye pressure—and that can help reduce the risk of glaucoma. Beta carotene is also associated with a lower risk of developing macular degeneration.

But carrots aren’t the only foods that offer eye protection. There are many other foods that can be just as beneficial to developing strong eyes and keeping them in great shape throughout your life. As with any other food-related goal, balance and moderation are the keys. Here are a few foods and nutrients that should be eaten regularly for optimal eye health.

Since Vitamin C is a powerful nutrient for good eye health, many people turn to the most obvious sources of it: citrus fruits. Orange, tangerines, and grapefruit provide an abundant supply of Vitamin C. Yellow vegetables like squash and yellow bell peppers are rich with it, too, as are softer tasting foods such as sweet potatoes and pumpkins. Why take a vitamin supplement when all these delicious natural sources of Vitamin C are available?

Leafy green vegetables like spinach or kale contain Lutein as well as Vitamin E. Many studies have shown that these two nutrients can help delay the development of eye cataracts. They also perform the same duty that sunscreen does, protecting the eyes from UV rays. Turnip greens, romaine lettuce, and broccoli are other good sources of these two nutrients.

But there’s more to life than vegetables. Add some nuts to your diet to increase your intake of Vitamin E. Hazelnuts and almonds are loaded with this vitamin. A small handful a day can keep your eyes in great shape, and it will promote a healthier heart, too.

Tomatoes are good for the eyes, too. Not only do they contain the super Vitamin C, but also Lycopene. The Lycopene levels increase once the tomatoes have been cooked and turned into ketchup or tomato sauce. An antioxidant, Lycopene helps reduce the levels of free radicals in the blood. This benefits the body in many ways, and the eyes are included.

The eyes also benefit from garlic. Not only does it help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, but it can help prevent cataract development and promote proper lens focusing. That’s because it contains sulphur and guercetin. One clove of garlic per day can provide a lot of protection for the eyes.
Eggs are another excellent source of Lutein and Vitamin A. In fact, eggs provide the best source of Lutein and Zeaxanthin. Some studies show that eating one egg per day—scrambled, poached, boiled, or fried—can reduce a person’s risk of developing macular degeneration to almost nothing. Those same nutrients also help reduce the risk of cataracts.

A fish that is particularly good for the eyes is salmon. These cold-water fish are known to provide omega-3 fatty acids that protect the heart, but they also provide Vitamin A, folic acid and other great nutrients that are good for the eyes, as well.

What about herbs and spices? They not only jazz up the taste of foods, but they can bring benefits to every part of the body. For example, the herb bilberry contains antioxidants that promote improved blood flow through capillaries in the eyes and allow the eyes to adjust to changes in light. Cinnamon is a popular spice that is also rich in antioxidants. Many others spices contain antioxidants—ginger, thyme, rosemary, to name just a few. Include them when cooking to increase both flavor and eye protection.

But there is more to protecting and nourishing the eyes than simply listing what foods you should eat. There are definitely some diet no-no’s for those who want to keep their eyes healthy. Some of these include any kind of red meat. While red meat contains zinc—very good for the eyes—it contains a lot of things that can lead to eye ailments. Too much red meat can increase the possibility of early development of age-related macular degeneration. This disease is the leading cause of vision loss in people who are 50 years old or older. So, while red meat has its place in the diet, many studies have shown that intake should be limited to four times a week or less.
In conclusion, there are many eye needs that can be met through proper diet. Balance and moderation make the difference when it comes to any nutritional plan for health, including eye health. Eat a variety of the foods presented here, and your eyes should grow healthy and stay that way.

Teri Thackston is a freelance writer who writes about health, eye care and specific products such as Acuvue Oasys.

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