You are probably aware of the fact that good nutrition is necessary to good overall health, but you may not be aware of how much it can help your vision and the health of your eyes. If your nutritional efforts are focused on getting your recommended daily allowances, you may be missing out on some of the most important nutrientsfor your eyes. The right nutrients can protect you from vision loss and, for some people, even reverse it.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin improve the health of your retinas and can help protect against cataract development. Studies have found that adequate intake of these carotenoids greatly reduces the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Food sources of lutein and zeaxanthin include eggs, leafy greens, peas, carrots, and corn.
Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale, contain the highest concentrations of lutein, but studies have found that lutein found in egg yolks is the most bioavailable, so your body can actually get more of this vital nutrient from eggs.
Vitamin A deficiency is rare in the U.S. but, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children worldwide. Vitamin A helps your eyes adjust to changes in light. One of the signs of a deficiency is night blindness. It helps keep your eyes moist. It can help prevent cataracts, and AMD.
Retinol is the form of vitamin A found in animal products. Beta carotene is the best-known precursor to vitamin A (provitamin A) and is found in fruits and vegetables. Provitamin A is converted into retinol in our bodies. Good sources of vitamin A or provitamin A include:
- Red, orange, and yellow vegetables such as carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, and red bell peppers
- Leafy green vegetables
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are necessary for good health and for good vision. You need both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, but they need to be in the right ratios. Unfortunately, the typical American diet is far too heavy on omega-6, largely due to processed foods. Boosting your omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent glaucoma, AMD, and dry eye. Pregnant and nursing women should get plenty of omega-3 to help their babies’ vision develop properly, as well. Wild caught salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed are all high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Switching to grass-fed beef, dairy products from grass-fed cows, and eggs from pasture-raised chickens is also a great way to increase your omega-3s and reduce unhealthy fats, without having to give up the foods you already enjoy.
Bilberry has been used to improve eyesight for centuries. During World War II, British pilots enjoyed improved night vision from eating bilberry jam. Bilberryis rich in antioxidants. It can improve vision, protect your eyes from vision loss, and even help repair damage from certain conditions that cause vision loss. One way that bilberry protects the eyes is by strengthening the tiny capillaries that can cause vision loss when they fail.