We’ve all heard the phrase, “You are what you eat.” But is it true? Turns out it is! The food choices you make every day affect how well you feel and how healthy you are.
When you eat for eye health, the American Optometric Association (aoa.org) recommends a diet rich in antioxidants, including vitamins A, C and E, selenium, and carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Minerals and fats are also critical to maintaining eye health.
5 Top Tips to Eat Your Way to Healthy Eyes for Life:
Tip #1: Take Your Vitamins.
Foods rich in vitamins block some of the damage caused by free radicals, which can build up when your body breaks down food or when you are exposed to tobacco smoke or radiation. The buildup of free radicals over time is largely responsible for the aging process. When it comes to your eyes and aging, a PubMed article suggests that when your antioxidant defence system of the lens and retina includes antioxidant vitamins C and E and the carotenoids lutein and zinc, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), major causes of vision impairment and blindness, can be avoided or delayed. Both conditions are strongly age related with earlier signs (usually asymptomatic) occurring in middle age and becoming more severe with increasing age.
Tip #2: Eat Your Veggies.
Vitamin A helps maintain the light-sensing cells in your eyes and helps you avoid dry eyes by producing natural tears. According to Healthline.com, the best dietary sources of vitamin A include liver and fish oil. Sufficient amounts can also be derived from provitamin A carotenoids, like beta-carotene, which are found in vegetables like asparagus, beets, carrots, kale, and spinach. Carrots are a rich source of beta carotene and lutein, antioxidants that can help prevent eye damage caused by free radicals. Orange carrots are especially high in beta carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A. Yellow carrots contain the most lutein, which may help prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD). A rainbow variety of veggies is just what the doctor ordered to maintain your eye health.
Tip #3: Eat Sweets.
Vitamin C is found in a wide variety of sweet fruit grown in Arizona, California and Mexico. When you eat cantaloupe, kiwi, mango, papaya, pineapple, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, watermelon or citrus fruits and juices, such as orange and grapefruit, you are boosting your vitamin C intake.The United States Department of Agriculture reports that Arizona remains one of the leading states for growing citrus fruit, so it’s easy to grab an orange, grapefruit or add some lemon to your recipes to increase your vitamin C.
These vegetables are also good sources of vitamin C:
Broccoli and cauliflower
Green and red peppers
Spinach, cabbage, turnip greens, and other leafy greens
Sweet and white potatoes
Tomatoes and tomato juice
Your body is not able to make vitamin C on its own, nor does it store vitamin C.So eat plenty of vitamin C-containing foods every day.
Tip #4: Get Nutty.
The American Optometric Association cites studies that support how adding vitamin E to your diet can delay cataract formation. A recent study demonstrated that higher dietary intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin along with vitamin E significantly decreased the risk of cataracts. In addition, The landmark Age-Related Eye Disease Study (or AREDS), sponsored by the National Eye Institute, established that AMD is linked to nutrition. A 400 IU/day intake of vitamin E, taken with beta-carotene, vitamin C and zinc supplementation slows the progression of AMD by about 25 percent in individuals at high risk for the disease. Seven smaller studies have confirmed these results.
Most Western diets are low in vitamin E. Supplement yours with nuts, vegetable oils, peanut butter, fortified cereals and sweet potatoes.
Tip #5: Fatten Up.
Nuts, oils and peanut butter all contain fat, which is a necessary part of the human diet. Fats maintain the integrity of the nervous system, fuel cells and boost the immune system. Research shows omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in salmon, are important for proper visual development and retinal function. However, a high-fat diet of processed foods may increase the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), so choose your fat wisely!
Take care of your eyes and the rest of your body and mind by eating right. And, if you have questions, ask your optometrist the next time you come in for an eye exam or just give us a call.