As with any other part of the body, the eyes age and lose their ability to function well as people get older. Poor nutrition, excessive sun exposure, pollutants, illnesses, and physical and mental stress contribute to the body’s wear and tear, including the eyes.
Free radicals may damage the eyes, causing vision issues, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and other eye disorders. However, you can help protect your eyes by adopting and maintaining a healthy diet.
Antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zeaxanthin, and zinc protect your eyes from free radical damage. You can find these vitamins and minerals in a colorful diet of fruits and vegetables that are good for your eyes and your overall health.
Continue reading to learn about six healthy food sources vital for eye health.
Vitamin C in Citrus Fruits and Raw Red Bell Peppers
Vitamin C is a necessary nutrient for optimum eye health. It possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that combat free radicals and help prevent or delay age-related eye damage by repairing and supporting the growth of new tissue cells. Vitamin C also reduces the risk of age-related eye disease, including AMD, cataracts, and glaucoma.
Vitamin C is abundant in citrus fruits such as oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, and lemons. Red bell peppers also contain a high concentration of vitamin C, but we recommend consuming them raw because heat breaks down the vitamin.
Cantaloupes, guavas, kiwis, papayas, and strawberries are other excellent sources of vitamin C.
Vitamin E in Nuts and Seeds
Vitamin E is another antioxidant that is essential for eye health. It comprises a group of eight fat-soluble compounds known as tocopherols that protect the fatty acids in your retina from oxidative damage. Vitamin E is a plant-based antioxidant we can find in various nuts, seeds, vegetables, and vegetable oils, making it easy to find and add to your diet.
Almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are just a few in a long list of nuts and seeds rich in vitamin E. Raw nuts and seeds are also fantastic snack alternatives to less-healthy options such as potato chips.
Other significant sources of vitamin E include avocados, butternut squash, spinach, wheat germ oil, abalone, salmon, and trout.
Beta-Carotene in Orange Fruits and Vegetables
Beta-carotene is a carotenoid, a pigment present in orange fruits and vegetables. The body converts it into vitamin A, which nourishes the cornea and aids in producing the pigments necessary for the retina to function correctly.
Red, yellow, or orange fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, cantaloupes, mangoes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and winter squash, are the richest sources of beta-carotene. The more vivid the color of the fruit or vegetable, the higher the concentration of beta-carotene.
We can also find Beta-carotene in dark leafy greens such as arugula, kale, spinach, and Swiss chard.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Oily Fish
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats for retinal health and tear function. Inadequate quantities of these fatty acids may contribute to dry eye syndrome. Tears may appear entirely water-based, but they also contain mucus and oil. Therefore, a deficiency in critical fatty acids, like alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), may lead to dry eye symptoms.
While there are eye drops for dry and irritated eyes, consuming oily fish like salmon and tuna twice or thrice a week may also provide some relief. Trout, herring, mackerel, and sardines are also excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Remember, certain types of fish and seafood may contain high levels of mercury, which can be harmful to your health. Therefore, avoid or reduce consumption of mercury-rich seafood, such as shark, swordfish, and marlin.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin in Dark, Leafy Greens
Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that protect the retina and may reduce your chances of getting age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. These carotenoids act as antioxidants that absorb a significant amount of blue light rays and prevent them from entering the interior eye, protecting eye cells from damage caused by light-induced free radicals.
Darky leafy greens like kale, collard greens, romaine lettuce, spinach, watercress, as well as broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, and green peas are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin.
Zinc in Beans and Legumes
Zinc plays a vital role in transporting vitamin A from the liver to the retina to produce melanin, a pigment that helps protect the eyes from the sun.
Black-eyed peas, chickpeas, kidney beans, and lentils are natural dietary sources of zinc. Other good vegetarian sources of zinc include almonds, cashews, cereal, cheese, milk, and yogurt. Non-vegetarian yet low-calorie sources of zinc include shellfish such as oysters, crab, mussels, and shrimp.
Taking proactive measures to promote eye health will benefit you as you age. Take control of your diet and nourish your eyes with a colorful, healthy diet.
Besides eating well, take care of your eyes by avoiding too much sun exposure, using UV-blocking eyewear, reducing screen time, and getting your eyes checked regularly. Check out TF Clark Fitness Magazine for more information on how you can make your eye and overall health a lifestyle choice.