Making Healthy Food Choices Leads to Better Eye Care
Warmer weather and sunnier days are finally here! June 21st marked the beginning of the summer solstice, bringing with it family outings, lots of sunshine, outdoor activities, and healthier eating. We all know the food we choose to put into our bodies has a direct impact on our health, but on a deeper level, what about the food that impacts our eye health? Taking care of our eyes is just as important as taking care of our bodies. Certain eye conditions, such as cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration, can cause vision loss and even blindness. Making healthy food choices can help prevent these as well as other health-related issues. Regular summertime visits to your local farmstand not only add bright color and fresh flavor to your menu, but they could lead to better eye care.
Ways to Help Protect Your Vision
Here are a few things we can do to help keep our vision at its best:
Foods that Promote Good Eye Health
Certain foods we eat are beneficial to our eyes, especially those high in the following:
- Beta Carotene – Converted into vitamin A in our body, it can be found in vegetables like sweet potatoes, kale, carrots, and spinach. If you would rather focus on fruit for your source of vitamin A, think about things like cantaloupe, apricots, watermelon, or mango. Other great choices that provide this nutrient are salmon, blue fin tuna, trout, clams, or beef liver.
- Zinc – Transports vitamin A from the liver to the retina, which then produces melanin, a protective pigment in the eyes. Good choices for zinc content are beans, red meat, oysters, and other shellfish as well as nuts and seeds, such as almonds, cashews, and pine nuts. A 1-ounce serving of cashews contains 14.9% of the daily vitamins for men and 20.5% of the daily vitamins for women . Dairy products are another good source of zinc.
- Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) – A powerful antioxidant that is beneficial to eye health, it also promotes healthy blood vessels, bones, and skin. Since we can’t produce it in our bodies, we must get what we need through our diet choices. Recommended amounts are 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women . Good sources of vitamin C are the obvious orange juice as well as broccoli, strawberries, and sweet green and red peppers. Not surprisingly, raw vegetables are better for you than cooked.
- Vitamin E – The most important role of this vitamin is to remove chemicals that damage the body’s cells. It also helps protect your body from environmental pollutants such as cigarette smoke and radiation. It works well with vitamin C by offering some protection against AMD (age-related macular degeneration) in people who are high risk for it . Vitamin E can be found in plant-based sources like sunflower seeds, almonds, beets, pumpkin, asparagus, and avocados. Some common signs of a deficiency in vitamin E are retinopathy (damage to the retina), peripheral neuropathy (damage to the peripheral nerves, especially in the hands and feet), ataxia (loss of control of body movements) and decreased immune function .
- Omega 3 – This is a fatty acid, which sounds like a bad thing, but omega 3’s are actually very good for us. When it comes to eye health, they may help protect us against glaucoma, macular degeneration, and dry eye syndrome. Clinical studies have also shown that omega-3 fatty acids are essential for normal infant vision development . A few excellent food choices for them include tofu, walnuts, chia seeds and canola oil.
- Lutein – A type of pigment related to vitamin A, it is thought of as “the eye vitamin”. Found in both the macula and retina, it is believed to function as a light filter, protecting the eyes from sunlight damage. It can be found in egg yolks, spinach, grapes, squash, and kiwi fruit, and can also prevent eye diseases such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and AMD.
- Zeaxanthin – Finally, one of the lesser-known vitamins that helps protect your vision from harmful levels of blue light. Blue light can be found almost anywhere, particularly in and around your house (indoor lighting) and from the sun. Although everyone is born with certain levels of zeaxanthin, it doesn’t replenish itself as we get older, making our eyes more susceptible to blue light, which then can lead to age-related eye issues. Found primarily in the eye, Zeaxanthin helps improve contrast sensitivity, light sensitivity, and glare recovery. It can be found in raw spinach, broccoli and carrots, or cooked pumpkin, asparagus, or Brussel sprouts.
DHRpro Helps Doctors Provide Their Best Care
As we get older, chronic and age-related conditions are something we all may face. Understanding the progression of these diseases is something that we, at DHRpro, focus heavily on, but a healthy lifestyle and eating right can help prevent or delay the onset of such conditions. A patient’s health care journey starts at birth and can be affected by several decisions and life events, as well as heredity. DHRpro works with doctors to provide the best care possible once a patient is diagnosed with one of these conditions, but we can all do our part to educate patients as to the important role they play in their own care. Health care starts and ends with the patient. An apple a day may not keep the eye doctor away, but a carrot a day just might.
Visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s website for more information about which foods are good for your eyes.