Your vision is one of your most important senses. You use it to perceive the world around you. You use your vision to keep you safe. For example, you use your eyes to watch out for incoming vehicles whenever you cross the road.
You also use your vision for your tasks at work. If you were a surgeon, you would need impeccable eyesight to perform surgeries without committing any mistakes.
You use your eyes every single day, so you need to keep them healthy.
On this page
Nutrition: Protecting your eyes from the inside
Your eye health is an integral aspect of your overall health, so you need to take care of it. Granted, you should always practice safety by getting regular eye exams especially if you wear contact lenses. However, protecting your eyes from the outside isn’t enough.
You should also consider the things you can do to protect your eyes from the inside.
To prevent eye problems like glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, and even blindness, you need to ensure that your eyes are getting proper nutrition.
The best nutrients for eye health
Nutrition for eye health means consuming vitamins and minerals that nourish your eyes from the inside and out. To maintain optimal eye health and prevent potentially serious eye problems, you need to make sure that you are consuming these vitamins and minerals:
Vitamin A consumption is vital to eye health. Vitamin A is crucial for maintaining the health of your eyes’ photoreceptors, which are light-sensing cells that enable your eyes to see in low-light conditions.
However, not all types of vitamin A are created equal. The best type of vitamin A for your eyes is known as provitamin A carotenoid. This specific type of vitamin A helps keep your vision sharp and clear even in low light. It also helps in preventing dry eye syndrome.
Foods that are rich in vitamin A include carrots, cantaloupes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, squash, and dark green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant found in high concentrations in the aqueous humor of your eye.
Aqueous humor is a liquid produced by your eyes. This liquid transports nutrients to the different areas of the eye, including the cornea, lens, and ocular tissues. Consuming enough vitamin C helps the aqueous humor function properly.
Vitamin C is also concentrated in all the tissues of your eyes, and having enough vitamin C in your diet helps prevent these tissues from breaking down.
Vitamin C deficiency can increase the chances of cataracts developing in your eyes and also increase the rate at which AMD progresses.
You can get sufficient vitamin C by consuming foods like oranges, lemons, tomatoes, peppers, and strawberries.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that protects fatty acids from oxidative stress.
Your retina contains high concentrations of fatty acids, so adequate consumption of vitamin E is necessary for eye health.
Severe vitamin E deficiency can lead to retinal degeneration and even blindness.
Almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, and pine nuts all contain high amounts of vitamin E.
Lutein and zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoid antioxidants known as macular pigments. The macula (retina) of your eye contains high concentrations of these two antioxidants.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are also found in many fruits and vegetables. They are the pigments responsible for giving many fruits their green, red, orange, or yellow color. Studies have shown that the consumption of these two antioxidants significantly slows the progression of AMD. They prevent oxidative stress, which is what leads to AMD.
Lutein and zeaxanthin also filter harmful blue and ultraviolet light and stop them from causing too much damage to your eyes.
To get lutein and zeaxanthin into your diet, eat vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, and green peas.
Your eyes contain high concentrations of zinc, particularly your retina and the vascular tissue layer known as the choroid.
Zinc helps transport vitamin A from your liver to your retina in order to produce melanin. In addition to giving your eyes their color, melanin also protects your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. Light-colored eyes are more sensitive to the sun compared to darker eyes because they contain less melanin.
A study showed that the consumption of zinc can slow the progression of AMD and prevent cataracts from forming in the eyes.
Foods rich in zinc include mushrooms, beans, oats, cashews, chickpeas, and pumpkin seeds.
Sources of nutrition: whole foods vs supplements
Supplements are a quick and easy way to get squeeze vitamins into your diet, but they can’t replicate all the benefits of whole foods. Supplements don’t contain a lot of the nutrients that are naturally found in whole foods.
Whole foods like fruits and vegetables contain complex nutrition. They are filled with a wide variety of micronutrients that you can’t get by taking supplements. Whole foods are also excellent sources of fiber, which is an essential part of any healthy diet. Furthermore, whole foods contain tons of antioxidants that protect the cells in your body from damage and oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress accelerates the development of eye diseases like glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and keratitis.
When it comes to proper nutrition for eye health, the science is clear. Whole foods in the form of fruits and vegetables are your best option for getting all the nutrients that you need to maintain eye health.
It’s not enough that you protect your eyes from the outside. You also need to protect it from the inside through proper nutrition. You need to eat a healthy diet that is rich in lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc, and vitamins, A, C, and E.
The best sources of these nutrients are whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, not supplements. While supplements are a convenient way to get these nutrients, they do not provide your body with micronutrients, fiber, and a wide variety of antioxidants.
When you consume fruits and vegetables that are rich in these nutrients, you prevent eye diseases like cataracts, glaucoma, retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Image source: Freepik Premium