Though lifestyle and genetics play a role in our overall health, when it comes to our precious eyes, seeing clearly is important and it turns out that certain foods can support and improve your eyes’ overall health.
Over the past few years, as I get older, I find myself squinting more to see things clearly. Sometimes I have headaches and my vision can be blurred or a little hazy. After visiting my doctors, I discovered everything is fine and I am in good condition with nothing to worry about. But in doing more research and talking with eye doctors, I came to find out I can do more to improve my eye health. Many of us think aging will weaken our eyes but this doesn't have to be the case.
Of course, regular components of our lifestyle and genetics play a role in our overall health, but when it comes to your precious eyes, seeing clearly is important, and it turns out that certain foods can support and improve your eyes’ overall health.
Foods rich in the nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin can reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases. Studies have found that a diet rich in vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids can also prevent age-related eye diseases.
You can take control of your health by actively participating in your wellness routine and adding more nutrient-rich foods to help support your eyesight.
A general rule to follow is when in season, there is a reason. Meaning a lot of the produce and ingredients that are in season will support your health for a specific reason. Foods that are in season in the fall, for example, are especially high in key vitamins. The best way to maintain your vision is with an overall holistic approach including getting an annual eye exam to check for issues (and other serious diseases like diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and certain types of cancers that can be detected by an eye exam), but you can also boost your eye health by adding these superfoods to your daily routine.
Hail to the Kale, green goddess unite! Leafy greens, once again, come to the rescue. Kale, spinach and lettuce are all super choices because they are rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants and vitamins. Kale is also an excellent source of beta-carotene and is the top source of both lutein and zeaxanthin; just one cup of greens contains 23.8 mg of lutein and zeaxanthin. You can add kale to your morning omelets or a side dish, blend it into fruit smoothies, or bake the leaves into deliciously nutrient-rich kale chips.
Spinach is another good choice as it packs a healthy 20.4 mg of lutein and zeaxanthin. You can eat spinach wraps, use it as a salad starter or make green smoothies with it. When you cook the greens, your body can better absorb lutein.
Eggs are one of the healthiest ways to start your day, but they make great snacks and dinner options, too. This protein-packed food is also nutrient rich with lutein, vitamin E, and omega-3s. Certain eggs are even better for you: When you buy eggs from the store, look for organic, grass-fed, and free-range since they usually have more lutein than regular eggs and are an excellent source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. If you can buy eggs from the farmers market or a local farmer, you are also supporting the community and humane conditions for the animals.
The health of our eyes is dependent upon many different factors. A healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce the risk of eye-health problems. And a diet rich in fish as sources of omega-3 fatty acids is one of the best food choices for your overall health, especially your eyes. For improved eye health, opt for oily fish, ones that have oil in their gut and body tissue, as this signifies they have higher levels of omega-3-rich fish oil. Good examples are tuna, salmon, trout, sardines, anchovies, herring, and mackerel. These types of fish contain the most beneficial levels of omega-3s.
Nuts and Legumes
Nuts not only make a great pick-me-up mid-afternoon snack, or much-loved added crunch to your favorite salad, smoothie, or dessert, but now you can eat them with joy knowing they help your eye health. They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and contain a high level of vitamin E, which can protect your eyes from age-related damage. Pick walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, peanuts, and lentils as they have the most nutrient-dense vitamins.
Just like their friends the nuts, seeds are an excellent choice as they also are high in omega-3s and are a rich source of vitamin E. Add some chia seeds, flaxseeds, or hemp seeds to your soups, salads, or smoothies for an added power punch to your wellness routine.
Carrots were not my favorite vegetable as a child. My mom would tell me that carrots are good for your eyesight, which somehow convinced me that they were important. The truth is, carrots are rich in both vitamin A and beta-carotene, which makes them one of the best power foods for improved eyesight. Vitamin A plays an essential role in your vision. It is a component of a protein called rhodopsin, which helps the retina to absorb light. Beta-carotene gives carrots their orange color but it also helps the body process other nutrients like vitamin A.
Citrus fruits are well known in the wellness world to boost a lot of vitamin C. But unlike other fruits, they also have a ton of vitamin E combined with vitamin C. This antioxidant is recommended by the American Osteopathic Association to fight age-related eye damage. You can start to add more vitamin-C-rich citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, or grapefruits into your diet for better eye health.
Just like carrots, root vegetables like sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene. They are also a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E. Add them to your next meal and trust you are making smart choices for your overall health.
If you are vegan or vegetarian, you can skip over this one, but for the paleo lovers, beef is rich in zinc, which has been liked to long-term eye health; studies show that zinc can help delay age-related sight loss and macular degeneration. Your eyes contain high levels of zinc, particularly in the retina and the vascular tissue surrounding the retina, so eating foods rich in zinc helps strengthen and support them. You could also enjoy other meats such as chicken breast or pork loin, as they also contain zinc, but they have lower levels than beef.
Up to 60 percent of the adult human body is water, so it may come as no surprise that drinking more water will help, as it is the fluid essential to life and is also vital to eye health. Drinking plenty of water will also prevent dehydration, which will help you avoid those foggy headaches, and drinking enough water can also reduce the symptoms of dry eyes.
Want more stories from Shannon Kaiser? Check out “Top 12 Cold and Flu Fighting Foods.”