Diet and nutrition have profound effects on the body. Similarly enough, the foods you eat also improve your eye health. Including specific nutrients in your daily intake can help maintain and boost your vision. Reduce risk of eye disease by introducing these conscious choices into your daily diet. Be sure to let your doctor know before taking any vitamin supplements to avoid any conflicts with your current prescription medication.
Research shows antioxidants have the power to reduce risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. Antioxidants protect cells from damaging effects of free radicals and are mainly found in produce. A good rule of thumb is to always eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to protect your health.
Specific antioxidants like vitamin A can protect against blindness. Vitamin A deficiency is one of the most common causes of blindness in the world. Lack of vitamin A can also lead to dry eye, night blindness, and even more serious diseases depending on your level of deficiency.
Vitamin A is found in animal derived foods such as egg yolks, dairy products, and liver as well as in some fruits/vegetables in the form of provitamin A carotenoids. These plant derived compounds can be converted by the body into Vitamin A. Beta-carotene, is the most efficient provitamin A carotenoid, and found in kale, spinach, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, winter squash, red peppers, and carrots.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and Zeaxanthin are yellow carotenoid antioxidants known as macular pigments. Studies show these nutrients reduce risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Concentrated in the macula (central portion of the retina), lutein and zeaxanthin are central to protecting the eyes from harmful blue light. The intake of lutein and zeaxanthin is proportional to levels in retina.
These guys are mainly found in green leafy vegetables, sweet corn, and red grapes. They can also be found in other foods such as eggs due to the fat content in yolks. Fat allows for better absorption of these antioxidants so don’t be shy to throw in an avocado or a tad of olive oil into your greens.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is an antioxidant found in citrus fruits and many vegetables such as guavas, papayas, bell peppers, kale, and broccoli. When taken in combination with other essential nutrients, vitamin C has shown cases in alleviation and prevention of glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and visual acuity loss. Although present in other body fluid, vitamin C is most highly concentrated in the aqueous humor of the eye. Evidence shows Vitamin C also lowers risk of cataract development.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids EPA & DHA
Like it or not, fats play a crucial and necessary role in the human body. Long chain omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid protect the eye from macular damage and can also alleviate symptoms of dry eye. Dry eye occurs when there is a lack of tear fluid causing the eye to become excessively dry.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids are essential to proper visual development and retinal function. Found in high levels in the retina, DHA is important for brain and eye development during childhood. Deficiency can impair vision in children and young adults. Fighting hard to keep your heart and brain healthy as well as inflammation, EPA and DHA can be best found in oily fish and microalgae. Salmon, sardines, herring, flounder, halibut, and tuna are all good sources.
Vitamin E can be found in nuts, sunflower seeds, vegetable oils, and sweet potatoes. Vitamin E protects eyes from free radicals. This powerful group of fat-soluble antioxidants prevents the breakdown of healthy tissue. Deficiency in vitamin E can lead to retinal degeneration and blindness. Additional supplementation lacks impact on conditions for people who are not deficient in vitamin E.
Found in small amounts in foods, Gamma-linolenic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid that appears to have anti-inflammatory properties. Sources of gamma-linolenic acid are evening primrose oil and starflower oil. Evening primrose oil is found to reduce symptoms of dry eye disease.
Zinc is found in high levels in the eye. Zinc is an essential trace mineral that plays a vital role in transporting vitamin A from the liver to the retina. This is important for production of melanin, a protective pigment in the eye. Studies show zinc can slow development of early macular degeneration. Oysters, crab, turkey, eggs, whole grains, pumpkin seeds, and peanuts include high levels of zinc.
Incorporating these foods into your daily diet can help you meet your dietary needs and prevent development of age-related degenerative diseases. Supplements are helpful as well, but its best to eat fresh whole fruits and vegetables to achieve maximum benefit. Whole foods contain other hidden essential nutrients that hold numerous benefits.
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