The link between good nutrition and healthy eyes and vision has long been established – in fact, recent research suggests this link may be more prominent than we had previously thought. Studies, both in the US and internationally, have suggested that regular ingestion of essential nutrients and antioxidants can reduce your risk of macular degeneration and cataracts, as well as alleviating or preventing numerous other eye-related diseases.
In this article we’ll take a look at the benefits of specific vitamins and micro-nutrients for your eyes, as well as give you some information on how you can alter your diet to include more of each vitamin, mineral or nutrient. If you’d like to learn more about eye health and how your eyes work, we recommend this great ebook from the team at Shade Station.
Vitamin A can protect against night blindness, and can also protect against dry eyes. It can be found in a range of different foods and drinks, including liver (beef or chicken), eggs, butter and milk
There are numerous benefits gained from Vitamin C, but the most prominent are a reduction in the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, as well as alleviation from glaucoma. You can find Vitamin C in red or green sweet peppers, strawberries, broccoli, oranges and kale.
Vitamin D has been shown to reduce the risk of macular degeneration, and can be found in salmon, sardines, mackerel and milk. However, the best source of Vitamin D is regular exposure to sunlight – you only need to be out in the sun for a few minutes every day (without sunscreen), to ensure that your body is producing good amounts of this crucial vitamin.
Vitamin E has been found to reduce the risk of advanced AMD, but only when combined with Vitamin C and carotenoids. You can find Vitamin E in nuts and seeds, most notably hazelnuts, almonds and sunflower seeds.
This should be taken in conjunction with zinc, Vitamin C and Vitamin E, whereby it has been demonstrated to reduce the progression of macular degeneration. You can find it in spinach, kale, carrots and sweet potatoes.
Bioflavonoids can help protect against cataracts and macular degeneration, and you’ll find them in tea, red wine, blueberries, cherries, legumes and many citrus fruits You’ll also get them from most soy products.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
An essential element of cardiovascular health, Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to help prevent AMD and dry eyes. You can find them in most cold water fish (particularly salmon and herring), fish oil supplements, walnuts and ground flaxseeds.
Selenium may reduce the risk of advanced macular degeneration, particularly when combined with Vitamins C and E. You can find selenium in shrimp, crab, salmon (in fact most seafood), brazil nuts and brown rice.
Another important element of eye health, zinc can reduce the risk of night blindness (particularly in combination with Vitamin A), and may also play a role in reducing the risk of advanced AMD. You can find zinc in oysters, beef and turkey (dark meat).
By ensuring you meet the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of each of this vitamins, minerals and micro-nutrients, you can take a major step towards healthy eyes – particularly as you get older. An added benefit is that effective nutrition can also help improve your overall health, and should be considered an important part of your health regime.
Whilst it’s tempting to get all these nutrients through vitamin tablets and supplements, it’s always advisable to obtain them through a healthy and varied diet. Include lots of colourful fruits and vegetables, and try and eat fish at least twice a week. If you find this difficult and plan to take eye vitamins via supplements, be sure to discuss this with your clinician, as taking too much of a certain vitamin can cause unexpected issues – particularly if you’re taking other medications.
You may also want to follow a simple list of do’s and dont’s for keeping your eyes healthy:
– Do schedule regular eye exams, even if your vision seems fine. Regular check-ups can catch vision problems or eye diseases early, and can also spot other health issues before you know about them.
– Do wear sunglasses when you’re outside, as these can help protect your eyes from UV radiation. Try and make sure your lenses are polarised and offer 100% UV protection – you can also get prescription sunglasses if you need them.
– Do drink plenty of water. This is not only good for your eyes, but effective hydration can have a range of other health benefits.
– Do rest your eyes for 2-3 minutes every 30 minutes when you’re using a computer, or any kind of screen you’re looking at close up.
– Do try and get plenty of exercise regularly, as this not only improves cardiovascular health, but it’s been shown to contribute considerably to overall eye health.
– Don’t smoke. Quite apart from the obvious health benefits of giving up smoking, the RNIB in the UK has published research suggesting that smokers and twice as likely to lose their sight in later life.
– Don’t rub your eyes if they’re irritated. Instead flush them out with saline solution or water, and schedule an appointment with an eye specialist if this doesn’t help.
– Don’t share face make-up or handkerchiefs with other people, as this can increase the risk of eye infections.
– Don’t go to bed with your make-up on. This is not only very bad for your skin, but it can lead to irritation of the eyes.
Hopefully this gives you a head start in improving your overall eye health through nutrition, but if you have any other tips or suggestions for taking care of your eyes, let us know in the comments!