Eye Health and Nutrition: How Diet Can Protect Your Vision
It is easy to take our eyes for granted and, if you’ll pardon the terrible pun, not see the bigger picture. It is for this reason that the National Eye Care Awareness Month sprang into being a few years ago: the drive seeks to improve awareness of the importance of maintaining good vision right through your life.
It is easy to see why such a drive is needed, not least due to the general apathy around eye health but also due to the effects on our vision of hours spent on smartphones, desktop computers, tablets and in front of the television.
Screen-time has become an almost mandatory element of modern living, particularly for those working white-collar office jobs, so the need for the initiative has never been higher.
One of the best ways to protect your eyes and vision is via your daily diet. In this article, we will tell you about the best foods and nutrients for eye health.
You might be surprised to learn that certain nutrients can prevent or delay eye-related troubles in later life, so it pays to know what they are to ensure you’re getting enough.
Which Nutrients Contribute to Visual Health?
The fact that optometrists recommend supplements for individuals suffering from age-related macular degeneration (AMD) shows just how important nutrients are for your eyes.
So, what nutrients are we talking about here? A quick look at the EU Register on Nutrition and Health Claims tells us the following:
• Zinc contributes to the maintenance of normal vision
• Vitamin A contributes to the maintenance of normal vision
• Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) contributes to the maintenance of normal vision
• Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) intake contributes to the normal visual development of infants up to 12 months of age, and contributes to the maintenance of normal vision (generally).
Quite a few nutrients you want to prioritise, then!
And the efficacy of eye nutrition was highlighted in the 2001 Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), which found that people suffering from AMD lowered the risk of a more advanced stage by 25% when they took a combination supplement comprised of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and zinc.
Hang on, you might be thinking; vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene weren’t included in the EU Register. That’s true. But if you are familiar with the EU Register, you’ll soon learn that there are hundreds, probably thousands of studies showing the promise of a nutrient – only for the Register to ignore them completely.
In fairness, vitamins in isolation cannot reproduce the protective effects of leading a healthy lifestyle: getting plenty of exercise, maintaining a sensible weight, prioritising sleep and eating a diet rich in vitamin-loaded foods such as vegetables and fruit.
It is well-known, too, that the best thing you can do to protect your eyesight is stop smoking. Tobacco spikes the risk of AMD dramatically.
Having said that, the nutrients on the EU Register are clearly not the only ones that can contribute to visual health. On the contrary, scientists have learned that nerve cells located in our eyes require vitamin C to function properly.
Amazingly, the vitamin C content of the eye lens is 60 times more than found in our general circulation.
Moreover, a 2017 study published in the British Medical Journal found that “a supplement that combines antioxidants with zinc and copper is a relatively inexpensive and effective means of halting the progression of a certain type of degenerative eye disease.”
This later study was actually based on the aforementioned AREDS study and begs the question: “Where is copper on the EU Register?”
Lutein and zeaxanthin, a pair of antioxidants, are also frequently touted as vision-promoting. These carotenoids are found in a wide spectrum of vegetables and other plants.
In nature, they absorb surplus light energy to protect plants from damage caused by too much sunlight. You can see, therefore, why they might do the same for humans.
Both lutein and zeaxanthin are found in high concentrations in the macula of our eyes, and both serve to limit the risk of light-induced oxidative damage.
Various studies have shown the potential of these natural antioxidants to lower the incidence of AMD, halt the generation of free radicals in the eye and also improve visual acuity.
What to Eat for Visual Health
So, those are the nutrients. But we don’t select nutrients from a menu every day: we go to the supermarket and stock our fridge and cupboards with food. What should we eat for better eye health?
Well, it stands to reason that we eat food containing the aforementioned nutrients. Below, you’ll find some options. Mix and match as per your palate, and remember, variety is key!
• Leafy green vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are excellent sources of the aforementioned eye-protective antioxidants. If you’ve previously shied away from the likes of spinach, kale and watercress, now’s the time to make a change.
• Fatty fish, nuts, chia and flax seeds
Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids are the best kind for eye health: salmon, anchovies, mackerel, trout, sardines. You’ll not only get plenty of DHA, one of the most critical nutrients for eye health, but also EPA, which appears to help with symptoms of depression and anxiety among other things. Other good plant-based sources of omega-3 include walnuts and cashews, chia, hemp and flax seeds, and seaweed.
Is it an old wives’ tale or is it true: do carrots really help your eyes? Well, they’re one of nature’s best sources of beta-carotene – so there’s certainly some merit in the claim. Beta-carotene converts to vitamin A in the body, so it’s a great way of addressing a deficiency. Again, balance is key – mixing your leafy greens with carrots from time to time might be a good idea. Carrot sticks and hummus also makes a great snack!
• Citrus fruits
You’ll want to get sufficient vitamin C in your diet, and there are few better ways than eating citrus fruits. Of course, you don’t want to scarf too many as they can be high in sugar. Indeed, if you’re avoiding sugar altogether, we’d recommend a vitamin C supplement. But for everyone else, oranges, clementines, grapefruits and lemons are advised.
Of course, the above list is not exhaustive: in addition, you should consider eggs (terrific sources of lutein) and beef (zinc). Truthfully, though, eating a balanced diet should ensure a steady supply of nutrients that nurture not only vision but also other body systems.
If you’re concerned that you’re not getting enough of the above nutrients, we do recommend a special formulation called UnoCardio Active Mind + Vision Complex. This supplement combines quality omega-3 fish oils with B vitamins (including over 100% of your daily B2), antioxidants and vitamin D.
Active Mind + Vision nutritionally supports vision, brain health and the immune system, and has been formulated by WHC, a company renowned for their best-in-class omega-3 formulas.
Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.
It is well-known, too, that the best thing you can do to protect your eyesight is stop smoking. Tobacco spikes the risk of AMD dramatically. #EyeHealth #Vision