We all know that good nutrition is vital for our general health, but it is just as important for the health of our eyes. A good diet helps our bodies to grow, repair and fight infection.
As we get older, it becomes increasingly difficult for our body’s cells to regenerate. This can affect our eye health and the quality of our vision.
Eye health research has linked poor diet and nutrition to an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the medical term for eyesight that has deteriorated with age.
Most people’s eyesight deteriorates as they get older, but the good news is we may be able to reduce the risk and slow the progression with the right nutrition, so we can enjoy good vision for longer.
Key nutrients for your eyes
There are four key groups of nutrients that are thought to be good for eye health:
The vitamins A, C and E contain anti-oxidants, which help to maintain healthy cells and tissues in the eye, thereby helping slow the progression of AMD. Vitamin C is also thought to lower the risk of developing cataracts.
Lutein and zeaxanthin
Many studies have shown that these anti-oxidant nutrients, called carotenoids, reduce the risk and slow down the progression of chronic eye diseases, such as AMD.
This essential fatty acid is thought to play an important role in the visual development of babies and children. A diet low in omega-3 has been associated with eye diseases and AMD. Dry eye syndrome, a condition that affects the tear-making function of your eye, has also has been linked to omega-3 deficiency.
The minerals zinc and copper help your body to absorb nutrients and vitamins. A large research trial showed that high quantities of anti-oxidant vitamins combined with zinc oxide and cupric oxide (a type of copper) can help to slow the progression of AMD.
Foods for your eye health
Here are five of the best types of foods to help keep your eyes healthy:
Eat your greens
If you are looking to nurture your eye health with nutrients, no foods are more powerful than green, leafy vegetables. They are packed with lutein and rich in anti-oxidant vitamins. Kale is the highest scoring known source of lutein in a vegetable, closely followed by spinach and fresh parsley.
Put some colour on your plate
Carotenoids are responsible for the bright colours of a number of fruits and vegetables. For a plate of colourful carotenoid-rich foods, include corn, kiwis, pumpkins, courgettes, red grapes and green or orange peppers. These fruits and vegetables are also good sources of the antioxidant vitamins that play a key role in your eye health.
Fatty fish are rich in omega-3. Salmon, tuna and mackerel float in as top sources of this essential fatty acid.
Eggs any style
Carotenoids are also responsible for the yellowy orange colour of egg yolk. In fact, egg yolks are possibly the best source of lutein and zeaxanthin.
Oysters contain much more zinc per serving than any other food, with other shellfish and beef as the next highest sources. Milk, cheese and bread also contain some zinc.
Including these foods in your diet will not only help maintain good eye health, but they will be good for your general health too.
For more information about AMD and cataracts, read our page about long-term eye conditions.