Top foods to boost your eyesight and vision

By: Bel Marra Health | Eye Health | Sunday, August 28, 2016 - 09:30 AM

Friends lying in bed with cucumber slices on eyesRubbing your eyes and feeling tired too often? We demand a lot from our eyes – staring at computer and TV screens, reading, writing, driving… You name it, your eyes are likely involved! You need to take good care of your eyes to safeguard your vision.

Protecting your vision can start with food. A diet of natural foods for healthy eyes gives you the nutrients you need to nourish them, such as omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, lutein and vitamins C and E to help ward off age-related vision problems. When it comes to tips for better vision, regularly eating the right foods can improve eyesight naturally, so you won’t be straining or squinting to see. Bring on the fine print!

Foods for healthy eyes

Your macula, the center of the eye’s retina, works awfully hard to give us fine vision and color. When it does this, it produces byproducts – free radicals – that can damage the cells. That’s where nutritious foods for healthy eyes come in. The antioxidants in our foods help to protect our cells from free radical toxins by neutralizing them. Problem is, if we’re not getting the right nutrients, there goes our safety net. When that happens, the macula is more susceptible to damage.

So it’s important to eat your way to better eye health. Most essential are the carotenoids, the pigments that occur naturally in algae and plants. The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, in particular, work to absorb damaging blue and near-ultraviolet light to protect your vision. These two vison superpowers can only be obtained by the human body through diet.

Top foods for good eye health and vision

Let’s take a look at some of the best foods you can eat for your eyes. They’re fresh and tasty whole foods that will fill you up nicely and improve eyesight naturally:

1. Kale and spinach: According to the Macular Society, a non-profit support group for people with macular conditions, around 78 percent of much-needed lutein and zeaxanthin is gained from eating vegetables, particularly dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach. True dietary health heroes! The society definitely advocates for eating more kale and spinach. Cooking, or eating these foods with fats or oil – a spinach salad dressed with a little lemon juice and olive oil, for one – can also help the body absorb them more effectively. A 2005 study at Ohio State University, Columbus, revealed that carotenoids absorption improved with the consumption of avocado oil and fruit.

We should be eating about 6 mg of lutein a day, however the average consumption is more like 2 mg. How much kale and spinach do you need, then? Each 100 g-serving of fresh kale has 11.4 mg of lutein. The same amount of spinach has 7.9 mg.

2. Red pepper: Another heavy-hitting plant source is red bell pepper. Get crunching! Your daily 100 g-serving has 8.5 mg of lutein. To note, any plant or vegetable which is yellow or orange in color contains these carotenoids. Red peppers also provide good-for-eyes vitamin C.

3. Eggs: Now’s the time to really enjoy your eggs. Eggs also contain high levels of both lutein and zeaxanthin, naturally more easily absorbed by the body than from vegetables because of the fats they contain.

4. Fish: Two servings a week, please! Fatty fish, especially salmon (wild-caught is best) is another one of the top foods for healthy eyes. Fish has essential fatty acids that your body and eyes depend on. Interesting to note, tear film has a layer of oil which helps keep water on the surface of the eye. So if you are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in oily fish, you might find yourself with dry, uncomfortable eyes.

5. Nuts and seeds: Vitamin E also helps protects the cells in our eyes from free radicals, and nuts and seeds have plenty to offer. You don’t need a lot, either: One ounce of sunflower seeds or almonds will give you more than a third of your recommended daily vitamin E. Other good bets are hazelnuts, wheat germ and peanut butter.

6. Citrus fruits: More vitamin C coming at you! Oranges and grapefruits, for example, have immune-boosting vitamin C, which also protects your vision. Go for the fruit itself so you get the benefits of fiber as well.

7. Whole grains: Foods with a low glycemic index (GI) can help your eyes. That means those refined carbohydrates, like white breads, buns and boxed cereals, have got to go. You want to start eating quinoa, brown rice, whole oats, grain breads and pasta (even better, make your pasta rice pasta). These foods also give you some zinc and vitamin E, which help promote overall eye health.

8. Carrots: You’ve probably heard about carrots and other orange-colored fruits and vegetables for good eye health, with good reason: Beta-carotene, a type of vitamin A that gives these foods their orange hue, is a vision-booster. It helps the retina and other parts of the eye to function smoothly. Don’t overload on carrots, however. Too many can give your skin a yellowish tinge that doesn’t signal optimal health.

9. Banana: Not only have researchers found that banana consumption may help improve vision, but they also uncovered that this fruit may ward off vision-related ailments, too. So what makes bananas so good for your eyes? Well, the same properties that give fruits their bright colors also work to improve eyesight, and bananas contain these beneficial compounds, too. Furthermore, this compound is converted into vitamin A, which can be useful for individuals with a vitamin A deficiency. It’s important to note that vitamin A is also crucial for eye health, so it’s wise to stock up on fruits that are rich in this essential vitamin.

10. Green leafy vegetables: A new study suggests that consuming green leafy vegetables regularly can reduce the risk of glaucoma by 20 percent. Study leader Jae Kang said, “We found those consuming the most green leafy vegetables had a 20 to 30 percent lower risk of glaucoma.” After a 25 year follow-up, 1,500 participants developed glaucoma. Researchers then analyzed consumption of green leafy vegetables among the participants. Participants were divided into five groups based on their green leafy vegetable consumption. In the higher consumption groups participants averaged 1.5 servings a day and the lowest was one serving every three days.

Tips for maintaining good eyesight

Now that you know what you should be getting onto your plate on a regular basis, you’re well on your way to making eye health a priority. Other tips for better vision include taking an eye test at least every two years – and not just to watch for changes in your prescription.

You want to be checked for glaucoma, an eye disease where the optic nerve is damaged, usually caused by increased pressure of the fluid in the eye. You won’t know this is happening, so you need go see an eye doctor.

With other conditions, such as macular disease or cataracts, you will likely notice a difference, but the sooner you get tested, the better. Beyond the eye test, develop lifestyle habits that protect your eyes:

  • Wear sunglasses outdoors and while driving during the day
  • Use safety glasses if you’re working with any hazardous or airborne materials
  • Wear protective gear for sports like squash or hockey
  • Take breaks from your computer screen
  • Quit smoking! Smoking puts you at higher risk for cataracts, optic nerve damage, and macular degeneration. If you’ve tried to quit smoking before and then started up again, keep trying. The more times you try to quit, the more likely you are to succeed.

Ready for that spinach salad? You can do so much for your eyes with the right foods – and a little care and attention.

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