Incorporating certain vitamins and minerals into your diet can help to improve your vision and overall eye health, as well as reduce your risk for certain eye diseases.
Many of us realize that the foods we eat impact our health. Often, we think about how certain foods may affect our weight, our heart health or our muscle growth. But what about our eyes? Are there certain foods that can impact the health of our eyes?
The answer is yes. Many of the same foods we eat for better heart health or weight management are also good for our eyes.
Learn more about how your nutritional choices can affect your eyes and discover what foods are the best for keeping your eyes healthy and strong.
What Can My Diet Do for My Eyes?
Your eyes and your diet might not seem like a likely partnership, but they are interconnected. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the leading causes of blindness and low vision in the U.S. are primarily age-related eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. While your diet cannot completely prevent or solve these problems on its own, some nutrients have been found to reduce the risk for certain eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, dry eyes, and poor night vision.
What Nutrients Help My Eyes the Most?
Incorporating certain vitamins and minerals into your diet can help to improve your vision and your overall eye health, as well as reduce your risk for certain eye diseases. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Optometric Association, here are some of the most important nutrients for your eyes:
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C is critical to your eye health. It helps protect your body from molecules that can damage and kill cells. Vitamin C helps repair and grow new tissue cells, lowers your risk of developing cataracts, and slows the progression of age-related macular degeneration.
- Vitamin E – Vitamin E helps keep your cells healthy and protects the eyes from unstable molecules that break down healthy tissues.
- Omega-3 fatty acids – These essential fatty acids are important for proper visual development and retinal function. They may help reduce your risk of developing eye diseases later in life, reduce inflammation, enhance tear production and support your eye’s oily outer layer.
- Lutein and zeaxanthin – These nutrients are key to protecting the macula, the area of the eye that gives us our central most detailed vision. They may reduce our risk for certain chronic eye diseases, including a lowered risk of developing cataracts.
- Zinc – Zinc helps keep the retina healthy and may protect your eyes from the damaging effects of light. Zinc also helps bring Vitamin A from the liver to the retina in order to produce a protective pigment in the eyes.
- Vitamin A – Your retina needs this to help turn light rays into the images you see, and your eyes can’t stay moist without it.
What Foods Should I Eat to Improve My Eye Health?
So where can you find all of these nutrients? You can’t exactly go to the grocery store and pick up a bushel of Vitamin E or a bag of lutein, so how can you get enough of them through your diet? Check out the list below for some great foods to boost your eye health. Find the ones you like the best and work them into your daily diet.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
|Lutein and Zeaxanthin
What Are Some Easy Ways to Incorporate These Eye-Friendly Foods?
- Search VA’s Nutrition and Food Services page for recipes that support eye health. Pick a food from above that you want to add to your diet and find recipes that include it. Here are a few suggestions:
- Cranberry-Orange Smoothie – This easy smoothie contains orange juice and carrots, two important sources of Vitamin C and Vitamin A.
- White Bean, Kale and Tomato Soup – This healthy soup contains carrots, kale and beans, important sources of Vitamin A, zinc, lutein and zeaxanthin.
- Lemony Pan-Seared Fish with Wilted Kale – In this recipe, you can choose your favorite fish for those omega-3 fatty acids and add kale and lemon for additional eye-healthy ingredients.
- Try other websites, such as the American Macular Degeneration Foundation, for recipes tailored to promoting better eye health. Try a carrot-cumin soup or some kale chips for easy ways to get started.
- Consider small changes to add eye-healthy foods to your daily routine. Try a new fish recipe for dinner once a week, or even just a can of tuna for your lunch. Add chia seeds or nuts to your oatmeal, smoothie or yogurt. Try substituting a sweet potato for a traditional baked potato or oven fries. Add leafy greens to an omelet or make a salad for lunch or dinner. Cut up cantaloupe or buy some oranges and carrots to have around for eye-healthy snacks.
What Other Steps Can I Take to Protect My Eyes?
Besides a healthy diet, there are a lot of different ways you can take control of your eye health. You can start by visiting your eye doctor once a year for an eye exam. Just by visiting an eye care professional and taking regular care of your eyes, you can help protect yourself from vision loss, stay on top of eye diseases and spot many other health conditions. Check out Keeping Your Eyes Healthy and Your Vision Strong for a list of ways to take care of your eyes, including keeping your diabetes under control, wearing sunglasses and much more.
- The CDC offers several tips to prevent vision loss.
- The National Institutes of Health shares a video on the connection between your diet and the reduction in the severity and progression of certain eye diseases. As the doctor of the National Eye Institute says, “You are what you eat.”
- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers vision care, including routine eye exams and preventative vision testing, to those eligible for VA health care benefits. Contact your VA health care provider to schedule an eye exam today. If you are not eligible for VA health care benefits, check out the National Eye Institute for a list of programs that offer free or low-cost eye care.
As you think about the foods you put into your body each day, consider taking a few from this article and making your eye health a priority!