6 Vitamins and Nutrients for Eye Health
Whether it’s UV light from the sun, smoking, exposures in our diets or extended time in front of a screen- our eyes do plenty of heavy lifting on a daily basis! Here are the six top vitamins that promote eye health and the best ways to get them. Remember to always check with your doctor before making any drastic diet changes.
Vitamin A (and beta carotene)
Vitamin A is essential for vision. A severe deficiency can cause night blindness, particularly among older individuals. Luckily, these deficiencies are rare in the United States because many processed foods, like breakfast cereals, are fortified with vitamins. Liver, as well as dairy products like milk, are great natural sources of vitamin A. To up your intake of beta carotene, look for any orange vegetable, such as carrots, winter squash or sweet potatoes.
Like other antioxidants, vitamin E helps prevent damage from free radicals and eye disease. It’s one of the components — along with vitamin C, copper, zinc, lutein and zeaxanthin — of the high-dose antioxidant supplement called AREDS2 (developed from the Age-Related Eye Diseases [AREDS] study), that can help preventing some eye diseases from getting worse. There’s also some evidence that high levels of vitamin E in the diet may protect against the formation of age-related vision-clouding cataracts So be sure to give plant-based oils, nuts, sunflower seeds and avocado a place on the menu.
Vitamin C is another disease-fighting antioxidant that protects against AMD and, like vitamin E, you probably don’t need to take a supplement to get benefits. In a 2013 Spanish study looking at diet and the risk of cataracts, researchers found that the higher a person’s intake of vitamins C and E from foods, the lower their risk for cataracts. Citrus fruits are the classic choices for vitamin C. But kiwi, strawberries, broccoli, kale and bell pepper also are abundant sources. A spinach and strawberry salad with an olive oil and vinegar dressing and sunflower seeds is a great eye-friendly meal. The spinach and strawberries have vitamin C — along with a number of other healthy nutrients — and the olive oil and sunflower seeds contain vitamin E.
Zinc is a part of many enzymes that are needed for good vision and the integrity of eye tissue. You can find it in beans, lentils, seeds, meat, seafood, eggs and dairy products.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
These nutrients, part of the carotenoid family of plant pigments, are found naturally in eye tissue. Lutein and zeaxanthin act sort of like sunglasses, protecting the retina from UV damage. They are often found together in foods. They’re abundant in berries, broccoli, papaya, peaches, mangoes and leafy greens like Swiss chard and spinach.
Omega-3 fatty acids
The healthful fats in fish may be as helpful for your eyes as they are for your heart. Research suggests that consuming omega-3 fatty acids in foods or as a supplement may alleviate dry eye disease. That leads to symptoms like burning, stinging and a gritty sensation. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines are top sources of these healthy fats. Plant sources include flaxseed, walnuts and chia seeds, and flaxseed, soybean and canola oils.
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