4 Nutrients Good for Vision and Eye Health, Along with the Foods that Contain Them
With an increase in celebrations and social events over Christmas, it can be challenging to care for your overall health, including your eyes. Knowing which foods contain important nutrients can help you navigate the holiday season.
As optometrists we’re concerned mostly about the foods which are of value to your eye health and eyesight so have compiled this list accordingly, to help you care for your eyes this Christmas. We hope you find it to be a useful guide in choosing meals and for your own meal planning over the festive season and beyond.
Let’s start with vitamin A. Did you know that night blindness is often one of the first signs of a vitamin A deficiency? Not only is vitamin A beneficial to a healthy functioning ocular surface, it is also a requirement for the healthy formation of the photoreceptor rhodopsin. This photopigment (found in rod cells of the retina), is especially helpful in allowing your eyes to see at night.
Vitamin A also helps protect against childhood blindness (though it has not been proven to prevent myopia, so don’t get the two confused).
Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children, so be sure to include vitamin A in your family’s diet.
Examples of foods rich in vitamin A include spinach, broccoli, apricot, grapefruit, mango, oranges, avocado, nectarines, carrots, sweet potatoes, cheese and eggs.
Vitamin C supports the delicate capillaries in the retina and is necessary in the formation and maintenance of collagen (a protein that provides strength and structure). Research has shown that a lack of collagen is one of the leading causes of glaucoma and cataracts. As you get older, your body produces less collagen so it’s important to make sure you get enough vitamin C to help in the production of collagen. Vitamin C also plays a crucial role in supporting a healthy immune system.
You’ll find the best sources of vitamin C in fruits and vegetables. Include citrus fruit such as oranges, kiwifruit, lemon, grapefruit; and other fruit in your diet, such as strawberries and tomatoes. Plums, cherries, blackcurrants, chili peppers and sweet yellow peppers contain even higher levels of vitamin C. Good vegetables to eat include broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps protect your body’s cells – including your eye cells – from free radicals (unstable atoms that can damage cells and also cause disease). Vitamin E also lowers the risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration.
Foods rich in vitamin E include hazelnuts, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, pumpkin, cooking oils, salmon and avocado.
Zinc plays an important role in keeping your eyes healthy. It helps create a pigment called melanin which protects the eye and studies also show this may help slow age-related, macular degeneration.
Interestingly, a lack of zinc can also cause headaches, blurred vision, excessive blinking and even neck pain.