Vision is the most valuable of your five senses, yet it’s no secret that eye health has been on the decline over recent years. Eye problems that were once exclusively considered ‘old age’ concerns are now on the rise amongst even the youngest. There are many simple ways to protect our vision – regular eyes check-ups are the easiest and most obvious – but research shows that what we eat can also help us look after our eyes!
Generally, good health goes hand-in-hand with good vision – and it’s impossible to open a magazine without being told what the latest superfood is for fueling your body – but we think it’s high time to discover key facts about foods that can help safeguard our eyesight.
The great news is that many are staples of our Middle Eastern diet! How many will you consume today?
Carrots: every child knows carrots help you see in the dark! Right? More than just an urban myth, there’s a reason that carrots top this list – they’re bursting full of vitamin A. Okay, here’s the science bit… vitamin A is a component of rhodopsin, a protein which helps the retina absorb light. Deficiency of this key vitamin is one of the most common causes of blindness in the world. So, it’s conclusive proof teta WAS right all along about those carrots, even if she didn’t know quite why!
Fish: oily fish to be precise! What we’re looking for here is the rich omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon is a powerhouse of fatty acids and vitamin D – both vital for optimal eye health. Long-chain fatty acid DHA is found in high levels in the retina, and research shows this may help promote eye function and reduce the risk of several eye diseases — especially dry eyes. DHA is also essential for brain and eye development in children! Sardines, anchovies, tuna and mackerel are also great sources of omega-3! These fatty-acids also have remarkable benefits for your skin and hair – a bonus!
Leafy green vegetables (and more!): take your pick from amongst our old-favorite spinach, the still on-trend kale, and big beautiful broccoli. Why? They all contain high levels of the antioxidant vitamin C as well as being rich in lutein and zeaxanthin. Studies have shown that people with cataracts often have low antioxidant status – you’ll also find bell peppers, citrus fruits (lemons, oranges, grapefruits), and guavas are a great source of vitamin C. Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoid antioxidants. Concentrated in the macula of the eye (part of the retina) they act as a sunshield and protect the eyes from UV rays. Get these antioxidants from egg yolks, sweet corn, and red grapes too!
Seeds: who doesn’t love a handful of flax or chia seeds sprinkled over their granola every morning? We’ve got special praise for seeds such as these (and hemp too!) because they are high in omega-3s and represent a rich source of vitamin E! A fat-soluble antioxidant, vitamin E helps prevent fatty-acids from harmful oxidation and, because your retina contains a high level of those fatty acids, vitamin E is essential for maintaining eye health! Other great sources include almonds, sunflower seeds, and vegetable oils.
Meat: we know eating meat doesn’t suit everyone’s lifestyle these days, but the truth is it remains a key source of zinc – and your eyes contain high levels of this nutrient! Deficiency of zinc can lead to macular degeneration, but there are other ways of enriching your intake… try legumes!
Legumes: take our invitation to load up on legumes for many reasons – and it won’t only be your eyesight that benefits! Beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils are the basics… add alfalfa, clover and mesquite when you can! Rich in zinc, they can reduce night blindness and may help in reducing the risk and progression of AMD. Legumes are your truest friends here.
Walnuts: another honorable mention… this time for the humble walnut! A great source of both Vitamin E and zinc!
Dairy: Milk is a good source of riboflavin (aka vitamin B2) which can help to reduce your risk of cataracts. It is also fortified with vitamin A, a leading performer among eye health vitamins. Choose low-fat milk over whole milk to keep the saturated fat low and prevent atherosclerosis (fatty-deposits) building up in the eyes’ blood vessels. Feta cheese in particular is rich in vitamin B2 – this vitamin is needed to protect glutathione, which is an important antioxidant in the eye.
Water: the original superfood, and still the best! Our point here is… stay hydrated for your body, skin and eyes!
What’s the take-away from all this? In the same way you take care of the rest of your body, your eyes need conscious care too. Be kind to them! Practice a good eye-care regime (including regular eye tests), and boost your protection with an eye-friendly diet.
Ensuring a good intake of key vitamins and nutrients may help reduce your risk of certain eye diseases and degeneration, but don’t neglect your body as a whole… stick to a diet that keeps you healthy and, the chances are, it will keep your eyes healthy too!