You’ve heard the old claim that eating carrots will give you some sort of super-sight. In fact, the British government attributed the ace nighttime flying of the British Royal Air Force in WWII to eating loads of this crunchy veggie. Unfortunately, the truth isn’t as exciting, as it was newly invented radar, not carrots, that gave pilots their edge.
Still, there is some truth to the propaganda. They aren’t some magical cure-all, but carrots are rich in antioxidants that can keep your eyes healthy and vitamin A for night vision. Maintaining optimal eye health requires a balanced diet rich in various nutrients. Proper eye nutrition could even reduce symptoms of frustrating ocular conditions, such as dry eyes.
Essential Nutrients for Eye Health
The parts of your body work together to keep you in top condition. This means many of the same vitamins and minerals that are good for your heart, brain, and the rest of your body are also good for your eyes. It makes sense since your eyes are full of the same arteries you need to keep clear for cardiovascular health, only much smaller.
Here are some key nutrients that play a crucial role in promoting eye health:
Antioxidants aren’t so much a single nutrient as they are a category other nutrients fall into. These powerful, healthy molecules can neutralize unstable molecules, called free radicals, that can harm your body’s cells. Examples of antioxidants include vitamins A, C & E, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
Vitamin A is vital for maintaining good vision, particularly in low-light conditions, and colour vision. It’s a fat-soluble vitamin that helps protect the eye’s surface, also called the cornea. In addition, some studies have shown that vitamin A may reduce your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Known for its immune-boosting properties, vitamin C also plays a significant role in preventing cataracts and reducing the risk of AMD progressing. It’s also essential for making collagen, a protein in connective tissue that gives structure to your eye.
Another potent antioxidant, vitamin E, helps protect eye cells from damage caused by free radicals. It’s also part of a nutrient group that could reduce the risk of AMD progressing to advanced stages.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are renowned for their anti-inflammatory properties, which may help prevent diabetic retinopathy. In addition, these healthy fats may also help people produce more tears, which can reduce the painful symptoms of dry eyes.
Zinc is a mineral that can help protect your retina from the damaging effects of UV radiation by moving vitamin A through your body. However, too much zinc can reduce your copper levels, so keeping your diet balanced with these nutrients is essential.
Fabulous Foods for Your Eyes
The good news is plenty of foods contain the nutrients necessary for eye health, so you can look around and find the diet that suits your tastes while meeting your daily intake.
Leafy Greens Vegetables
Leafy green foods are high in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. These nutrients are found in the pigments that give these veggies their green tint. So typically, the greener the food, the more antioxidants.
- Collard greens
- Romaine lettuce
- Turnip greens
- Egg (Though it isn’t leafy or green.)
Try adding a handful of spinach to your salad or sautéing kale as a delicious side dish.
Colourful Fruits and Vegetables
Making sure your diet is full of bright fruits and veggies can help you get the required amount of vitamins A, C, and E.
Good sources of vitamin A include:
- Sweet potatoes
Sources of vitamin C include:
- Citrus fruit, like oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, and lemons
- Red bell peppers
Foods high in vitamin E include:
- Sunflower seeds
Try incorporating these foods as main parts or side dishes for your meals for a boost of eye-protecting antioxidants. Almonds and sunflower seeds also make a good snack.
Fish & Nuts
The best source of omega-3 fatty acids is from cold-water fish. Many people don’t get enough in their diet, and it’s common to use fish oil supplements to make up the difference.
Fish high in omega-3s include:
While fish are the primary source of omega-3s, you can find it in small amounts in certain nuts and seeds.
These foods have both omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E:
Try having a seafood meal occasionally, or take fish oil supplements at your doctor’s recommendation.
Since zinc can reduce your levels of copper, which is essential for forming red blood cells, you’ll want to be careful about eating only foods high in zinc. Still, don’t ignore it entirely.
Good sources of zinc include:
- Lean red meat
- Fortified cereals
Beans are high in both zinc and copper, so adding legumes to your meals can increase both at once.
Eye Nutrition Beyond Carrots
While carrots offer some benefits for eye health due to their vitamin A content, they are not a magical solution. Maintaining healthy eyes requires a well-rounded approach to nutrition. You should also opt for whole foods, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, and visit your optometrist for regular eye exams.
At Toronto Centre Eye Care, we can examine your eyes and watch for early signs of eye disease. Sometimes, by incorporating healthy and proactive steps into your lifestyle, you could stop these symptoms before they become problems.
So pick up a carrot, pick up your mouse, and book an appointment with us today!