We hate to sound like your mom, but are you eating enough fruits and vegetables?! We’re only asking because it’s important – eye-healthy foods can reduce your risk of cataracts or help delay their progression! People whose diets are high in vegetables and fruit also have a lower incidence of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a major cause of blindness in adults.
So where do you stand? Here’s a list of the nutrients you should be eating on a regular basis to maintain eye health:
- Vitamins C and E: Vitamins C and E, also known as antioxidants, help protect cells against damage from harmful elements like sunlight, cigarette smoke, and air pollution. Antioxidants are incredibly important for the entire body, not just the eye. Good sources include dark leafy greens (think spinach and kale), almonds, egg yolks, citrus fruits, berries, and apples with the skin on.
- B-Complex Vitamins: The b-complex vitamins (including folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12) have been shown to help in the prevention and treatment of cataracts and in reducing the risk of AMD. They can also strengthen the cornea! Good sources include eggs, fresh veggies, dairy, turkey, and fortified breakfast cereals.
- Carotenoids: Carotenoids are the bright red, yellow, and orange pigments you see in a number of fruits and veggies. There’s evidence that these organic pigments help protect against cataracts and that people who take high amounts have a reduced need for cataract surgery. One of the carotenoids, beta carotene, helps the retina and other parts of the eye function smoothly. Good sources include carrots (duh!), tomatoes, sweet potatoes, egg yolk, and orange peppers.
- Minerals: A National Institute of Health study found that taking high doses of vitamins C and E and beta-carotene plus zinc and copper (the two must be taken together for proper absorption!), can slow the progression of AMD. Good sources include: shellfish, wholegrain cereals, nuts, legumes, red meat, dairy products, and eggs.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for normal development of infant’s vision. Studies have suggested that omega-3 fatty acids may also help protect adult eyes from macular degeneration and dry eye syndrome. Good sources include salmon, flaxseeds, dark green leafy vegetables, walnuts, soybean oil and avocados.
- Polyphenols: Studies have suggested that plant polyphenols can defend your eyes against ultraviolet radiation. Good sources include dark chocolate, tea, coffee, and red wine.
Image courtesy of Dani California Cooks.