As we age, our eyesight tends to get weaker, and prolonged screen time and certain health conditions can make it even worse. Plus, we become more vulnerable to eye diseases that reduce vision, such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. (AMD) Whether you’re over 40 or dealing with existing vision issues, make sure you’re eating for eye health. So, let’s dive into the top foods for eye health (based on science) and discover the amazing nutrients and benefits they offer!
What’s your favorite leafy green? They’re all packed with nutrients that support eye health. Adding more of them to your plate could lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss for people over 50. This eye disease that robs you of your central vision is linked to a diet low in lutein and zeaxanthin, two nutrients found in dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens. How do we know this?
The “Eye Disease Case-Control Study,” published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1994, was one of the first large studies on carotenoids and eye health. The goal was to look at the relationship between diet and the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Results showed that people with high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in their blood had a significantly lower risk of developing AMD than those with lower levels. One way to get this benefit is to add more leafy greens like kale and spinach to your plate. Collard greens have one of the highest amounts of these nutrients relative to other greens.
Fatty fish, such as wild-caught salmon and sardines, are rich in long-chain omega-3s, a type of healthy fat associated with a lower risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. These fats have an anti-inflammatory effect that’s beneficial for eye health. When ultraviolet light from the sun hits the light-sensitive structure, called the retina, in the back of your eye, it creates oxidative damage and inflammation. Long-chain omega-3s may help reduce this type of damaging inflammation.
Plus, long-chain omega-3s may improve tear production and dry eyes, a common problem after the age of 50. Studies show that people who took long-chain omega-3 supplements had improved tear production and a greater amount of tear fluid than those who didn’t.
Your mom may have told you that carrots are food for your vision. Carrots indeed contain vitamin A necessary for healthy night vision. In areas where people don’t get enough vitamin A, night blindness is common. Carrots also contain beta-carotene and lutein, two anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that help protect your eyes against oxidative stress from ultraviolet light exposure. So, the next time you’re munching on some crunchy carrot sticks, know that you’re doing your eyes a favor.
Carrots are often the first food that comes to mind when we think of beta-carotene, but there are plenty of other delicious options that are also rich in this nutrient. For instance, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and butternut squash are all excellent sources of beta-carotene, as well as other important nutrients like vitamin C and potassium. Fruits and vegetables with orange or yellow colors, such as oranges, cantaloupes, and papayas, are also good options.
Nuts and Seeds
Switch a handful of nuts or seeds for that bag of chips for eye health. Nuts and seeds are rich in vitamin E and various antioxidants that help counter damage to the retina in the back of the eye. According to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, nuts reduce markers of inflammation, so they’re an anti-inflammatory snack that’s also beneficial for eye health.
Additionally, nuts provide a good source of healthy fats and proteins, making them an ideal choice if you want to stay satiated and energized throughout the day. Whether you choose walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or any other variety, making the switch is an easy choice for better eye health. Add them to yogurt, oatmeal, and salads to get their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
If you’re concerned about protecting your eyes, switch soft drinks and other sugary beverages for a cup of green tea. Green tea is not only a delicious and refreshing beverage, but it also offers potential benefits for eye health. The catechins found in green tea have been linked to a range of health benefits, including reducing the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. And now, there is increasing evidence that green tea may also be good for your eyes. Green tea is an excellent choice for visual health due to its high antioxidant content. The flavonoid compounds found in green tea scavenge free radicals and reduce oxidative stress that harms your retina.
Furthermore, the catechins found in green tea may help reduce intraocular pressure and improve blood flow to the eyes, which can help improve vision quality. A study published in the International Journal of Ophthalmology in 2022 found that green tea may benefit people with glaucoma.
In conclusion, the foods mentioned above are some of the best for eye health. Eating a variety of these foods as part of a healthy balanced diet can help protect and support eyesight. Eating various foods from all the food groups is important, and regular eye exams can help keep your eyes healthy and functioning properly, so you can see the world around you and appreciate its beauty.
- “Lutein and Zeaxanthin – American Optometric Association.” documents.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/nutrition/lutein-and-zeaxanthin.
- Seddon JM, Ajani UA, Sperduto RD, Hiller R, Blair N, Burton TC, Farber MD, Gragoudas ES, Haller J, Miller DT, et al. Dietary carotenoids, vitamins A, C, and E, and advanced age-related macular degeneration. Eye Disease Case-Control Study Group. JAMA. 1994 Nov 9;272(18):1413-20. Erratum in: JAMA 1995 Feb 22;273(8):622. PMID: 7933422.
- Bénédicte MJ Merle, Pascale Benlian, Puche N, Souied EH. Circulating Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Neovascular Age-Related Macular Degeneration. ResearchGate. Published February 20, 2014. Accessed December 3, 2022. researchgate.net/publication/260382735_Circulating_Omega-3_Fatty_Acids_and_Neovascular_Age-Related_Macular_Degeneration
- “36 Fabulous Foods to Boost Eye Health – American Academy of ….” 10 Jan. 2020, aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/fabulous-foods-your-eyes.
- “8 Nutrients That Will Optimize Your Eye Health.” 15 Feb. 2019, healthline.com/nutrition/8-nutrients-for-eyes.
- Rui Jiang, David R. Jacobs, Jr., Elizabeth Mayer-Davis, Moyses Szklo, David Herrington, Nancy S. Jenny, Richard Kronmal, R. Graham Barr, Nut and Seed Consumption and Inflammatory Markers in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 163, Issue 3, 1 February 2006, Pages 222-231, doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwj033.
- Gasiunas K, Galgauskas S. Green tea-a new perspective of glaucoma prevention. Int J Ophthalmol. 2022 May 18;15(5):747-752. doi: 10.18240/ijo.2022.05.09. PMID: 35601179; PMCID: PMC9091885.