No matter what your age, keeping your eyesight healthy and through natural means is always a priority.
After all, our eyes are what connect us to the rest of the world. Having clear vision can make a huge difference in an individual’s ability to function on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, millions of people suffer from vision impairments which affect their ability to see without difficulty or corrective eyewear. Even those who do not have issues with their eyesight early on often find themselves struggling with their vision as they get older.
Now that people are able to live longer due to advances in modern knowledge and technology, this is becoming a more serious issue.
There seems to be a constant search for ways for individuals to improve their health through lifestyle changes and one of the main ways to make a positive impact is being conscious of what you eat.
This is true for eye health as well. All parts of our body have different nutritional needs to function including the eye, which has many parts to keep it working.
Poor diets filled with junk food and missing more nutritious foods are a major contributor to vision problems because important nutrients and vitamins are not being consumed.
See better with the right vitamins and nutrients
There have been many studies which have illustrated the effectiveness of certain vitamins and nutrients found in foods in aiding eyesight.
One of these focused on a common cause of vision loss, Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), where the cells of the macula (part of the retina which taken in detailed images) start to break down. The major risk factor for this problem is aging, but it is also linked to genetics, race, and smoking.
Researchers have found that certain lifestyle changes can lower an individual’s risk or even slow its progression. There is even some evidence that it is a nutrition-responsive disorder meaning it can be prevented or slowed by consuming certain nutrients.
Some of the vitamins and nutrients which have been found to support eye health are:
- Vitamin A (especially from beta carotene)
- Vitamin B complex
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Major studies shed light on improving vision naturally
The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) was a major study sponsored by the National Eye Institute and published in 2001. Its goal was to not only learn more about AMD, but test the effects of certain vitamins and nutrients on eye health.
The original formula that researchers used contained vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc, and copper. There was a significant reduction (25%) in the subjects’ risk of developing advanced AMD.
Researchers decided to conduct a follow up study, referred to as AREDS2, with a few adjustments to the formula. They replaced beta-carotene with lutein and zeaxanthin to reduce lung cancer risk for smokers, added omega-3 fatty acids, and reduced the amount of zinc on the recommendation of some nutritionists.
There was not a significant change in the subjects’ risk of advanced AMD when compared to the original study.
There were notable benefits for those taking lutein and zeaxanthin, especially when participants did not have enough in their diet already. There did not seem to be a significant impact either way from the addition of omega-3s or a reduction in the zinc.
Because Age Related Macular Degeneration comes from the breaking down of retinal cells, the vitamins and nutrients which have been found to protect eyes from AMD are aiding the body by keeping the eyes healthy and improving eyesight.
These studies were instrumental in showing the positive impact nutritious supplements, and also diets, can have on vision.
The participants in the studies were taking higher dose supplements to see these results, but for the average person taking a multivitamin and including nutrient dense food as a regular part of their diet can make a positive impact on their eyes.
Best foods to improve your eyesight
In order to improve your eyesight and protect your eye health try adding some of the following foods containing these beneficial elements into your diet.
This brightly colored vegetable is often the go to when people think of food to enhance their vision. The reason carrots are so good for eyesight is because they contain beta-carotene which supports retina health.
While carrots are great to include in your diet, they are not the only vision powerhouse out there. Other orange foods like pumpkin and sweet potatoes have the same vitamin A benefits as carrots, especially when cooked.
Eggs are not only a good source of protein, they can also help you maintain eye health. Egg yolks have gotten a bad reputation in the past for their connection to high cholesterol and heart disease, but they actually have health benefits.
The yolk contains lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin A, and zinc – all great for improving eyesight by supporting the retina in the eye. Some eggs have more benefits than others; when the yolk is bright orange, as in those from free range chickens with a more natural diet, they contain more of these nutrients.
3. Leafy Greens
Leafy green vegetables, including spinach and kale, are considered superfoods for the many vitamins and nutrients they pack in. A good way to choose which one is best for you is by looking at the leaves – the darker green they are, the more lutein they contain.
These vegetables also have good amounts of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin which work together in the retina, particularly kale. Though you can get the benefits of these foods when served in any way, cooking them can help your body to absorb the lutein more efficiently.
4. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a great source of vitamin E, which is a potent antioxidant that has been shown to improve AMD and even possibly cataracts. Sunflower seeds and almonds are two of the foods with the highest concentration of vitamin E and both are a helpful addition to a diet to support vision.
5. Citrus Fruits and Berries
Citrus fruits and berries are known for having high levels of vitamin C which are great for your body and eyes in so many ways. It supports the immune system, connective tissues, and blood vessels, while also aiding other antioxidants such as vitamin E. Foods with vitamin C also generally have high levels of bioflavonoids which work together to support eye health.
6. Orange Peppers
While it is important to include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet for their many benefits, orange peppers are one of the best for eye health. They have a relatively high level of zeaxanthin compared to other fruits and vegetables, which is more difficult to find naturally than other nutrients.
Aside from being a healthy protein source, fish is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are believed to be good for eyesight. Though the AREDS2 did not find any noticeable difference when adding omega-3 it has been suggested that it may help prevent dry eyes which factors greatly into eye health.
Coldwater fish including tuna, salmon, anchovies, mackerel, and trout are good choices when looking for these healthy fats. They contain DHA which is naturally found in the retina.
Eat a balanced, healthy diet for more effective results
The parts of our body are all connected so eating healthy foods of any type will benefit the health and well-being of your eyes. At the same time, a diet filled with foods low in nutrition can harm not only your vision but also your general health.
It is important to be conscious of the foods you consume to make sure you are getting a balanced diet filled with a variety of vitamins and nutrients in order to keep your eyes working the way they should.
To maintain the integrity of your eye health you should not only try to eat certain foods, there are also ones you should avoid. Trans fats, heated vegetable oils, excessive sugars, and artificial sweeteners are some of the worst culprits when it comes to harming vision.
Trans fats may interfere with the benefits of omega-3 while consuming heated vegetable oil can create dangerous products through oxidation. High blood sugar levels can pull fluid from the lens of the eye and even damage blood vessels in the retina.
We can learn from the results of the AREDS and AREDS2 that being conscious of nutritional intake is vital to preventing and delaying vision problems.
To improve your eyesight, incorporate a healthy variety of vitamins and nutrients which aid in eye health in your diet to start protecting your sight.
Looking to find out more about how you can eat better to improve your vision?
Check out Eat Right for Your Sight, a very useful and informative cookbook put together by top chefs and the eye health experts at the American Macular Degeneration Foundation.
This comprehensive guide to eye care through nutrition includes 83 different recipes to promote vision health along with nutritional guidelines to follow to help keep your eyes healthy.
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