We all know that what we put into our bodies has a profound effect on our health in several areas. Some diets work well for regulating blood sugar. Others are best for heart health. But, what foods can we eat to ensure our eyes remain healthy? Our eyes naturally begin to lose focus and deteriorate as we age. This is a combination of the aging process (EEK) and environmental factors like sun and blue light damage.
The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), in 2001, compiled a list of nutrients that can reduce the risk of age-related decline by 25%. They found zinc, copper, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and beta carotene to be instrumental in maintaining eye health. The study was updated in 2013 and added to the list were Omega-3 fatty acids, zeaxanthin, and lutein to be beneficial.
That’s cool. But what does that mean? Where do I find zeaxanthin? And how do I chew pennies? Do I swallow just them whole?
Here’s What You Need to Know
We’ve compiled a list of foods that are sources of these nutrients. Add them to your shopping list and try to incorporate at least one into each meal. Or, if it’s more your speed and you’re a pickier eater, commit to eating one serving of one of these each day - you can work your way up from there. Remember, these foods aren’t just great for your eyes! They’re healthy foods that will do your whole body good!
What Are the Best Foods for Eye Health?
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Many fish are rich sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Some fish are oilier than others. And in this case, the oilier the better! These fish have oil in their gut and body tissues. The best fish to add to your diet are tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, and herring. In addition to helping reduce age-related decline in eye health, studies show that the oils in these fish can reverse dry eye.
Nuts and Legumes
Nuts and legumes are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids as well as Vitamin E, both of which protect the eye from age-related damage. The best of these for your eye health are walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, peanuts, and lentils.
Photo by The Heart Foundation
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Seeds are also rich in Omega-3’s and Vitamin E. Considering adding chia seeds, flax seeds, and/or hemp seeds to your diet. These can also add delicious texture and heartiness to lean meals and are nutrient-rich!
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When you think of Vitamin C, you probably immediately envision oranges and other bright, delicious, tangy citrus fruits. Oranges, along with lemons and grapefruits, are rich in Vitamin C, an antioxidant recommended to fight age-related eye damage. Plus, they’re great for your immune system and can help keep you healthy and safe from viruses like colds flus.
Leafy Green Veggies
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If you were wondering where you’d find lutein and zeaxanthin, here you are! Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and collards are rich sources of these nutrients, as well as a great source of Vitamin C. Salads are a delicious component to any meal - and with a protein source can be a meal all on their own.
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You’ve probably heard (from Mom or Grandma) about how important carrots are to eye health. Maybe you were even told if you ate enough of them, you’d be able to see in the dark like the Easter bunny. Or… maybe that was just us?! Regardless, carrots are great for eye health as they are rich in beta carotene and Vitamin A. Beta carotene is actually what gives carrots their color. Vitamin A is very important in helping the retina to absorb light.
Photo by Health Magazine
Based on their orange color, can you guess one of the eye-healthy nutrients in sweet potatoes? Yep! Beta carotene again. Beta carotene is essential as it allows the body to create Vitamin A. And you already know why we need Vitamin A. Sweet potatoes are also a great source of the antioxidant Vitamin E.
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Beef is rich in zinc, making it great for long-term eye health. Zinc can help to delay age-related sight loss and macular degeneration, which can cause blurriness and dark spots within your line of vision, as well as curve and distort images. Macular degeneration can make it difficult to read, write, recognize familiar faces, and drive.
The eye, particularly the retina and vascular tissue surrounding the retina, contains high levels of zinc, so you can see why including it in your diet can be so beneficial. Chicken and pork also contain zinc, but not as much of it.
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Eggs, as you probably know, are a superfood. They are a great source of lutein, zeaxanthin, Vitamins C and E, and zinc.
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Like any other organ or system, your eyes are negatively affected by dehydration. And the best way to avoid dehydration is drinking plenty of water.
But I Still Have to Eat Pennies?
Where is the Copper?
You may be surprised to learn that there are several foods rich in copper that can promote eye health. High copper foods include seafood, mushrooms, tofu, sweet potatoes, cashews, chickpeas, avocado, salmon, sesame seeds, and dark chocolate. That last one is our personal favorite!
If the above foods don’t have a regular place on your plate, don’t worry! When you know better, you do better. So, as you’re planning upcoming meals or building your shopping list, try to add more of them to your diet. You won’t be sorry!. And don’t forget to have a little dark chocolate - it’s for your eyes! ;)