You may have grown up being told that carrots are good for your eyes. They are, but there are actually a lot of foods that improve eye health. Here's a list of the vitamins and minerals important for protecting your eyes and preventing eye disease (and the foods you'll find them in).
1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are healthy fats that promote general health and eye health. Low dietary levels of fatty acids have been linked to dry eye syndrome.
Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in oily fish like tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, anchovies and herring. Many nuts, legumes and shells are also rich in omega-3s, including walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, peanuts, chia seeds, flax seeds and hemp seeds.
2. Vitamin A
Vitamin A is critical to preventing conditions like xerophthalmia (abnormal dryness and inflammation) and night blindness.
There are two ways to get vitamin A: It occurs naturally in many animal products as vitamin A1 (or retinol), and is also produced by the body using carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin (more on that below). Vitamin-A-rich foods include liver, mackerel, salmon, tuna and goat cheese.
3. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that slows the progression of age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness in people over 55), and can lower the risk of developing cataracts.
Citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, grapefruits and berries are chock-full of vitamin C -- but so are spinach, tomatoes, bell peppers, bok choy, cauliflower, papayas, strawberries and squash.
4. Vitamin E
Vitamin E protects eye cells from free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can break down healthy eye tissue and lead to cataracts or age-related macular degeneration.
Wheat germ, almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, peanuts and peanut butter are just a few of the foods rich in vitamin E.
5. Lutein & Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that filter out harmful blue light to help protect and maintain the eye's healthy cells.
These disease-fighting antioxidants aren't produced naturally, so it's critical to get them through your diet. Fortunately, they are found in many dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale and collards, as well as sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, bell peppers and mangos.
6. ZincA trace mineral, zinc helps transport vitamin A from the liver to the retina in order to produce melanin, which acts as a protective pigment. Zinc deficiency has been linked to cataracts as well as poor night and low light vision.
Certain types of meat and shellfish have high levels of zinc, particularly oysters. Beef, lobster, pork, yogurt and salmon are also good sources of zinc. Doctors recommend taking copper alongside zinc, as zinc can interfere with copper absorption.
Are you getting enough eye health-promoting vitamins in your diet? If not, add some of the foods we mentioned to your grocery list! And don't forget one of the most important parts of eye health: protecting your eyes from harmful UV radiation and damaging blue light with Eagle Eyes sunglasses and glasses for low light, night, and computer use.