Food for Sight

by in Healthy Tips, November 5, 2012

carrots
It’s a well-known fact that carrots are good for your eyesight, but did you know there are several nutrients that can keep your eyes healthy throughout your life? A healthy diet may help reduce the risk of vision issues like cataracts, glaucoma, age related macular degeneration and diabetic retinaopathy and help promote good eye health from as early as infancy. Why is this important? Over 21 million Americans suffer from vision trouble and the number of Americans with eye health problems is expected to double in the next 30 year. So what foods should you include in your diet to protect your vision?  Here’s the low-down:

Keep eating carrots: the beta-carotene found in carrots turns into vitamin A in your body. Vitamin A helps you focus better in low light. In addition to carrots, good sources of beta-carotene and vitamin A include fortified milk, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and spinach.

Vitamin C does more than boost your immune system: Vitamins C and E can help to prevent cataracts and reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration. Vitamin C is found in oranges, strawberries, broccoli and peppers, while vitamin E can be obtained by eating wheat germ, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are two important antioxidants essential for eye health:  These nutrients are vital in filtering out harmful high-energy wavelengths of light and reducing sensitivity to glare, which aids in night driving. Along with vitamins C and E, they also help prevent cataracts and age-related macular generation. The diets of many Americans are low in lutein and zeaxanthin and we can only get these nutrients from our diet. The most concentrated sources of these critical antioxidants are cooked kale, spinach, collard greens and turnip greens. Some other dietary sources include corn, green beans, zucchini and egg yolks.  Lutein and zeaxanthin are important for eye development. Lutein is one of the reasons colostrum (first milk expressed during breastfeeding) is yellow. It’s important for breastfeeding moms to eat lutein-rich foods or if you are not breastfeeding, use a formula like Similac that provides lutein.  Introducing green vegetables and eggs to children is a great way to ensure they are not deficient in these nutrients.

Several other nutrients that may be linked to healthy eyes include the essential fatty acids DHA and EPA and the mineral zinc. DHA and EPA can be found in infant formula, breast milk (especially in moms who have a healthy diet) and for children and adults it is also found in fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, may help to prevent dry eyes, while zinc, found in oysters, meats and fortified breakfast cereals, helps your body use vitamin A. By eating a healthy, varied diet, you will see numerous eye health benefits.

Want to eat more vision friendly foods?  Try these recipes:

Roasted Carrots
Potato and Zucchini Frittata
Kale Chips
Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Katie Cavuto Boyle, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, personal chef and owner of HealthyBites, LLC. See Katie’s full bio »

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