Nourish - Supporting Eye Health Naturally: Eating for Healthy Eyes | Part Two
Welcome back to part two of a four-part series on Supporting Eye Health Naturally. See Part one, three and four here. In this blog, we are covering eating for healthy eyes. Specifically, we are talking about what foods to eat for healthy eyes.
Some of the most important vitamins and minerals for eye health include:
- vitamins A, C and E
- carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin
- omega 3 fatty acids
These all work to help the eyes to function properly. And of course, to help to protect them from damage, degeneration, blue light stress, oxidative stress/damage and nerve problems.
Equally, they help to repair any damage, protect the macula, produce connection tissue such as collagen and work as an antioxidant. Overall, they work to help to keep the eyes safe and healthy.
Knowing what foods to add to your daily diet for good eye health is really important. And as the saying goes: you are what you eat. We are literally made up of what we eat, and so what we put into our mouths can ultimately affect our eyesight, for good or for bad.
Lucky for us, there is an extensive and varied range of foods available to us to ensure we cover all the different vitamins and minerals that are essential to eye health. Equally lucky is that it’s not hard to introduce them into our daily diet.
Let’s get to it!
Eating for Healthy Eyes
Here is a list of my top recommended foods that I believe are essential for maintaining good eye health. Of course, this list is not a complete list – it is just the beginning! Guten Appetit!
No. 1 – Dark Green Leafy and Cruciferous Veg
Kale| romaine| rocket | butterhead lettuce | mustard greens | collard greens | cabbage | cauliflower | broccoli | Swiss chard | bok choi | brussels sprouts | parsley | dandelion | nettle | watercress | chickweed | microgreens | edible green leaves.
These greens contain a whole host of important vitamins and minerals such as of beta-carotene, iron, folate, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc and vitamin E.
Three top carotenoids for eye health include zeaxanthin, lutein, and astaxanthin. And guess what? Greens contain 2/3.
Zeaxanthin and lutein are found in high concentrations in the macula of the eye and can help block blue light from reaching the inner parts of the eye, including the retina. These carotenoids may also reduce the risk of light-induced damage that could lead to macular degeneration. That’s because they help filter the harmful rays of sunlight, thus protecting and maintaining healthy cells in the eye.
Vegetables in the Cruciferae family owe their eye-protecting, UV-resisting, disease-fighting properties to the organosulfur compound known as sulforaphane.
Sulforaphane belongs to a group of phytochemicals, or disease-fighting compounds in plant foods, known as the isothiocyanates. These help to protect the body cells against UV radiation.
They’re not well known for being some of the healthiest foods on the planet for nothing!
No. 2 – Red, Yellow and Orange Fruit and Vegetables
Foods like carrots | sweet potatoes | pumpkin | bell peppers | tomatoes | watermelon | mango | cantaloupe | strawberries and goji berries derive their rich colours from carotenoids–beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene.
Beta-carotene is a red/orange pigment found in many fresh fruits and vegetables. Beta carotene is a precursor of vitamin A, meaning that the body transforms it into vitamin A.
We need vitamin A for healthy skin and mucous membranes, our immune system, good eye health and vision.
It is excellent for protecting the retina and cornea. Plus, it helps to protect the eyes against the free radical damage caused by sun exposure (think UV rays) and from the degenerating effects of oxidative stress.
Unfortunately, a vitamin A deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies in the UK. Some of the first signs of this kind of deficiency are often impaired eyesight, night-blindness and eyes that are sensitive to light.
Because vitamin A is fat-soluble, you can increase your body’s ability to absorb this important nutrient by adding a good healthy fat source when consuming it. Think avocado, coconut, olives etc.
No. 3 – Nuts and Seeds
Think walnuts | almonds | cashews | pecans | brazil nuts | pistachios | macadamia | hemp | chia | flax | sunflower | pumpkin and sesame seeds.
Nuts and seeds are packed with vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, protein and are brimming with antioxidants. One, in particular, is vitamin E – an important antioxidant for protecting the eye from oxidative damage.
Additionally, another key mineral found within nuts and seeds is zinc. Zinc promotes cell reproduction, tissue growth and repair and is essential for eye health. It plays a key role in maintaining the health of the retina.
And I can’t forget to mention the omega 3 fatty acids. These omega 3 fatty acids are vitally important for eye health. They help to prevent dry eye syndrome and may protect against the degeneration of the retina (macular degeneration). This is the leading cause of vision loss in the elderly.
Your body can’t make these healthy fats by itself. As a result, it is essential to get them from your food or through supplementation.
Find these oils in hemp | chia | flax | pumpkin | sunflower | sesame seeds | walnuts | green leafy veggies | algae oil and fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel.
If you’re not a fan of eating nuts as they are, try to make your own nut milk or your own nut butter. Maybe try to whip up some homemade muesli and add a different nut with each batch. Or simply stir some nut butter into your porridge or on toast in the morning.
No. 4 – Fatty Fish/Seafood
Another way to boost your omega 3 levels is to include eating fish such as tuna, mackerel, salmon and trout. Particularly rich in omega 3 fatty acids, you can easily up your levels by incorporating fish into your weekly meals.
Clearly, one can’t mention seafood and not talk about oysters. Oysters have enormous amounts of zinc stored in them, and as mentioned earlier, zinc is vital for eye health.
Another naturally occurring substance that shouldn’t go unmentioned is astaxanthin — a very powerful antioxidant and carotenoid.
It’s what gives certain marine plants and animals their pink or red colourings. Find it in certain seafood like salmon, shrimp, lobster, crab, crawfish and in freshwater algae. It’s also found in krill oil and algae.
Astaxanthin can help the eyes in a multitude of ways, including:
- reducing eye dryness, tiredness, soreness, strain and blurred vision
- working along with macular antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, helps support eye health after long periods of blue light exposure from digital screens.
No. 5- Avocados
What would life be without avocadoes?!
Once known as poor man’s butter, avocadoes have a unique nutritional profile. They contain heaps of fibre and a multitude of vitamins and minerals, such as B-vitamins, vitamin K, potassium, copper, vitamin E and vitamin C. All of which work to prevent and reduce free–radical damage and support healthy eyes and eyesight.
And let me not forget, some incredibly important carotenoids found in avocados. These include beta carotene, alpha-carotene and most importantly Lutein and Zeaxanthin.
Carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin can help protect the eyes from sunlight (UV rays). Additionally, they also play an important role in the scattering and absorption of light, so they can actually help improve eyesight.
In fact, studies show these carotenoids may help to prevent the development of macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts – pass the guacamole!
No. 6 – Berries
Undoublty, you know these, but to name a few. Strawberries | blueberries | raspberries | boysenberries | mulberries | cranberries | blackberries | black currants | acai berries | goji berries | cherries. These are some delicious, antioxidant-rich, sweet, sour and tangy foods you can certainly add more of to your diet.
Rich in vitamin C, this nutrient has been shown to:
- reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration and cataracts
- help reduce and prevent eye dryness
- help reduce and prevent vision defects
- vitamin C can also help support the production of connective tissues such as collagen which is found in the cornea of the eye.
Another superb antioxidant found in berries is anthocyanin. Anthocyanins are a type of flavonoid found naturally in a number of foods. These are what give the plants/foods their red, purple, and blue pigmentation.
Interestingly, anthocyanins are not only found in berries. You’ll find them in red onions, kidney beans, pomegranates, grapes (including wine), tomatoes, the peel of eggplant, red cabbage and in black rice.
These anthocyanins help to:
- reduce inflammation in the tissues of the eye
- support blood circulation and the integrity of fine capillaries in the eye
- reduce/prevent oxidative stress in the retina
- help prevent blockages in retinal arteries
Please be aware that this information is simply a guide to helping you take up some good lifestyle practices to look after your eye.
If you think there is something wrong with your eyes or that you are experiencing symptoms such as eye pain, bleeding of the eye or sudden blurry vision it is important you consult your optician or GP, and always follow their advice. We only have one pair of eyes, so it’s important to look after them!
Any questions? Drop into your local Nourish store to chat with our expert team and explore our full range of foods, supplements and skincare. You can also find our full product range in our online store.
*Please note that while we are knowledgeable about our products and nutrition, this blog should never be a substitute for medical advice and attention.
Please remember that you should always obtain the all-clear from your doctor before starting any new supplement plan or diet if you’re on any medication.