Written by: Jacci , Published: 11 September 2019
We often take eye health for granted until it starts to decline. Maintaining a nutritious diet is vital for a healthy body and mind. We read about the foods that will aid in fat loss or glowing skin but often overlook the vitamins needed for happy eyes.
Read on to learn about the active properties of 6 essential vitamins for optimum eye health and which foods you should be incorporating into your daily diet.
Vitamin A is a group of antioxidant compounds including retinol, retinal, and retinyl esters. These play an important role in vision, bone growth and a healthy immune system.
Too much vitamin A however is just as bad for the body as too little. A person who has an extreme intake of vitamin A is at risk of developing hypervitaminosis. This can cause swelling or pain in the bones, blurred vision, hair loss or respiratory infections.
How does it help the eyes?
Vitamin A is effective in acting as a barrier to bacteria and viruses entering the eye and reducing the risk of infections.
Pregnant women and those in developing countries are most at risk of vitamin A deficiency. A deficit in vitamin A can cause a condition called xerophthalmia, which refers to the inability to see in dim light and can lead to blindness if left untreated.
Foods high in vitamin A:
Liver, salmon, goat’s cheese, butter, feta cheese, eggs, carrots, sweet potato and spinach.
Vitamin C is a strong ascorbic acid antioxidant, effective in strengthening the body’s natural defences. If you dream of bright healthy looking skin, vitamin C will do the job. It’s also essential for maintaining healthy blood vessels, bone health, aiding in wound healing and protecting cells.
According to research, consuming a high amount of vitamin C has the ability to increase blood antioxidant levels by up to 30%- essential for anti-inflammatory activities.
Vitamin C has been said to reduce the risk of developing a cataract. This is because common risk factors associated with cataracts such as smoking, diabetes and steroid use, drain the eyes lens of vitamin C.
When taken with other essential nutrients, vitamin C can slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and visual acuity loss. AMD is one of the leading causes of sight loss for people aged 60 and over.
Foods high in vitamin C:
Oranges, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, peppers, spinach, tomatoes, potatoes, lemons and strawberries.
Vitamin E is a group of eight fat soluble compounds that include four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. It is also a very powerful antioxidant that supports and protects cell tissue against damage caused by free radicals.
Vitamin E is often utilised to improve physical endurance, increase energy and reduce muscle damage after exercise. But its powers don’t stop there. It has been said that vitamin E is effective in preventing diseases such as lung cancer and heart disease.
Vitamin E plays a significant role in keeping the eyes healthy by preventing the breakdown of healthy eye tissue, which can reduce the risk of cataracts or age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Foods high in vitamin E:
Almonds, sunflower seeds, eggs, salmon, avocado, mango and kiwi fruit.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat; one type of fat you do not want to cut back on! These fats are vital for the normal production and functioning of cells.
They possess several amazing benefits for the mind and the body. Not only do they help fight anxiety, promote brain health during pregnancy and reduce the risk factors for heart disease, but they are champions for the eyes.
Omega-3 helps to form the cells of the eye with anti-inflammatory properties that play an important role in the prevention of diabetic retinopathy.
Additionally DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, is a major structural component of the retina (light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye). When there is a lack of DHA vision problems can arise, such as macular degeneration.
Omega-3 fats also benefit people who suffer with dry eyes by helping them produce more tears.
Foods high in omega-3:
Fish, flaxseed, chia seeds, soy and nuts.
Lutein and zeaxanthin come from a group of compounds produced by plants. Both of these antioxidants are found in the macula and retina of the eye.
Together these carotenoids are powerful antioxidants that defend the body against free radicals that can lead to diseases like cancer, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are however best known for keeping the eyes healthy.
How does it help the eyes?
Lutein and zeaxanthin's job is to absorb excess light energy to prevent damage to plants from too much sunlight. For the eyes this means protecting them from harmful blue light; which in this day and age becomes increasingly hard to avoid.
Foods high in Lutein and Zeaxanthin:
Kale, spinach, zucchini, grapes and eggs.
Riboflavin is a B vitamin, necessary for normal red cell production, body growth and the release of energy from proteins. It has the ability to reduce oxidative stress in the eyes and body.
Daily consumption of vitamin B2 is essential because the body can only store small amounts and supplies go down fairly quickly.
Riboflavin deficiency has been said to be a contributing factor for the growth of a cataract. According to one study the risk of developing a cataract decreased by 40% for people who had diets that included at least 1.6–2.2mg of riboflavin per day, compared to those whose intake was only 0.08mg or lower.
Foods high in Riboflavin:
Milk, beef, salmon, mushrooms, pork, sage, parsley, eggs, nuts and green leafy vegetables.