Eye on Eye Health

eye health

Of all the senses, Sight must be the most delightful…

Helen Keller.

For most people “Eat your carrots they will make your eye sight better” is the sum total of their knowledge when it comes to Eye Health. And no mater how many carrots you ate, you didn't get x-ray vision allowing you to see through peoples cloths like the glasses advertise on the back of comic books. You may have however helped you build habit of eating vegetables, which becomes more and more important as we age.

Along with carrots, there are many other foods with nutrients that have a significant impact on maintaining eye health as we age. Apricots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and cantaloupe as well as carrots contain beta-carotene that improves night vision, keeps eyes healthy, and may help prevent cataracts. Orange isn’t the only color to look for when seeking to add beta-carotene in your diet. Dark leafy greens like collard greens, beet greens, kale, spinach, and turnip greens also contain beta-carotene.

Beta-carotene is just one type of carotenoid. Carotenoids are plant pigments that serve as antioxidants.  Lutein and zeaxanthin are the only carotenoids that are found in the eye itself.  They serve the important function of maintaining retina and macula health. They may also protect against age related macular degeneration (AMD). When choosing foods for lutein and zeaxanthin, think of the rainbow.  Red tomatoes, pink watermelon, orange sweet potatoes, and green broccoli, kale, and spinach will all provide you with the carotenoids you seek. Anthocyanins are pigments that help keep the cornea and blood vessels in the eye healthy. They are found in black currants and blueberries.

The mineral zinc is also found in the eye. Zinc is important to maintain healthy retinas.  The retina, in the back of the eye, is the part of the eye that senses light. Zinc may also help prevent the development of AMD. Zinc is found in foods as diverse as ground beef and chicken, and wheat germ.  It is also found in almonds, black-eyed peas, brown rice, garbanzo beans, milk, and sunflower seeds.

For protection against retinal inflammation, you will want to make sure you have Vitamin D in your body. If you can’t find the sun to be a source for your Vitamin D, you can try eating egg yolks, fish oils, and liver.

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and powerful antioxidant.  One of its many helpful functions in the body may the prevention of cataracts and AMD. It is important to eat oils such cottonseed oil, sunflower oil, and wheat germ oil in addition to nuts and seeds like almonds, hazelnuts, and peanut butter to get the Vitamin E the body needs.  Papaya also contains vitamin E if you are looking for a lighter source of this important nutrient.

And what would any article on eating for a healthy body be without the inclusion of Vitamin C? Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and antioxidant.  It helps to maintain eye health by protecting eyes against the damage caused by ultraviolet light. It may also aid in the prevention of cataracts.  In order to reap the most benefits of Vitamin C for eye health, you need to consume more than your morning orange juice.  Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits but did you know it is also plentiful in broccoli, Brussels sprouts, guava, kohlrabi, mango, pineapple, raspberries, red bell peppers, and strawberries?

We also see Omega3s popping up again, this time as being helpful in the prevention of macular degeneration.  Fatty fish such as mackerel, herring, tuna, and sardines will add this essential nutrient to your body.

There are so many reasons to eat a varied and balanced diet to get the necessary nutrients for good over-all health.  Eating for healthy eyes will help improve your health in general.

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