Protect Your Eyesight, Eat Right
More than 70% of survey respondents from a National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) survey revealed that the loss of their eyesight would have the greatest impact on their day-to-day activities.
Further, as rates of chronic diseases like diabetes rise, along with an aging population, rates of blindness and low vision are expected to double to affect 6.6-M Americans by 2030.
Despite their prevalence and significant impact on quality of life, few people take the necessary steps to prevent eye diseases and protect vision health at all life stages; namely, by eating a healthy diet.
Newly released data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that 87% of Americans are not meeting vegetable intake recommendations and 76% are not eating the recommended amount of fruits.
If you want to protect your vision health the time to act is now by eating more of the healthy vision foods that follow.
Some of Best Foods for Eye Health
1. Dark Leafy Greens
The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are primarily found in green leafy vegetables, with kale and spinach topping the list of lutein-rich foods. Other healthy options include Swiss chard, collard greens, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are both important nutrients for eye health,4 as both of them are found in high concentrations in your macula — the small central part of your retina responsible for detailed central vision.
More specifically, lutein is also found in your macular pigment – known for helping to protect your central vision and aid in blue light absorption — and zeaxanthin is found in your retina.
Both have been linked to a lower risk of cataracts and advanced macular degeneration. Julie Mares, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, told Nutrition Action:5
“They’re the predominant carotenoids in both the lens and the retina, and specifically in the cone-rich area of the macula… That’s the part of the retina that’s used to see fine detail, like reading a pill bottle or newspaper…
By age 75, 50% of us will either have a visually significant cataract or have already had one extracted… It’s the #1 cause of poor vision among people aged 65 to 74.
There’s strong, compelling evidence for a potential protective effect of these carotenoids… They’re nutritional powerhouses… They have got gobs of antioxidants.”
2. Orange Pepper
According to a Y 1998 study in the British Journal of Ophthalmology orange pepper had the highest amount of zeaxanthin of the 33 fruits and vegetables tested. Zeaxanthin cannot be made by your body, so you must get it from your diet.
3. Organic Pastured Egg Yolks
Egg yolk is a source of both lutein and zeaxanthin along with healthy fat and protein, and while the total amount of carotenoids is lower than in many vegetables, they’re in a highly absorbable, nearly ideal form.
According to the research, adding 2 eggs to your salad can also increase the carotenoid absorption from the whole meal as much as 9X.
Keep in mind that once you heat egg yolks the lutein and zeaxanthin become damaged, and will not perform as well in protecting your vision; so cook your eggs as little as possible, such as poached, soft-boiled, or raw, and always Organic.
4. Wild-Caught Alaskan Salmon
Rich in omega-3s, the omega-3 fat DHA is concentrated in your eye’s retina. It provides structural support to cell membranes that boost eye health and protect retinal function, and research suggests eating more foods rich in these fats may slow macular degeneration.
In fact, those with the highest intake of animal-based omega-3 fats have a 60 percent lower risk of advanced macular degeneration compared to those who consume the least.
A Y 2009 study also found that those with the highest consumption of omega-3 fats were 30% less likely to progress to the advanced form of the disease over a 12-year frame.
A 2nd study published in Y 2009 found those with diets high in omega-3 fats, along with vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, lutein, and zeaxanthin, had a lower risk of macular degeneration. In addition to wild-caught Alaskan salmons, sardines, and anchovies are other good sources of animal-based omega-3’s.
Wild-caught Alaskan salmon is a good source of astaxanthin, but you may not be able to eat enough of it to reap optimal clinical results.
Astaxanthin is produced only by the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis when its water supply dries up, forcing it to protect itself from ultraviolet radiation.
Compelling evidence suggests this potent antioxidant may be among the most important nutrients for the prevention of blindness.
It is a much more powerful antioxidant than both lutein and zeaxanthin and has been found to have protective benefits against a number of eye-related problems, including:
Cataracts Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) Cystoid macular edema Diabetic retinopathy Glaucoma Inflammatory eye diseases (i.e., retinitis, iritis, keratitis, and scleritis) Retinal arterial occlusion Venous occlusion
Astaxanthin crosses the blood-brain barrier AND the blood-retinal barrier (beta carotene and lycopene do not, which brings antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection right to our eyes.
Dr. Mark Tso, now of the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University, has demonstrated that astaxanthin easily crosses into the tissues of your eye and exerts its effects safely and with more potency than any of the other carotenoids, without adverse reactions.
Depending on your situation, you may want to take an astaxanthin supplement. Krill oil also contains high-quality animal-based omega-3 fat in combination with naturally occurring astaxanthin.
6. Black Currants
Black currants contain some of the highest levels of anthocyanins found in nature, approximately 190-270 milligrams per 100 grams, which is far more than that found in even bilberries.
They are also rich in essential fatty acids, lending added support to their anti-inflammatory properties.
Anthocyanins are flavonoids, and the health benefits of these antioxidants are extensive.
As discussed in one 2004 scientific paper:”Anthocyanin isolates and anthocyanin-rich mixtures of bioflavonoids may provide protection from DNA cleavage, estrogenic activity (altering development of hormone-dependent disease symptoms), enzyme inhibition, boosting production of cytokines (thus regulating immune responses), anti-inflammatory activity, lipid peroxidation, decreasing capillary permeability and fragility, and membrane strengthening.”
For medicinal purposes, many opt for using black currant seed oil, which is available in capsule form. But eating the whole food is always an option, especially when they’re in season.
Bilberry, a close relative of the blueberry, is another nutritional powerhouse for your eyes. Its nearly black berries also contain high amounts of anthocyanins, just like the black currant. Anthocyanin-rich bilberry extract has a protective effect on visual function during retinal inflammation.
Further, a study in the journal Advances in Gerontology found that rats with early senile cataract and macular degeneration who received 20 mg of bilberry extract per kilo of body weight suffered no impairment of their lens and retina, while 70 percent of the control group suffered degeneration over the three month-long study.
According to the authors: “The results suggest that… long-term supplementation with bilberry extract is effective in prevention of macular degeneration and cataract.”
If you suffer from poor eyesight, The Bates Method, which teaches how to retrain eyes to relax thereby allowing us to see more clearly, may help you to improve your vision without glasses.
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively