Protecting Eye Health Will Take More Than Eating Carrots

Have you noticed that your friends or family members in their forties and fifties pull out their eyeglasses when it is time read the menu at restaurants? Wouldn’t you like to know what foods are good for your eyesight so maybe you won’t be doing the same thing at that age?

Things like sunlight, cigarette smoke, and air pollution can cause damage to your eyes. Eating food with antioxidants protects your eyes from damage.

Let’s look at foods that are high in antioxidants like lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E and omega-3 essential fatty acids. These nutrients can help prevent cataracts, damage to the cells of our eyes, vision loss, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). We'll look at which foods provide these mighty warriors that protect our eyes from damage.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Lutein and zeaxanthin are yellow and red pigments that are part of the carotenoid family. In nature they are used to absorb excess sunlight and protect cells from damage. These two phytonutrients are found in high amounts in the macula of the eye.

14 foods that are high in lutein and zeaxanthin can protect your eyes. These powerful phytonutrients can be found in green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, collard greens and mustard. They're found in Brussels sprouts and broccoli, members of the cruciferous vegetable family. Asparagus, beets, yellow corn, carrots, romaine lettuce, summer and winter squash may help protect your eyes as well.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is another antioxidant that has been found to help prevent damage to cells. Let’s do ourselves a favor with grapefruits, strawberries, oranges, papaya and green peppers. Brussels sprouts also have high amounts of vitamin C.

We are up to 19 foods now.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an oil-based nutrient so it is found in foods like nuts and seeds. We add another five foods with vitamin E.

One of the best sources is sunflower seeds, but almonds, pecans have it too. The best oil is wheat germ oil which is not an oil to cook with. Instead it is better to use it in salad dressing or marinades.

Cruciferous vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard have vitamin E, too.

Zinc

Zinc is important in cell repair. It helps keep the retinas of your eyes working efficiently. Oysters are high in Zinc. Another seafood that is high in zinc is crab. If you want foods from the land you can eat turkey or other meats, eggs, peanuts and even whole grains.

We've upped our numbers to 31.

Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids

These good oils help protect the eyes by reducing inflammation, allowing the cells to work better. These are polyunsaturated fats that help to keep the cell membranes fluid and flexible. They are called "essential" because we cannot produce them in our bodies so we have to get them from our diets.

These are found in our fish in high amounts, so eat plenty of wild caught salmon, sardines, herring, flounder, halibut and tuna each week. If you have questions about the pesticide or mercury amounts in the fish talk to representatives in the fish department or check ewg.org, the website for The Environmental Working Group, to learn more about how to choose the best fish.

You can also find omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed oil and walnuts, which are good vegetarian sources. In small amounts you can find them in the cruciferous vegetable family members Brussels sprouts, kale and spinach. We will not re-count veggies already mentioned, so we are up to 39.

Beta-carotene

Beta-carotene is the precursor to vitamin A. It is found in our orange and yellow fruits and vegetables. Vitamin A helps prevent night blindness. When you eat sweet potatoes, carrots, red peppers, pumpkins and winter squashes you are getting good sources of beta-carotene. The cruciferous vegetable family strikes one more time with kale which provides beta-carotene.

Our grand total is 42 different foods that help with eye health! Mixing different combinations of these foods will give you not only great meal choices but protection and support for good eye health as you are aging.

It’s always fun to find out how many different ways food can be our medicine.