We don’t often think about the ways diet affects sight. Yet wise choices can help maintain vision health and prevent it from deteriorating as we grow older or get an eye disease.
Foods For Healthy Eyes
In this, as in so many other things, Mom had the right idea: Eat leafy green vegetables, beans and other colorful fruits and vegetables – yes, this includes carrots – and limit your intake of fats and cholesterols. Mom may not have mentioned Omega-3 fatty acids, but those help our vision as well. Sadly, though as expected, doughnuts do not provide any benefits to vision.
In general, anything that’s healthy for your cardiovascular system is also good for your eyes. Simply put, our eyes depend on our arteries for oxygen and nutrients. Therefore, consuming foods that we associate with heart health will also boost vision health.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) has assembled a list of 36 foods useful for eye health, from apricots to eggs to collard greens. Most of us eat some of these as a matter of course. Our general hope is that a better understanding of the effects of nutrition on eyesight will help you make informed decisions about what you consume.
In extreme cases, omitting all of the foods listed by the AAO while consuming a junk-food diet can lead to serious problems: B12 deficiency, low levels of vitamin D, copper and selenium, reduced bone density and even severe optic neuropathy, as cells in the optic nerve die and take away sight.
Multi-vitamins and Supplements That Support Vision Health
A simple way to incorporate antioxidants into your diet is to take a daily multi-vitamin. You can find dozens of vitamins and supplements at Horizon’s online store that contain vitamins A, C, E, lutein and zeaxanthin – antioxidants that boost vision health. Prior to taking any supplements, please consult your eye doctor.
High doses of antioxidants can sometimes help with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The Age-Related Eye Disease Study found that high levels of lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamins C and E, zinc and copper slowed progression of early, non-exudative AMD. Bausch and Lomb used findings from this study to formulate a commercially available eye vitamin called Preservision 2. (The earlier version of Preservision contained high levels of vitamin A, or beta carotene. That meant smokers couldn’t use it because beta carotene can increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers.)
Studies also show that Omega-3 supplements are beneficial, especially for patients with dry eye disease. Higher levels of Omega-3 change the consistency of the oil in your meibomian glands; that oil covers your tears and slows their evaporation off the front of the eye. You can get it by eating cold-water fish – salmon, tuna, sardines, halibut, trout – or by taking supplements. However, please note that lower-quality Omega 3 supplements aren’t as absorbable in the gut.
Other Ways to Protect Your Vision
Common sense tells us it’s smart to balance good diet with physical activity. You should also avoid smoking, drug use and heavy drinking.
It’s also smart to get an annual comprehensive eye exam, in addition to an annual physical. Those results will tell you whether your diet and vision are working the way they should.
To schedule an exam at Horizon Eye Care, use our Patient Portal or call 704-365-0555 Monday – Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Friday 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.