With the amount of time we spend staring at screens these days, it’s important that we devote some thought to the health of our eyes. As we age, the damage to our eyes builds up and can lead to glaucoma, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and blurry vision. Many people in the 50+ age demographic are all too familiar with the constant back-and-forth of grabbing for reading glasses to decipher small print and labels, a condition called presbyopia. The good news is that there are ways to protect and perhaps even improve your eyesight.
The Ocular Nutrition Society recommends a diet high in a few specific nutrients to maintain healthy eyesight:
LUTEIN + ZEAXANTHIN
Lutein and zeaxanthin are unique antioxidants known as carotenoids which keep eyes healthy and can even reverse vision loss. They are found mostly in orange and green vegetables, like carrots or kale. Lutein protects the retina from free radical damage, responsible for premature aging and vision loss. Zeaxanthin filters UVB light, protecting eyes from harmful rays. A Harvard study from 2001 found that women who ate a diet high in these specific carotenoids were 25% less likely to develop macular degeneration.
These essential fatty acids are found in large quantities in oily fish such wild-caught salmon and mackerel. Omega-3 fats EPA and DHA have been found to be vital in maintaining healthy eyes. A study in the Archives of Ophthalmology from 2006, found that those who ate the most omega-3 fats were 22% less likely to develop age-related vision problems. Those who already have vision problems should consider taking an omega-3 supplement daily and aim to eat wild-caught fish at least twice per week.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that plays a key role not only in maintaining a healthy immune system but in preventing free radical damage, a primary cause of vision loss. The National Eye Institute recommends at least 500 mg of vitamin C per day for eye health. Some vitamin C rich foods are red bell peppers, oranges, or strawberries.
– TOP 10 FOODS FOR EYE HEALTH –
Avocados are one of the most nutrient-dense foods around, they contain more lutein than any other fruit. Lutein is highly important for eye health and may help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness in people age 50 and older). They’re also a great source of essential fatty acids.
Your grandma was right when she said eating your carrots would help you see in the dark. Carrots have a high beta-carotene content, a precursor to vitamin A, which guards against the development of night blindness.
Broccoli is a great source of vitamin C, selenium, beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Spinach is a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin.
Kale is extremely rich in beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Tomatoes are high in vitamin C and lycopene, two important antioxidants for good eye health.
7. SUNFLOWER SEEDS
Sunflower seeds are a protein-packed snack containing selenium, a nutrient that may prevent cataracts and is important for overall eye health. They are also an excellent source of the antioxidant vitamin E.
Our good friend, garlic! Along with being anti-fungal, antibacterial and antiseptic, garlic is a good source of vitamin C, selenium, potassium and calcium. Remember to let it breathe for 5 minutes before cooking for maximum benefits.
9. OILY FISH
Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines are helpful in maintaining eye health due to their high content of omega-3 fatty acids, and are also excellent sources of vitamins A, D, B6 and B12.
10. PUMPKIN AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH
These tasty squashes are super rich in eye healthy beta-carotene.
Incorporating these foods daily into your healthy diet will support optimal eye health. (And is it just me, or does that list read like the makings of one Good Lookin’ Salad?)
OTHER STRATEGIES TO SUPPORT EYE HEALTH
- Stop Smoking: Smoking damages the little arteries at the back of the eye, and…pretty much everything else in your body as well. Quitting also lessens your chances of developing AMD.
- If you are type 1 or 2 diabetic, keeping your blood sugar levels in balance will help preserve the health of those same little arteries at back of the eye.
- If you’re over the age of 50, have a thorough eye examination every 2 years. Most opticians check for AMD and glaucoma.
- Exercise your eyes: yes, you CAN strengthen the eye muscles with exercises! Close your eyes. Look up, look down, look to the right and then to the left. Do this as often as you can and try to build up to 10 repetitions per session.
- Sit up straight in a comfortable position. Stretch your arm out to arm’s length while keeping your thumb in a “hitch-hiking” position. Focus on your thumb while its at arm’s length. Bring your thumb closer to your eyes while trying to maintain focus. Move your thumb back to arms length. Repeat this exercise for five minutes. These exercises really do help!