Family history play key role in development of various eye diseases. However, genetics is not all to be blamed. Diet and lifestyle do play important roles too! Some tweaks in your diet may go a long way in prevention of eye disease or at least delay onset or progression of existing eye diseases.
There are some vitamins or nutrients which can play crucial role in reducing risk of common eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and cataract, for example, vitamin A, Vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids and zinc.
While nutrient rich whole foods promote healthy eyes, consumption of fat-rich and highly processed food increase risk of various eye problems. Apart from watching what you eat, systemic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and dehydration can also lead to eye problems and vision loss in the long run.
Research Shows That a Healthy Diet Can Impact Eye Health
A 2013 AREDS update study - zeaxanthin and lutein are found to be important to eye health.
Consolidated studies from 2015 proved that vitamin E plays an important role in reducing risk of cataract (age-related).
In a 2007 study from Harvard Medical School, we learn that proliferative retinopathy (leading cause of blindness especially in Malaysia) may be prevented by consuming more omega-3 fatty acids
Which Vitamins and Nutrients May Be Beneficial for Eye Health?
The following nutrients may be the most beneficial to eye health:
Lutein and zeaxanthin are two types of carotenoids that are found widely in vegetables and other plants. These powerful antioxidants found to lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and other chronic eye diseases.
Essential fatty acids: “Good” fats are important in maintaining vision and nervous systems. Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, are vital nutrients needed for development and maintenance of proper eye and retinal function.
Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid is another strong antioxidant which is known to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataract when taken in conjunction with balanced diet.
Zinc: Is a trace mineral which acts as a precursor in transportation of vitamin A from the liver to the retina. Vitamin A helps to produce melanin, pigment which protects the eyes.
Vitamin E: Free radicals damage healthy tissues in the eye. Vitamin E is an antioxidant which protects eyes from harmful free radicals.
Which Foods Are Best for Eye Health and Vision?
Now that have explored some of the key nutrient which eye needs for its proper function, here are a list of food which contain the nutrients mentioned above and more:
Fish: Fatty fishes, are easily available and protein rich. They are also excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Some examples of EPA and DHA-rich fishes are tuna, mackerel sardines, herring and trout.
Broccoli: Broccoli can be eaten by its own or can be easily added to many dishes. Broccoli is a good source of Vitamin C, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Nuts and legumes: Many nuts and legumes are not only rich in omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin E, they stand out due to the ease of being incorporated into one’s diet. Some good examples of nuts & legumes include walnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, and lentils.
Seeds: Just like nuts, many seeds, including hemp seeds and chia seeds, are also rich in omega-3 and vitamin E.
Citrus fruits: Vitamin C can be found in many fruits. Citrus fruits, particularly lemons, grapefruit and oranges are excellent sources of vitamin C.
Eggs: Packed with omega-3s, lutein, and vitamin E, eggs are a powerhouse of eye support health. They’re also among the most affordable and easily available protein source. There are also some eggs which boasts having double the omega-3s, substantially more vitamin E and lutein as well.
Leafy greens: Leafy greens can provide you with Vitamin C along with lutein and zeaxanthin. Some research shows cooking the greens helps the body to absorb lutein better. For example, spinach, kale and many others.
Can Certain Diets Increase the Risk of Vision Problems?
A diet rich in processed foods that may provide little or no nutrients to support optimum eye and vision health. Numerous research suggests that high-fat diet and diet which are high refined sugar may increase the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetes related vision problem.
Other potential diet dangers to eye health include the following:
Diet soda: A 2018 study found that individuals who drink 4 or more cans of diet soda a week seem to have significantly higher risk of developing proliferative diabetic retinopathy
Dehydration: Dehydration can lead to dry, itchy and irritated eyes.
High sodium: Some research have found that eating high salt-containing food may lead to development of age-related cataract.
Diabetes: Diabetes causes progressive damages to the eyes and eventually causes vision loss. Diabetes-related eye conditions normally get worse with time. Diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness if left untreated.
Simple sugars: An American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that eating less refined sugars reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. Examples of refined carbs include white bread, baked goods like muffins, cookies and pasta.
Talk to You Doctor
It is crucial to talk to your ophthalmologist or nutritionist if you intend to adopt a healthier eating habit to preserve or even to improve vision. There is various healthy food you can consume which are good for your eyesight; some which are readily available and some you may have to supplement.
Apart from incorporating nutritious food in your diet, you may have to eliminate some food from your diet. However, it is important to talk to your doctor about it because you might have some natural dependencies.
An eye specialist, along with dietician or nutritionist can assist you in adopting a diet which can help keep your eye free of certain diseases and maintain a long term healthy vision.