Human beings are blessed with five senses. Out of those five senses, your eyesight is probably the most important one. We often believe that decreasing eyesight is inevitable and the cause of early-onset or gradual aging. However, a healthy lifestyle and the right diet can significantly reduce the risk of developing eye health problems.
Eye health goes hand-in-hand with your general well-being, but incorporating a few nutrients for the eyes can do wonders. These best nutrients for eyes help to maintain eye function, protect your eye against harsh screen lights and UV rays, and reduce the risk of developing age-related degenerative diseases.
The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), published in 2001, found out that certain nutrients like zinc, vitamin E, vitamin C, copper, and beta carotene — can significantly reduce the risk of age-related diseases in the eyes by 25 percent.
This study was updated again in 2013 to test different versions of the original hypothesis. The variations included omega-3 fatty acids, zeaxanthin, lutein, and beta carotene; the study found that certain combinations may work better than others.
Further studies have suggested that omega-3 fatty acids (including DHA), copper, lutein, and zeaxanthin are vital for eye health.
Overview of common eye diseases
Before we talk about the best nutrients for healthy eyes, here are the most common eye diseases that you can develop as you age:
Dry eye disease:
Dry eyes is a very common eye health condition that causes your eyes to dry up and could lead to discomfort or potential vision problems. Dry eyes are usually marked by insufficient tear fluid.
Cataracts are the most common type of eye problem. It is a condition in which your eye becomes clouded. People usually develop cataracts with age.
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that is characterized by progressive degeneration of your optic nerve. Glaucoma may cause poor eyesight and may lead to blindness.
Associated with diabetes, diabetic retinopathy is very common. Diabetic retinopathy usually develops when high blood sugar can damage the blood vessels present in your retina.
The central part of your retina is known as macula. One of the most common causes of degenerative eye conditions is Age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It can cause blindness.
These were all the eye health conditions caused by aging. Although the risk of getting these eye diseases usually depends on your genes, your diet also plays a major role in it. On that note, here are the essential nutrients for healthy eyes.
Best nutrients for eyes
Ask any eye doctor and they will tell you that the best nutrients for healthy eyes are present in fish. Most fish sources are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Eating fish with omega-3 fatty acids or fish oil can prevent developing eye diseases and may even reverse the effects of dry eyes.
Omega3 fatty acids protect your eyes by fighting inflammation and helping cells to work better. Fish that are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include tuna, salmon, sardines, anchovies, trout, mackerel, and herring.
Aim for consuming fish at least twice a week.
- Seeds, nuts, legumes, and wheat germ
Both nuts and legumes are high in omega-3 fatty acids and also a rich source of vitamin E. Vitamins C and E work together to keep the eye tissues healthy and strong. However, most of us don’t get enough Vitamin E from the food we eat. Therefore, it’s important to include nuts and seeds in your diet. They are the best nutrients for healthy eyes.
Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids found in nuts and seeds include walnuts, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, Hemp seeds, cashews, peanuts, lentils, and chia seeds.
- Spinach and kale
Spinach and Kale are loaded with antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin. Antioxidants are amazing nutrients for the eyes, they can protect the eyes from damage caused by cigarette smoke, sunlight, airborne toxins, free radicals, air pollution, etc.
Most people who complain of dry eyes and eyesight problems have a lack of lutein and zeaxanthin in their diet. Therefore you should consume spinach and kale regularly. Even collards are rich in nutrients for the eyes.
- Citrus fruits
Citrus fruits are rich in Vitamin C, and vitamin C is a top antioxidant and one of the best nutrients for the eyes. The AOA recommends eating citrus fruits to fight eye problems caused by aging. Sources of Vitamin C in citrus fruits include grapefruit, strawberries, lemons, Brussel sprouts, and oranges.
- Protein sources like beef, turkey, pork loin, oysters, etc.
Protein sources contain adequate amounts of zinc which help the retina to function better. Zinc can be found in whole foods like meats, eggs, peanuts, and whole grains.
Beef is rich in zinc and can be good for your eye health. Even chicken breast and pork loin do a decent job of keeping your eyes healthy. A turkey sandwich is a great source of zinc, and so are two oysters.
- Carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes
Carrots, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotene, which is one of the essential nutrients for the eyes. Carrots also contain vitamin A which can do wonders for your eye health. You can also contain other sources of beta carotene, for example, winter squash, kale, and red and yellow bell peppers.
We saved the best for the last. Water is everything you need for great eye health. It should come as no surprise that fluids are important for maintaining eye health. Water is an essential source of nutrients for the eyes. And, drinking enough water every day and keeping yourself hydrated can prevent dry eyes.
These were all the essential nutrients for eyes and eye health. However, early treatment for eye health problems can prevent them from getting worse and causing permanent blindness. Therefore, if you start noticing changes in your vision, you should schedule a comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist or ophthalmologist as soon as possible.