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Eating Your Way to Better Vision

Struggling to read that menu or eye chart? Make sure you are getting the right nutrients for healthier eyes and strong vision.

What to eat for healthier eyes
Jun 21 2016

Eyes are the window to the soul… or at least to your health. Yet for most, the role of food and eye health isn’t a daily thought – even though your mom always said eat your carrots because they’re good for your eyes. From healthy eye development as a child to helping delay or prevent certain age-related diseases, nutrition plays an important role in your vision health.

We often overlook eye health until something happens, which tends to be later in life. In the U.S. alone, it’s estimated that by 2030, 11.4 million people will have diabetic retinopathy (vision loss in diabetics), 4.2 million will have glaucoma (damage to optic nerve), and 3.7 million will have age-related macular degeneration (breakdown of macula in the retina). All of these conditions can lead to big problems including blindness.

The key is maintaining your eye health before you start having problems.

"As an ophthalmologist, I encourage patients to consider their eyes as much as their waistline when selecting their meals. In fact, a recent Ophthalmology study showed the positive impact of vitamin C on cataract progression, and a number of other studies have demonstrated that many vitamins and nutrients play a role in reducing the risk of some eye diseases," said ophthalmologist and chief medical officer for Abbott’s vision business Dr. David Tanzer. "It's promising to know that people can take an important first step in reducing their risk for many eye diseases, like cataracts, just by making healthy food choices."

“Maintaining a balanced diet is a great way to ensure you’re getting the nutrients needed to support your eye health and vision,” said Tiffany DeWitt, a registered dietitian with Abbott. “A good starting place is to reach for vitamin C-rich foods such as strawberries, oranges, papaya and kiwi.”

In addition, whole grains, full-fat dairy products, dark leafy greens and seafood all offer vitamins and nutrients that give your eyes what they need to stay healthy:

  • Whole Grains: Quinoa, brown rice, oats and whole wheat bread are filled with vitamin E, zinc and niacin, which can help reduce the risk of macular degeneration, a prevalent eye disease that affects people over the age of 50.

  • Full-Fat Dairy: Foods like milk and cheese are rich in vitamin A, a retinol that helps protect the surface of the eye against bacteria, lowering the risk of eye infections.

  • Leafy Greens: Lutein and zeaxanthin are two powerful antioxidants found in dark leafy greens – like spinach, kale, leaf lettuce and collard greens – that help filter harmful light and protect healthy cells in the eye.

  • Seafood: Cold-water fish have high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. These acids – found in salmon, tuna, sardines and herring – may help the eye produce more tears, which can reduce the risk of dry eyes.

Set your sights on a healthy diet. Nutritious foods can help support good vision at all ages, so fuel your eyes with the nutrients they need to stay strong and healthy.