It’s the time of year when everyone is reassessing their lifestyle and making New Year’s resolutions to eat healthily. This month our senior optometrist, Eavan Kennedy, explains how to eat for your eyes and how food is so important for our sight and keeping our eyes healthy for life.
Read on to find out about the connection between what you eat and the health of your eyes and which foods to eat to maintain and improve your vision. Let’s dive into the world of eye-friendly eating!
Why Is Diet Important For Our Eyes?
Eavan Kennedy, Optometrist and owner of EK Eyewear says,
“Your eyes are incredible organs that work tirelessly to help you navigate the world around you. To keep them functioning at their best, it’s crucial to pay attention to what you eat. A balanced diet not only benefits your overall health but also plays a vital role in maintaining good eyesight.”
Here’s some of the science behind it all. Every minute our cells undergo ‘oxidation’ as they complete the chemical processes needed to maintain life. As a result, potentially harmful waste substances known as ‘free radicals’ are released.
In response, our body sends antioxidants to ‘mop’ these up as part of our natural defence. As one of the most metabolically active parts of our body, the retina is particularly susceptible to oxidation.
- Antioxidants – compounds that protect your cells from damage, otherwise known as age busters
- Retina – the ‘camera’ of your eye, capturing images and sending them to your brain for you to see
- Macula – responsible for central vision. It enables you to see fine details clearly and perform activities like reading, driving, and recognising faces
When the number of free radicals outweigh our ability to neutralise them, our cells can be harmed by ‘oxidative stress’. This is when ‘drusen’, yellow deposits at the back of the eye, may collect. As we age, the process of clearing the waste becomes less efficient, which may cause conditions such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), that can harm your eyes.
Fruit, vegetables, spices and herbs contain a wide range of beneficial antioxidants and are therefore very important to include in our diet. Those that have been shown to be important for eyes include vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, copper, lutein and zeaxanthin.
When absorbed from food, lutein and zeaxanthin are delivered directly to the back of the eye. Lutein converts to mesozeaxanthin, which is found in the fovea, the central part of the macula responsible for our most detailed vision. As these nutrients are yellow they are good for screening out the damaging blue wavelengths of light and ultraviolet (UV) rays.
If all this is a bit too science-y for you, jump below to find out the best foods to include in your diet for good eye health.
1. Eat Your Greens
Dark leafy greens like spinach, kale and broccoli are the shining stars when it comes to preventing sight loss. Rich in the following antioxidants, which our bodies can’t make, so we have to get them from our diet:
They are also full of vitamin A, essential for maintaining good vision, particularly in low light conditions.
Steam or lightly cook your greens and serve with a little butter, garlic butter or olive oil as a side dish. Use in stir fries for a quick, healthy meal, add to pasta dishes or use in comforting soups.
2. A Bowl Full Of Berries
The government recommends five portions of fruit and vegetables each day. Fruit like berries are perfect as they are full of of antioxidants, vitamin C and E, all of which are renowned for their potential to protect eyesight and slow the progression of sight loss.
Eat berries like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries as a refreshing snack in the morning of afternoon. Fresh or frozen, they are delicious in a smoothie.
Toss raspberries into green salads for a delightful contrast of flavors and an antioxidant-rich twist.
Blend blueberries with some yoghurt and a splash of milk for a delicious, sight-boosting breakfast. Talking of breakfast time, start your day off right by adding some berries to your porridge, cereal or yoghurt.
3. Have Plenty Of Oily Fish
Oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, anchovies are the seafood stars for maintaining eye health. These sea treasures are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and vitamin A, which are crucial nutrients for slowing the progression of sight loss conditions such as macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. These healthy fats also help protect against dry eyes.
Grill, pan fry mackerel or BBQ for a tasty way to support your eye health. Pop some anchovies on top of pizza or in a salad nicoise. Add sardines to pasta or pop them on crackers or toast with mustard or red pepper tapenade.
4. Cook Your Tomatoes
Cooked tomatoes are a nutritional powerhouse that can contribute to improved eye health due to their rich content of specific eye-beneficial compounds. Cooking tomatoes actually enhances the bioavailability of certain nutrients, such as lycopene. Lycopene is another powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes that can help shield the eyes from oxidative damage caused by free radicals.
Tomatoes, whether raw or cooked, are packed with vitamin C, which supports the overall health of your eyes. Vitamin C helps maintain the health of blood vessels in the eyes and contributes to the prevention of conditions like glaucoma.
Add cooked tomatoes into your diet through options like tomato sauces, stews, soups, and roasted dishes. Add cherry tomatoes into pesto pasta, whip up a tomato and basil soup or add to frittatas or omelettes.
5. Red Wine
Believe it or not the odd glass of red wine has been associated with potential eye benefits. The presence of the antioxidants resveratrol in red wine, may help protect the blood vessels and maintain healthy eyes especially at the macula.
But remember, everything in moderation, not a home measure!🍷
6. Go Nutty For Almonds
Nuts in general are great for the yes. Almonds are beneficial for eye health as they are rich in Vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps protect cells in the eyes from oxidative damage.
Additionally, almonds contain nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and zinc, which are good for your tears and well being of eye health
Enjoy a handful of almonds as a convenient and nutritious snack on their own or mixed with dried fruits. Add chopped almonds as a topping to salads, yogurt, porridge, or stir-fries for a crunchy and nutrient-packed boost. Substitute traditional spreads, like butter or margarine with almond butter on toast, sandwiches, or as a dip for fruits and vegetables.
Keep A Healthy Lifestyle
A balanced diet rich in a variety of nutrients and a healthy lifestyle are key to maintaining optimal eye health. This includes keeping a healthy weight for you height and gender, stop smoking and don’t go out in the sun without protective sunglasses.
It’s important to look after your blood vessels as they deliver oxygen and nutrients to the retina. Bolster your blood vessels with daily exercise, plenty of sleep and good hydration and reduce your intake of saturated fats and salt.
What about supplements?
There are a multitude of dietary supplements available on the market that have been specifically targeted for eye health. The majority of people can get all the vitamins and minerals they need for every aspect of their health just from eating a well-balanced diet.
However, some people who are unable to do this, or who are at risk of certain eye conditions, most commonly age-related macular degeneration (AMD), may benefit from supplementing their diet. Talk to us for personalised advice regarding supplements and we’ll make sure you are taking the right ones if needed.
Keeping Your Vision Sharp And Clear For Years To Come
“You are what you eat” holds true for your eyes as well. A diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids can help protect your eyes from various conditions, maintain stable blood sugar levels, and support overall eye health.
So, the next time you sit down for a meal, remember that you’re not just nourishing your body but also taking a step toward keeping your vision sharp and clear for years to come.