• Beyond carrots: What to eat for eye health

    Beyond carrots: What to eat for eye health

    Do you remember being told as a child to eat your carrots because they gave you better eyesight? If you later wound up wearing glasses or contacts, you might have dismissed the whole thing as a myth made up to entice children to eat more vegetables. But in reality, your parents were onto something: carrots are indeed good for your eyes – and so are a host of other delicious foods! Read on to find out more about what to include in your diet to keep your eyes in peak condition.

    Oxidative damage may be responsible for declining eye health and vision loss

    The reason that carrots are touted as an eye-healthy food is that they contain a carotenoid called beta-carotene, an antioxidant that helps fight cell damage that naturally occurs over any prolonged period. In short, everyone is at risk of failing eyesight along with failing everything else, because over time, oxidation degrades the cells (much as it eventually turns copper green) at a faster rate than the body can repair the damage. That is the essence of the aging process. Obviously, our bodies need oxygen to survive, but even the simple act of breathing produces a byproduct (free radicals) that experts hold responsible for oxidative aging and disease. Other factors like air pollution, cigarette smoke and sun exposure only worsen the problem.

    Enter antioxidants, nature’s combatants in the race against time. Antioxidants quench free radicals before they can cause cell damage, tempering the destruction. According to Elizabeth J. Johnson, PhD, a Boston research scientist and associate professor who was recently quoted in a Web MD article on the subject of food and eye health, it’s better to get the antioxidants that assist vision from food, as opposed to supplementation. That’s because foods are complete and contain other nutrients that work in concert to optimally nourish the eyes.

    Load up on these powerhouse nutrients for healthier eyes

    So, what nutrients should you look for in order to take the best possible care of your eye health? You definitely want to start with foods that contain these vitamins and minerals:

    • Vitamin C
    • Vitamin E
    • Lutein
    • Zeaxanthin
    • Astaxanthin
    • Omega-3 fatty acids

    All of these nutrients have been shown to help prevent cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

    Best foods for eye health

    To find the foods richest in eye-healthy antioxidants, look no further than:

    • Dark, leafy greens like spinach, broccoli and kale, which contain antioxidants that are believed to absorb damaging UV rays
    • Brightly coloured fruits like kiwis and grapes, which contain the eye-healthy antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin
    • Citrus fruits like oranges, papayas, grapefruit and strawberries, that contain a great deal of Vitamin C (Brussel sprouts are also high in Vitamin C, but probably not as tasty!)
    • Seeds and nuts like almonds and pecans, for their Vitamin E. You can also switch to wheat germ oil in your homemade salad dressing for a big Vitamin E boost.
    • Yellow and orange vegetables like sweet potatoes, red peppers, pumpkins, squash and yes, carrots – all of which are high in beta carotene, which converts into essential Vitamin A.
    • Shellfish like oysters and crabs, for their zinc, which is important to retinal health. Other sources of zinc, a mineral that many of us are deficient in, include turkey, eggs and whole grains.
    • Fatty coldwater fish like salmon, halibut and herring are full of long chain omega-3 fatty acids, which not only are excellent for the eyes but also help maintain heart and brain health.

    Who knew eye health could be so…delicious!

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