6 Nutrients That Can Save Your Eyesight
The fact is, losing your eyesight as you age doesn’t have to be a reality. Nutrition and diet affect all aspects of our wellness. As we age, however, key nutrients and foods become even more crucial to help protect against serious illness that can cause aging eye health concerns such as macular degeneration, presbyopia, blepharitis, cataracts and glaucoma. The lens, nerves and smooth surfaces of the eye are all subject to the normal aging process and free radical damage.
And while certain antioxidants offer your eyes superior protection, another very important reason to focus on eating a well-balanced diet is to maintain weight and help reduce your likelihood of developing diabetes, the leading cause of blindness in older adults.
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Avoiding refined sugars and processed foods such as high-sugar cereals, pastries, white breads and white rice can help minimize both free radical damage to the eyes as well as diabetes risk.
Let’s explore the top six nutrients and foods that can maximize eye health and help prevent damaging effects of the eye aging process.
1. Essential Omega-3 Fatty Acids
A 2012 study in The Journal of Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science highlighted omega-3 fatty acids for their preventive effects of aging eye concerns. Essential fatty acids help nerves and muscles that control eye movement and are easy to include in your diet.
Try eating the following:
- Salmon, tuna and other oily fish and seafood such as anchovies, krill and sardines
- Non-animal sources including hemp, flax and chia seeds
If these non-animal sources are new to you, check out the helpful recipes at Vegetariantimes.com that suggest trying them in yogurts and smoothies.
2 & 3. Lutein + Zeaxanthin
To help protect aging eyes against macular degeneration and cataracts, consume high levels of lutein-containing foods such as kale, collards, broccoli, eggs and green beans. Lutein and zeaxanthin — two powerful and highly underestimated antioxidants that act as a magic duo for vision health — seem to play a key role in protecting against cataracts. One study found that a higher intake of foods containing these two nutrients was associated with a reduced likelihood of developing cataracts. In the Nurses’ Health Study researchers found that women who had higher daily intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin had a 22 percent reduction in cataract risk.
4. Vitamin B12
Responsible for nerve health of the eye, vitamin B12 is found in foods such as beef, eggs, mackerel and crab. Found sparingly in vegetables, vegetarians and vegans may need to supplement beyond food. If you consider a B12 supplement, be sure to opt for the active form, methylcobalamin for optimal absorption.
5. Vitamin C
The American Optometric Association suggests that vitamin C can improve visual acuity. Vitamin C is abundant and easy to reap from watermelon, oranges, mangoes, papaya, red peppers and kiwi.
Astaxanthin is also an antioxidant thought to be more powerful than its counterparts like beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene.
Since the macula of the eyes have high concentrations of carotenoids, and since evidence links oxidative damage to AMD, researchers in Italy wanted to see if higher antioxidant intakes could prevent the development of AMD and improve visual acuity and visual function in those who have AMD.
They randomly assigned 145 patients to two treatment groups. The first received the antioxidants lutein, zeaxanthin and astaxantin, as well as other vitamins, while the other group remained untreated with supplements.
After two years, patients in the treatment group showed “stabilization of visual acuity and significantly better visual acuity scores compared to the nontreated group.”