To maintain good eye health and prevent some of the degenerative changes that occur with aging, it is important to eat food rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. While there is no food that will magically heal your eyes if you suffer from some eye disease, there are certain minerals and vitamins that contribute to good eye health. Proper nutrition has always been an important factor when it comes to health, because prevention is better than a cure, and it is known that a diet rich in minerals and vitamin A has a positive effect on eye health. Besides vitamin A, there are many other important vitamins for maintaining eye health. Let’s take a look at additional nutrients, which are crucial for good eyesight.
What can change your vision?
Proper nutrition slows down the process of macular degeneration associated with aging and reduces the likelihood of premature vision loss due to stress or some eye diseases. Therefore, certain food can help prevent some eye diseases and contribute to maintaining eye health. Eye health is affected by many environmental factors, including dust, wind, exhaust fumes, physical trauma, prolonged exposure to blue light emitted from digital devices, UV rays, and many others.
Without regular eye examinations or wearing blue light eyeglasses, there can be a high risk of developing eye-related conditions. Good nutrition that allows you to get the necessary minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and other biologically valuable substances and a balanced diet rich in leafy vegetables, fish, fruits, and meat has a beneficial effect on eye health. Protect your eyes from the bad effects of the environment, wear blue light blocking glasses, take a break by looking into the distance or taking walk in nature, and don't stay too long in front of the computer if you don't have to.
Essential nutrients for good eyesight
Since childhood, many have followed the advice that we should eat lots of carrots if we want to preserve "healthy eyes and good eyesight". However, in addition to centuries of oral tradition, there is also scientific evidence of the positive effects of certain foods (i.e. nutrients). Some of them are:
Carrots are the most popular food for healthy eyes. They are rich in vitamin A, which can prevent night blindness and is essential for good eye health. Carrots contain antioxidants, beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein, and therefore reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. According to one study1, adequate amounts of vitamin A are crucial to protect against xerophthalmia and night blindness. Vitamin A is an antioxidant and has been shown to prevent vision loss caused by degenerative conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Vitamin A, in combination with other antioxidants, helps slow the progression of neuropathy (nerve damage), including diabetic neuropathy, an eye problem caused by diabetes.
Alpha-tocopherol is a form of vitamin E that has many powerful antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are compounds that fight against the free radicals that are constantly produced as metabolic waste. Such free radicals can cause damage or oxidative stress to various parts of the body, including the proteins in the eyes. This kind of damage can result in the formation of white areas on the lens of the eye, called cataracts. A 2014 study2 examined the preventative effect of vitamin E on cataracts and found that the lenses were "cleaner" in people who took vitamin E.
Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that protects us from oxidative damage. Vitamin C not only fights colds but can also help our eyesight by maximizing the absorption of minerals and nutrients. According to one study3 , people who consumed enough vitamin C not only had a 33 percent lower risk of developing cataracts but also “cleaner” lenses, generally. Vitamin C helps repair damaged tissue, slows down inflammatory reactions, prevents cell mutations, and more.
Taking vitamins B6, B9, and B12 supplements in combination4 could reduce the risk of macular degeneration in women. Vitamin B supplements may reduce the risk of macular degeneration by lowering the levels of homocysteine, an important protein that has been linked to inflammatory processes in the eye. Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) has also been linked to eye health. As an antioxidant, this vitamin has the potential to reduce oxidative stress in the body and even in the tissues of the eyes.
Omega 3 fatty acids reduce the accumulation of fatty deposits in blood vessels, including retinal blood vessels. Some experts believe that the accumulation of fat in the blood vessels can lead to macular degeneration.
Additionally, there is some evidence that increased levels of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of dry eyes5 .
Best foods for healthy eyes
Unfortunately, you can't influence genetic factors, but you can give your eyes what they need from nutritionally rich food. Some of the best food to keep your eyes healthy is:
The first choice for better eyesight is always carrots. You've probably heard about their beneficial properties, but in short, their strength lies in the abundance of beta carotene, lycopene, and lutein. They are good for the retina and protect it from UVA radiation6.
Lycopene acts as an antioxidant and protects the eyes from UVB rays. Lutein is a protective phytonutrient that has an extremely strong antioxidant effect against free radicals.
Fish. Salmon, tuna, sardines, and other types of fish contain omega-3 fatty acids that have a very beneficial effect on eye health. Fish is an excellent source of EPA and DHA7, two omega-3 fatty acids that are important for eye health.
Eggs. Eggs improve eye health. It does not matter if you prefer scrambled eggs or boiled eggs, but it is important that you do not exclude eggs from your diet. The Vitamin A in eggs improves the health of the retina. In addition, eggs contain B vitamins, essential fatty acids, and zinc. Therefore, eat eggs often for breakfast.
Berries. Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and black grape varieties contain anthocyanins8, which protect and strengthen eyesight. These are strong phytonutrients. Blueberries reduce eye fatigue, and in addition to anthocyanins also contain carotenoids, zeaxanthin, lutein, quercetin, rutin, and resveratrol.
Green leafy vegetables. These veggies are especially healthy for the eyes and eyesight. Vegetables from this group contain plenty of nutrients such as calcium, vitamins A, B12, and C, and others. Broccoli, spinach, lettuce, and kale give the eyes the necessary minerals and vitamins, and the level of antioxidants in them is extremely high. They protect the retina from UV radiation and prevent eye degeneration. Regular consumption of green leafy vegetables can reduce vision and cataract problems.
Almonds, peanuts, and walnuts. These nuts contain vitamin E to prevent cataracts and are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
To sum up
Of course, some food is not healthy for the eyes and should be avoided, including sugar, trans fats, refined products, and foods with a high glycemic index such as pasta, bread, and cereals. Eating too much of these foods can be harmful to the eyes and can lead to eye-related conditions. Everything we eat affects our bodies. Whether the effect of food will be positive or negative depends on us and the choices we make.
1. Gilbert C. The eye signs of vitamin A deficiency. Community Eye Health. 2013; 26(84): 66–67
2. Rizvi, S., Raza, S. T., Ahmed, F., Ahmad, A., Abbas, S., & Mahdi, F. (2014). The role of vitamin e in human health and some diseases. Sultan Qaboos University medical journal, 14(2), e157–e165.
3. Doing Y. E., Forkin A. Z., Hysi G. P., Williams M. K., Spector D. T., Gilbert E. C., Hammond J. C. (2016). Genetic and Dietary Factors Influencing the Progression of Nuclear Cataract. VOLUME 123, ISSUE 6, P1237-1244.
4. Christen W. G., Glynn R. J., Chew E. Y., Albert C. M., Manson J. E. (2009). Folic acid, pyridoxine, and cyanocobalamin combination treatment and age-related macular degeneration in women: the Women's Antioxidant and Folic Acid Cardiovascular Study. Archives of internal medicine, 169(4), 335–341.
5. Golden M.I., Meyer J. J., Patel B. C. Dry Eye Syndrome. 2021 Nov 2. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan–. PMID: 29262012.
6. Stahl W., Sies H. β-Carotene and other carotenoids in protection from sunlight, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 96, Issue 5, November 2012, Pages 1179S–1184S. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.112.034819
7. Swanson D., Block R., Mousa S. A. Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA: health benefits throughout life. Adv Nutr. 2012 Jan;3(1):1-7. Epub 2012 Jan 5. PMID: 22332096; PMCID: PMC3262608.
8. Nomi, Y., Iwasaki-Kurashige, K., & Matsumoto, H. (2019). Therapeutic Effects of Anthocyanins for Vision and Eye Health. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 24(18), 3311. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules24183311.