When we think of foods that improve eyesight, the first thing that pops into our mind is a carrot. These usually orange root vegetables are rich in Vitamin A, beta carotene and rhodopsin, which benefit eye health, and are essential for night and color vision. These elements may also protect the eyes from age-related problems such as macular degeneration - the leading cause of vision loss2 - and cataracts, a clouding of the eye’s lens that causes bothersome vision problems3.
However, there are many things, including but not limited to carrots, that are good for your eyes. Here’s a list of other foods that could help you see better.
Cold-water fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, anchovies and halibut are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Don’t be alarmed by the “fatty” - these acids help protect against dry eye as well as eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts4.
- Vegatables, Colorful Fruits, and Eggs
Spinach, rhubarb, broccoli, collard greens, watercress, kale, parsley and arugula, among others, are vegetables rich in zeaxanthin and lutein. Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that protect the eye’s retina from harmful UV light5 (that sun you love so much).
Egg yolks contain small amounts of lutein as well, because it’s a key nutrient in corn, which is which hens eat a lot of, hence why it’s found in egg yolks. Ah, the circle of life! However, the lutein in eggs is well absorbed by the body, so we don’t retain a lot of it.
Other foods that are high in zeaxanthin and lutein are colorful fruits6, which also provide the body with vitamin C. These include, berries (blue, black, straw), avocados, oranges, cantaloupe, kiwi, mangoes, and papayas, among others.
- Whole Grains
It turns out whole grains are not only good for your waistline; they contain vitamin E, niacin and zinc, which provide many benefits for the eyes. Not only do they reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, but they also reduce the likelihood of blood sugar spikes that could damage the retina over time. The zinc in whole grains also protects eye tissue from light and inflammation7.
Almonds, peanuts, pistachios, and cashews are some of the various nuts that are good for the eyes. Nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, which boost your eye health and protect the eye’s cells from “free radicals” that could break down the eye’s tissue8. You need that outer layer of tissue to serve as a protective barrier for your eyeball, so go ahead: go nuts!
Kidney beans, black-eyed peas (not the band) and lentils are good sources of bioflavonoids and zinc, which can lower the risk of developing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. They also help protect the retina9, which is super critical to your vision.
- Sunflower seeds
Like hazelnuts, avocados, olive oil and whole grains, sunflowers seeds are rich in vitamin E. This powerful antioxidant vitamin helps maintain good eyesight because it decreases the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts10.
- Beef and Poultry
In moderation, lean beef and poultry can boost your eye health. Beef is rich in vitamin A and zinc, which helps the retina, cornea, and other eye tissues to function properly11, and lowers the risk of macular degeneration.
Poultry has a significant amount of zinc, and according to the Age-Related Eye Disease Study, those who are at high risk of age-related macular degeneration could slow the progression by about 25% and visual acuity loss by 19%t by taking 40-80 mg/day of zinc12.
Note: high doses of zinc may be harmful to the body. There is such thing as too much of a good thing!
- Wine and Tea
Adding a glass of red wine to your diet not only relaxes you after a stressful day, but could also help you live longer and prevent or slow down macular degeneration. This is because wine contains quercetin, a strong antioxidant.
Overall, for the health of your eyes and your whole body, avoid processed foods and those that are prepared with margarine and vegetable oils such as fried foods, commercially-prepared cookies and cakes, and crackers. Sweetened drinks, full of added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, are also not great for you or your eyes14. Essentially, if you already keep a healthy diet, you’re doing your eyes a favor without even realizing it!
For eye-healthy recipes, check out All About Vision's "Recipes for Healthy Eyes, Created by Optometrists."
Smoothie lover? Here are some that can boost your vision.
Trying to be more "well"? Check out our list of apps that can help you meet your wellness goals!
- Rolland, Melanie. "11 Health Benefits of Carrots: Superfood for Improving Eyesight." GuideDoc. N.p., 11 Feb. 2014. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.
- "What Is Macular Degeneration?" American Macular Degeneration Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.
- Boyd, Kierstan. "What Are Cataracts?" American Academy of Ophthalmology. N.p., 11 June 2014. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.
- "Four Fantastic Foods to Keep Your Eyes Healthy." American Academy of Ophthalmology. N.p., 03 May 2012. Web. 09 Aug. 2016.
- Raisbeck, Aurora. "Lutein and Zeaxanthin - The Eye Protectors." Foods-Healing-Power.com. N.p., 13 Feb. 2013. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.
- Tremblay, Sylvie. "Fruits That Have Lutein and Zeaxanthin." Healthy Eating. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.
- "Let's Look at Whole Grains." Eye Site on Wellness. N.p., 21 Oct. 2014. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.
- "Eye Exams and Health - A "Healthy Diet" for Good Vision." Vitamins for Eye Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.
- Surtenich, Aimee. "11 Foods to Boost Your Eye Health - Slideshow." All About Vision. N.p., Nov. 2015. Web. 09 Aug. 2016.
- Heiting, Gary. "Nutrition for Your Eyes." All About Vision. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Aug. 2016.
- Duffy, Maureen. "Good Nutrition and Eye Health: They're Connected!" - VisionAware Blog. N.p., 22 Sept. 2015. Web. 11 Aug. 2016.
- "Zinc." Zinc. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Aug. 2016.
- "Beneficial Foods That Could Help Your Eyesight." Natural Vision Improvement Eye Exercises Eye Vitamins. N.p., 30 Oct. 2012. Web. 09 Aug. 2016.
- The Alternative Daily. "5 Worst Foods For Eye Health." The Alternative Daily. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Aug. 2016.