There are plenty of reasons why we strive to eat healthy—from maintaining an ideal weight, to warding off illness and disease, to having more energy. But when perusing the grocery aisles, we are most likely not picking foods based off our vision health in particular.
You may be familiar with the claim that carrots are good for your eyesight, but in truth, there are tons of healthy food options that support eyesight and help to avoid common eye problems like cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma.
The next time you hit the grocery store, consider these foods to keep your eyes in tip-top shape.
Several studies have shown that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce the risk of macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the United States. Macular degeneration causes blurry vision because of damage to the macula, which plays a crucial role in giving you sharp, central vision.
Salmon, mackerel, herring sardines, and tuna are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Citrus fruits are excellent sources of vitamin C which help to reduce the inflammatory conditions of the eye. Some vitamin C-rich citrus fruits include oranges, lemons, and grapefruits.
Studies also suggest that foods high in vitamin C can help reduce the development of cataracts. Cataracts are the clouding of the eye’s lens, which reduces the sharpness of an image. It can eventually lead to vision loss. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have cataracts or have had cataract surgery.
Certain fruits high in vitamin A and C have also been shown to help reduce the risk of glaucoma as well. Glaucoma is a group of diseases that cause fluid and pressure to build up in the eye which in turn damages the optic nerve. It affects peripheral vision but can lead to total vision loss if not controlled.
The next time you’re in the produce aisle, reach for spinach, collard greens, and kale. These leafy greens are high in plant pigments called lutein and zeaxanthin.
Studies published in American Journal of Epidemiology, Ophthalmology and Archives of Ophthalmology found higher levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in the diet are associated with a lower incidence of macular degeneration.
Other studies have suggested that those who eat these green veggies may be half as likely to develop cataracts.
Like leafy greens, eggs also contain lutein, and some scientists believe that the body can better absorb this pigment from eggs than from leafy vegetables.
Eggs also contain zeaxanthin, which can help protect your eyes from high-energy light waves like ultraviolet ways in sunlight.
What’s the deal with carrots, anyways?
Carrots first got their claim to fame for healthy eyesight during WWII, although their notoriety is part truth and part myth. The British War Ministry started propaganda that carrots helped their soldiers see better at night, which is why they were able to detect enemy planes. In truth, the British developed Airborne Intelligence (AI) and, not wanting the Germans to know about their superior technology, thought the carrot story would throw the Germans off their trail.
In truth, there’s no scientific evidence that carrots improve our ability to see in the dark. They do, however, contain beta-carotene, an essential precursor to Vitamin A, which is key in maintaining normal vision.
And while beta carotene won’t make bad vision better (or give you spectacular night vision for that matter), a study from the National Eye Institute, has shown that this carotenoid can help some people with age-related macular degeneration.
While these foods have been linked to supporting healthy eyesight, it is still important to schedule routine comprehensive eye exams with an eye care professional to help detect potential problems early. You should always consult your doctor before starting a new nutrition plan, but the matter of introducing a few eye-healthy foods into your diet could help protect your eyesight well into your golden years.
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