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We are heading into a festive season – Christmas, New Year and Lunar New Year – and eating is a big part of the celebrations. Here is a quick list of delicious foods to incorporate into meals to help keep your eyes healthy and strong:
- Dark leafy greens: Spinach, kale, dandelion greens, romaine lettuce, radicchio, arugula, Swiss chard, rapini, and collard greens are your best source of eye-friendly lutein and zeaxanthin, but are also high in beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin C, zinc and fiber.
Benefits: Lutein and zeaxanthin are pigments that our bodies are not able to produce on their own, but are essential to the proper function of the eyes. Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in the macula of the eye and absorb the harmful effects of blue-and UV light. Lutein and zeaxanthin can protect your eyes against developing macular degeneration and can slow down the progression of cataracts. Other great sources of lutein and zeaxanthin are orange peppers and egg yolks.
- Colorful fruits and vegetables: Strawberries, oranges, grapefruit, blueberries, kiwis, cantaloupe, avocado, bell peppers, broccoli, leafy greens, carrots and broccoli are a great addition to your everyday meals and snacks because among other things, they are a great source of vitamin C.
Benefits: Vitamin C cannot be made or stored in the body. That is why it is essential to consume foods that are high in vitamin C often. Due to the eye’s high metabolic demand, vitamin C is found in the eye at much higher concentrations than in other parts of the body. From the front to the very back, every single part of the eye requires vitamin C to function properly, and vitamin C has been shown to decrease the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
- Cold water fish: Wild salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, and rainbow trout are rich in nutrients called omega-3 fatty acids.
Benefits: Omega-3 fatty acids can protect against age-related macular degeneration and its anti-inflammatory effects can help fight against dry eye. In addition to the benefits that omega-3 fatty acids have for the eyes, they also help fight heart disease, high cholesterol, rheumatoid arthritis, and dementia. Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed and walnuts.
- Whole Grains: Bran cereal, oatmeal, barley, whole wheat pasta, brown rice and other whole grains are rich in fiber, zinc and vitamin E.
Benefits: Whole grains are healthy for the eyes because they are rich in fiber and contain a low glycemic index. Foods that have a high glycemic index such as white bread, white rice, and white pasta have a high glycemic index, which increases the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
- Beans and lentils: Kidney beans, black beans, red kidney beans, soybeans, white beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, and lentils are all healthy sources of fiber, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Benefits: Beans and lentils are very nutritious and contain minimal amounts of fat. They are healthy for the eyes as well as the heart. The zinc in beans and lentils helps transport vitamin A and E from the liver to the retina to keep it healthy. Other sources of zinc include oysters, beef, and the dark meat of turkey.
Consistently keeping these food items in your day-to-day diet may help slow down or prevent the onset of various eye diseases, particularly the ones related to age. To keep your sight sharp and clear throughout your life, remember that a healthy, balanced diet contributes to healthy eyes and vision. If you have any questions regarding foods that keep your eyes healthy, ask your optometrist at your next visit.