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By Dr. Amy Cheng and Jonathan Dinh
You have heard the saying “You are what you eat,” and it is very true. The foods that we eat correlate with our health, especially our eyes. That’s why it’s important to incorporate the following nutrients into your diet to maintain healthy vision.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines are rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Specifically, DHA and EPA are essential for a child’s eyes and brain development. If you have dry eyes, omega 3s will improve your dry eye symptoms by regulating the oil glands in the eye lids to provide better lubrication to the eyes. Omega 3s reduce inflammation in the body, resulting in lower risk of chronic diseases such as dry eyes. They also contribute to a healthier heart and better cognitive functions.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Two antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, are highly concentrated in the macular area inside the eye that is responsible for our colour and detailed vision. Leafy greens are particularly high in lutein and zeaxanthin, including spinach, kale, collard greens, and broccoli. These antioxidants help reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataract formation. However, the eye cannot produce its own lutein and zeaxanthin. It is vital to absorb them via our diet or supplements.
Vitamin A and Zinc
Vitamin A is essential to keep your eyes healthy from the surface to the inner layers. A deficiency in vitamin A will lead to severe dryness on the cornea, which increases the risk of infections and corneal ulcers. In the retina, vitamin A is used by photoreceptors to capture light. It undergoes a complex reaction to allow us to see. Zinc is an essential mineral that helps bring vitamin A from the liver to the retina to promote melanin, a protective pigment in our eyes. Zinc deficiency can also lead to alopecia, a loss of hair in the eyelashes and brows. Red meats, oysters, tofu, mixed nuts, and beans all contain a good amount of zinc.
Vitamin C and Vitamin E
Vitamin C is an important building block used in collagen, which is found in the cornea and the lens, and in blood vessels of the retina and the body. Vitamin E also helps the eyes by eliminating harmful metabolic byproducts called free radicals that can build up in the body through exposure to cigarette smoke and pollutants in the environment. Eggs, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, carrots, peppers, and citrus fruits are loaded with vitamins to reduce the progression of cataracts and macular degeneration.
sepRemember, although these food items are good for the eye, they should be eaten in moderation. Everybody is different, so ask your optometrist about the recommended dosages for you.