By including five eye-friendly foods as part of a balanced diet, you can help to maintain optimal eye health, writes Naturopath Kate Ferguson.
Spinach is a rich source of both lutein and zeaxanthin, which are compounds that add yellow pigment to plants. They are also found in the lens and retina of our eye, where they function as antioxidants.
“Lutein and zeaxanthin are essential pigments for the eyes,” explains naturopath Carl Gagnon. “They not only act as internal sunglasses, filtering out harmful UV light, but they also help to protect the eyes as an antioxidant. Visual acuity and light sensitivity is often improved if a deficiency is corrected.”
Gagnon says that while spinach is the best source of lutein and zeaxantin, any rich greens or yellow foods such as kale, silverbeet, broccoli, corn and egg yolk are also good sources.
2. Brazil nuts
Brazil nuts are the seeds of the South American tree Bertholletia excelsa and may be beneficial for maintaining eye health as they contain selenium. Selenium is a trace mineral that is a component of glutathione peroxidase, an antioxidant enzyme found in the lens of the eye which plays a role in preserving eye health.
Salmon is a rich source of essential omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for maintaining overall eye health. Salmon also contains folic acid, vitamin D, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and vitamin A.
Research has indicated that people who consume more foods containing omega-3 fatty acids may have a reduced risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. A deficiency of omega-3s may contribute to visual problems.
Oysters are well-known for their aphrodisiac qualities, but they may also benefit eye health due to their rich zinc content.
Zinc is an essential mineral involved in many functions throughout the body. Adequate zinc levels are essential for the maintenance of healthy vision. There are two important enzymes in the retina that are needed for vision require that require zinc. A deficiency in this vital nutrient may also contribute to night blindness.
Blueberries are great for the eyes as they contain anthocyanidins, which are a type of flavonoid antioxidant which may support eye health. Anthocyanidins may also help to increase vitamin C levels in the cells and support the circulation to eye by decreasing capillary fragility.
Macular Degeneration Facts
Macular Degeneration (MD) is the leading cause of blindness in Australia. 1 in 7 Australians over the age of 50 will experience MD and the incidence increases with age.
Smokers are 3 times at risk of developing MD and may also develop the condition about 10 years earlier than non-smokers. Smoking may be responsible for around 20% of all new cases of blindness in people over the age of 50.