When Mom told you to eat your broccoli, she may not have realized that she was encouraging good vision health habits as well! Recent studies have shown that certain nutrients can have a positive effect on the wellness of the visual system.
A 2012 report from the Ocular Nutrition Society listed three nutrients that are key to healthy eyes and vision:
- Omega-3 fatty acids - Found in fish oils (especially sardines and wild-caught salmon) and flaxseed.
- Lutein - Found in dark green leafy vegetables (like spinach and kale), corn and egg yolks. The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend 4-8 milligrams of lutein daily; ½ cup of cooked spinach provides 6 milligrams
- Zeaxanthin - Also found in dark green leafy vegetables and corn as well as orange peppers. The USDA has not established recommendations for the daily intake of zeaxanthin.
Both lutein and zeaxanthin are a form of vitamin A and, along with omega-3s, may support a healthy macula, the area of the retina that is responsible for our most accurate vision. They may also reduce the risk of cataracts. Omega-3s can also help in the treatment of dry eyes.
The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), important research done by the National Eye Institute, found that certain antioxidants can slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration by about 25%. Here they are listed along with the best sources:
- Vitamin C - Citrus fruits, broccoli, bell peppers, papaya
- Vitamin E - Nuts, fortified cereals, sweet potatoes
- Vitamin A (beta-carotene) - Leafy green vegetables, as well as orange and red vegetables
- Zinc - Oysters, red meat, poultry, seafood
The levels of vitamins and minerals used in the AREDS studies are high and often difficult to obtain from the average diet. Nutritional supplements for eye health are available. You should discuss with your eye care provider which are best for you. In any case, a healthy, balanced diet not only contributes to overall wellness, but keeps your eyes healthy, too.
Provided by Linda Chous, O.D. Dr. Linda Chous has more than 20 years of experience in private practice and is a specialist in pediatric optometry. She is past president of the Minnesota Optometric Association. As the Chief Eye Care Officer for United Healthcare, she provides clinical leadership for the advancement and delivery of eye care wellness and disease management programs.