By Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD Wellness Manager, Lifestyle 180 Program, Cleveland Clinic
Have you ever noticed that people are often trying out different foods for the benefit of enhancing certain body parts (think hair, nails, even backsides), but we often don’t pay attention to diet as it relates to one of our most important features – our eyes. If you thought that eating carrots all day long would help, then you’re not aware of all the other foods that can help us to maintain the healthiest eyes possible. Here are just a few.
This fatty fish is king when it comes to omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s were found to be essential to retina health according to a recent study. Participants consuming food sources high in omega-3 fatty acids experienced a 37% reduction in age-related macular degeneration, an eye condition that can deteriorate the part of the eye called the macula over time and cause blindness. In fact, macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in individuals over the age of 60.
High in vitamin D, this popular American drink may also help to prevent the onset of macular degeneration. In a 2011 study, the Archives of Ophthalmology found that individuals with the highest amount of vitamin D (determined by a blood test) had a 40% lower risk of developing macular degeneration.
While you may think that oranges are the only way to get lots of C, there are some other options that are just as, if not more, healthy! Broccoli is one of them. Researchers in a recent study found that vitamin C was essential for nerve cells to function in the eye. Vitamin C was also found to be protective of the retina of the eye as well. In addition to its high content of vitamin C, broccoli (as well as many other fruits and vegetables) has been associated with decreased inflammation in the body through its abundance of antioxidant compounds. This, in turn, can affect overall eye health.
What’s so great about these greens? They contain carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin – two compounds with big eye benefits when it comes to protection. A 2009 study found that lutein and zeaxanthin helped to protect against UVA light hitting the eye. Think of lutein and zeaxanthin as an army standing between you and harmful rays next time you’re out in the sun. But don’t forget to wear sunglasses with UV protection to protect your eyes from the sun’s damaging rays.
This slippery creature from the sea is a great source of zinc, a mineral found in studies to help individuals with late-stage macular degeneration.
When considering getting all of these fabulous nutrients into your diet, remember that getting them through food is almost always preferable to getting them in supplement form. The only exception to this may be with vitamin D, where the supplement is best absorbed by the body.