Regular exercise and a balanced diet are important for general wellbeing and protecting against many health conditions. Giving up smoking, taking frequent exercise and wearing sunglasses to shield your eyes from damaging UV rays are proven ways to safeguard your ocular health, and it’s important to have regular check-ups with a qualified ophthalmic practitioner, too.
What you eat is also a key, so let’s find out what you need to eat.
Red peppers are an excellent source of vitamin A and C, and a very good source of vitamin E, which studies indicate are all vital for optimum eye health. It’s worth remembering that heat releases more of the carotenoid pigments, while eating red peppers raw retains more vitamin C.
Red peppers contain high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids, which have been shown to improve detailed and night vision, as well as protect the macula from degeneration.
Professor John Nolan of the Waterford Institute of technology in Ireland has carried out pioneering work looking at the effects of carotenoid pigments called lutein and zeaxanthin on the macula, a part of the retina that is crucial for detailed vision. He found that a diet high in these pigments improves vision and may protect the macula from age-related damage.
Cooked kale is the best dietary source of lutein and zeaxanthin, not to mention beneficial vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, so upping your intake should in all likelihood enhance your eye health.
There’s actually a lot of truth in the old adage that carrots are good for the eyes and help you see better in the dark. Carrots are a rich source of lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is essential for clear vision and general eye health, and may help prevent age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
Not a fan of red peppers? Stock up on oranges instead. Like red peppers, oranges are high in lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids, and make for an excellent source of protective vitamin C to boot.
The sweet fruit is also packed with beta-carotene, the pigment that gives it its characteristic hue, so you really can’t go wrong with an orange if you’re serious about looking after your vision and protecting your eyes from age-related damage.
An outstanding food all round for good eye health, peas also contain a myriad of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C and zinc, that support the eyes and help protect them from age-related damage. Lightly steaming or gently boiling your peas will help extract the most micronutrients.
Egg yolks are a very rich source of lutein and contain impressive levels of zeaxanthin. Crucially, experts believe the lutein and zeaxanthin in eggs are more easily absorbed by the body than the same carotenoid pigments in fruit and vegetables. Studies also suggest a regular intake of eggs can reduce the risk of developing cataracts by up to 18% and protect the macula from age-related degeneration.
Blackberries are loaded with anthocyanins, the antioxidant pigments that give them their dark color, which studies suggest prevent and slow the progression of age-related conditions such as AMD and cataracts. Blackcurrants, blueberries, and other high anthocyanin-containing foods like purple olives, offer the same eye-boosting benefits.
A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent dry eye syndrome, including the more serious forms of the condition such as blepharitis and meibomian gland disease, which are more common in older people. Experts believe omega-3 reduces inflammation and has a regulatory effect on tear production, helping to moisturize the surface of the eyes. If you don’t eat fish, you can get your recommended daily intake of omega-3 from flax seeds, chia seeds and leafy greens.
The Age-Related Eye Disease Study found that a regular intake of vitamin E can reduce the risk of developing cataracts by 25%. The almond is one of the richest sources of vitamin E on the planet, weight for weight, and a small handful of the nuts will provide half your RDI. Other excellent sources of vitamin E include extra-virgin olive oil and sunflower seeds.
Along with seafood delicacies such as oysters and lobster as well as red meat, prawns are particularly high in zinc. This essential mineral is important for eye health because it’s one of the main components of the pigment melanin, which protects the eyes from UV-induced damage, and conditions such as AMD and cataracts.