Living Well

Keeping an eye on nutrition

Jacquelyn Laplant, MD
Keeping an eye on nutrition

The powerful impact that food can have on your heart health is well known but did you know that your diet can also affect your eyes? Carrots have been long publicized as the miracle veggie for your eyes; however, there are many other foods that can help your vision and lower your risk of developing certain eye conditions.

Incorporating certain nutrients to your daily diet can help preserve your eye health and improve your quality of life. In fact, research has shown that vitamins A, C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in adults over the age of 50. It has also been suggested that lutein and zeaxanthin may reduce the risk of cataracts while omega-3 fatty acids can help treat the bothersome symptoms of dry eye. Luckily, these can be added to your diet through foods or supplements.

Here are some foods that you can add to your daily diet to optimize your eye health:

  • Orange-colored produce. The carrot’s claim to fame is its high beta-carotene levels which your body turns into vitamin A; however, you can also get this nutrient by eating sweet potatoes, apricots, and pumpkin. Eating more of this nutrient may slow progression of macular degeneration and can help prevent dry eyes and night blindness.
  • Leafy green vegetables. Kale and spinach are nutritional powerhouses with high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, two nutrients that may lower your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. These nutrients are also found in brussel sprouts, peas, lettuce, milk and eggs.
  • Citrus fruits. Oranges, grapefruit, and lemons provide high quantities of vitamin C, an important antioxidant for eye health. You can also get your daily dose of vitamin C from other fruits and vegetables including strawberries, papaya, green peppers, and tomatoes.
  • Nuts and seeds. Almonds, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds are a good source of the powerful antioxidant vitamin E, which is thought to help protect cells in the eye from free radicals which can damage tissue. Vegetable oils and legumes such as peanuts also have high levels of this nutrient.
  • Oysters. This deserves its own category in New Orleans. Oysters offer one of the highest levels of zinc, a nutrient that is essential for metabolism of the eye and may benefit those who are at high risk or experiencing early age-related macular degeneration. Other good sources of zinc include crab, turkey, yogurt, and nuts.
  • Fish. Cold-water fish such as salmon, trout, sardines, and tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids, a nutrient that is important for proper visual development and can reduce the symptoms of dry eyes. Other good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts, flax and chia seeds.

When it comes to a healthy diet, eating a colorful variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes, fish, and nuts will serve as a good source of nutrients for your eye health. Although supplements can be an easy way to obtain these nutrients, consumption through whole foods is thought to be safer and more effective. It is also important to remember to consult your doctor prior to beginning any supplementation program.

To learn more about boosting your eye-friendly nutrient intake through common you can refer to the M’eyeDiet chart an educational tool that can be found here.

Dr. Laplant is a current ophthalmology resident at Tulane University Medical Center. She grew up in Villanova, PA and went to Tulane University for her undergraduate education where she completed a B.S in Neuroscience with Honors. She then completed her medical degree at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, PA followed by a transitional year at The Colorado Health Foundation in Denver, CO. She has a strong interest in nutrition and its role in the prevention of eye disease.

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