7 Best Foods for Your Eyes

We only get one pair of eyes, so it’s important to take good care of them. New research shows what you eat can affect your vision as you age. Add these seven foods into your diet to boost your eye health. By: Julie Upton, MS, RD

Eat Right to Improve Your Sight

Photo: Johnny Autry

Eat Right to Improve Your Sight

The eyes are vascular, so a heart-healthy diet that’s low in trans and saturated fat is important to keep the blood vessels of the eyes healthy. Foods rich in antioxidants are also known to help protect the eyes from age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), which is the leading cause of blindness among older Americans; as well as cataracts and other eye-related conditions. In the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), subjects who supplemented their diet with Vitamin C, antioxidants, zinc, beta-carotene, and vitamin E experienced about a 25% reduction in risk of developing serious ARMD. 

Here are seven foods help you see clearly.

View Recipe: Fennel and Spinach Salad with Shrimp and Balsamic Vinaigrette

 

Tomatoes

Photo: Randy Mayor

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed with carotenoids, including lycopene, which helps give tomatoes their vibrant red color. Research shows that the lycopene present in ocular tissues helps prevent light-induced damage to the retina and other areas of the eye.

Tomatoes are also an excellent source of vitamin C, another vision protector. Processed tomato products or fresh tomatoes eaten with a little olive oil will help boost the absorption of lycopene. Researchers say eating foods rich in antioxidants is better than taking supplements.

See More: Fresh Tomato Recipes

 

Spinach, Kale, and other Dark, Leafy Greens

Spinach, Kale, and other Dark, Leafy Greens

Spinach and other dark, leafy greens are rich in two antioxidants stored in the macula—lutein and zeaxanthin.  The macula is a part of the retina that acts as a natural sunblock, shielding the eye from damaging light. Lutein and zeaxanthin absorb blue light, which is especially harmful to the retina. These nutrients can also help the eye detect contrast better, so eating foods rich in these antioxidants not only improves vision, but they help maintain your vision long-term. Since lutein and zeaxanthin are fat soluble, eating your greens with olive oil will help ensure that you absorb more of them.

View Recipe: Spinach with Garlic Vinaigrette

See More: Kale Recipes

Eggs

Eggs

Like spinach and other leafy greens, egg yolks are also a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin. In one study, researchers found that lutein levels increased by 26%, while zeaxanthin levels increased by 38% when subjects ate one egg per day. They also found that eating an egg-a-day did not impact LDL or HDL cholesterol or triglycerides. Specialty eggs are also available that have significantly more lutein per egg, due to simply feeding hens more carotenoid-rich feed. Egg yolks are also a natural source of vitamin D, which may reduce the risk for ARMD.

See More: 8 Reasons to Love Eggs

Salmon

Photo: Oxmoor House

Salmon

Salmon is one of the best sources of eye-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the risk of ARMD and help treat dry eye disease.  An Ophthalmology study reported that high dietary intakes of omega-3 fatty acids resulted in a 38% reduction in the risk for ARMD. Salmon is also a natural source of vitamin D, which may also prove to have eye health benefits.

See More: Best Salmon Recipes

Olive Oil

Photo: Randy Mayor

Olive Oil

A diet that is low in trans and saturated fat helps prevent retina diseases.  Several studies suggest that a Mediterranean-style diet (fish, plant-based foods, and healthy fats) is recommended for healthy vision. Not only is olive oil free of trans fats and is low in saturated fat, Australian researchers found that subjects who reported consuming the most olive oil were 48% less likely to develop ARMD. When buying olive oil, look for extra virgin for the additional antioxidant boost it provides.

See More: Budget Oil Tips

Corn

Photo: Anna William

Corn

Yellow corn is great source of lutein and zeaxanthin and ½ cup of cooked corn has 1.8 grams of beneficial pigments combined per serving. These naturally occurring yellow pigments are lost during ARMD, but research shows that older adults who boost their blood levels of lutein and zeaxanthin through eating foods like corn and other carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables significantly reduced their risk of losing these pigments.  One study even found that women who ate the most fruits and vegetables, including yellow corn, reduced their risk of developing cataracts. To boost the absorption of the eye-friendly pigments in corn, be sure to enjoy corn as part of a meal that provides some dietary fat like olive oil, walnuts, or salmon. 

See More: Cooking with Corn

Pistachios

Photo: Oxmoor House

Pistachios

As the only nut to contain any significant amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin, pistachios are the eye-friendliest of snack nuts.  They provide lutein and zeaxanthin and also pack in significant amounts of vitamin E. The mono and polyunsaturated fats in pistachios also help boost the absorption of carotenoids. In fact, a study found that those who added pistachios to their diet significantly boosted levels of lutein.

See More: Healthy Nuts: An A-Z Guide

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