Foods that improve eyesight (hint: not carrots)
It’s a common adage that carrots are good for your eyes. But is that really true? As Easter approaches, the peak professional body for optometrists addresses the question, and lists the top ten foods that will boost your eye health and help you protect them from eye disease. Their advice? Leave the carrots for the Easter Bunny!
Optometry Australia’s resident optometrist, Luke Arundel, talked us through the foods that support our eyes and our overall health.
The omega-3 fatty acids in fish are essential for your body to produce new cells, muscles and nerves and they also have potent anti-inflammatory properties. They assist our body with important functions like producing tears to keep the eyes moist and healthy and reducing dry eye syndrome. Cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel are rich sources of omega-3s, or you can get a good supply through fish oil supplements.
2. Leafy green vegetables
Leafy greens like kale, spinach and green veggies are packed with lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for good retina health. Broccoli, avocados and peas are also good sources of this powerful combination of antioxidants.
Eggs are a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin. One study found, that when subjects ate one egg per day, lutein levels increased by 26 per cent, while zeaxanthin levels increased by 38 per cent. Eggs are also a source of Vitamin A, an important contributor to good eye health.
4. Whole grains
Whole grains contain Vitamin E, zinc and niacin, which can all improve eye health by reducing the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Replacing refined carbohydrates with a high glycemic index (GI) such as white bread or pasta with whole grains like quinoa, brown rice and oats is a great idea for eye health.
Pistachios, almonds, walnuts, whichever take your fancy, are all excellent sources of Vitamin E and minerals like zinc that support good eye health. Nuts may decrease your risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
6. Berries and citrus fruits
Oranges, lemons, red capsicum and berries are high in Vitamin C – a water soluble vitamin and a powerful antioxidant that helps the body form and maintain connective tissue, including collagen found in the cornea of the eye. Vitamin C also promotes healthy bones, skin and blood vessels, including the delicate capillaries in the retina.
7. Sunflower seeds
Excellent sources of Vitamin E and zinc, sunflower seeds are a good addition to an afternoon snack.
Garlic contains a compound called allicin which has potent medicinal properties. The compound can enhance blood flow and boost the immune system, for overall health benefits.
9. Dark chocolate
Happy Easter everybody! Dark chocolate also supports healthy eyes. It contains antioxidants and flavinoids, which can help circulation and blood flow in the retina, so make sure those Easter eggs have a high proportion of cocoa (at least 70 per cent) or, even better, cacao which is the unprocessed, more pure form of chocolate.
10. Carrots! (Or, more accurately, any colourful fruit and vegetables) –
“Perhaps this is where the part about carrots started. Foods such as carrots, tomatoes, strawberries, pumpkin, corn and cantaloupe are excellent sources of Vitamins A and C. And carotenoids – the compounds that give these fruits and vegetables their yellow, orange and red pigments – are thought to help decrease the risk of eye disease.”
“The above list is great to stick to for a healthy overall diet,” said Mr Arundel. “The added implications for eye health are a positive bonus.”
“The absolute best way to ensure you stay on top of your eye health, however, is to have regular eye examinations with your optometrist,” Arundel reminds us.
For more information on optometry services in Australia, including finding your local optometrist, visit www.optometry.org.au.