Vitamins for Vision
The eyes are particularly susceptible to damage from free radical activity and so can benefit from an antioxidant-rich diet. The quality of the fats in your diet also impacts on your eye health and can have long-term consequences for your sight. Among the most important nutrients for healthy vision are vitamins A, C & E.
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A is found in the cells of the retina and in tears. It is needed for healthy day and night vision. Dry eyes and poor adaptation to changes in light levels may be symptoms of vitamin A deficiency. Most of the vitamin A in our bodies is converted from betacarotene, but it is also present in eggs, butter, red meat, cod liver oil and fish.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C provides nutritional support for healthy eye function and is found in the lens of the eye. You’ll find vitamin C in citrus fruits, kiwifruits, capsicum, kale and broccoli.
- Vitamin E: Research has demonstrated an increased risk of cataracts and degeneration of the retina of the eye when vitamin E levels are deficient. Amongst the best dietary sources are nuts, seeds, wheat germ and avocado.
Minerals for your Macula
- Zinc: Zinc provides antioxidant support to the Macula region and is needed for the proper functioning of enzymes present in the protective coating of the eye. Foods rich in zinc include shellfish (especially oysters), fish, legumes, mushrooms, egg yolks, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Along with betacarotene, vitamin C and vitamin E, zinc is a core ingredient in an antioxidant supplement that has been shown to offer benefits in Macula degeneration, the leading cause of sight loss in Australia.
- Selenium: Selenium is another antioxidant that may help to protect the eyes from free radical damage. Brazil nuts are the richest dietary source of selenium, but it is also present in wheat germ and oats.
- Carotenoids and other antioxidants: Many of the brightly coloured foods in our diets are rich sources of antioxidants that can be particularly beneficial to the health and functioning of the eyes.
- Betacarotene: Orange-coloured fruit and vegetables like carrots, apricots and pumpkin provide plenty of betacarotene, which can be converted by the body into vitamin A. Green leafy veggies are also an important source of betacarotene, and some have the added benefit of supplying lutein and zeaxanthin.
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin: Like betacarotene, lutein and zeaxanthin are compounds in the carotenoid family. They are potent antioxidants that are found in the macular region of the eyes, where they help protect against free radical damage and act as filters against excessive exposure to some forms of light. Research suggests that low dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin may increase the likelihood of developing macular degeneration and some other sight-threatening conditions, so make sure you get plenty of them in your diet by eating lots of egg yolk, corn, broccoli, spinach, kale, collard greens and mustard greens.
- Anthocyanosides: Purple and blue coloured foods such as blueberries, blackberries and cherries are rich in a group of compounds called anthocyanosides, which provide antioxidant activity and support capillary health. You can also top up your anthocyanoside levels by taking bilberry, which has traditionally been used to support eye health in European herbal medicine. Bilberry improves blood flow to the eyes and can be used for bloodshot eyes, improve poor night vision, poor light adaptation and sensitivity to glare and for eye fatigue associated with overuse.
Get the good oils
Hydrogenated vegetable oils and trans-fats promote free radical damage and may be particularly problematic for eye health, so it’s best to steer clear of margarines or any other processed foods that contain them. In contrast, healthy sources of fats such as the omega-3 fats found in oily fish and the unprocessed oils found in nuts and seeds have protective effects on the eyes and may offer a degree of protection against age-related macular degeneration.