Investing in your eye health is potentially one of the most important investments you can make.
From having regular eye checks and monitoring any degeneration through to supporting your eye health with a diet full of fresh whole foods – there are many different ways you can support these amazing organs.
The eyes connect to the body in various ways. Certain vitamins and minerals can protect against and, in some cases, even help prevent numerous diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration.
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Vitamin A has many functions, not only can it help maintain a strong immune system, but it’s also absolutely critical for keeping the retina healthy.
In fact in many third-world countries vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of night-blindness, where you’re unable to see at night or in dim light. Night blindness is caused by a disorder of the cells in the retina that are responsible for vision in dim light.
Vitamin A is sometimes used to treat hereditary retina deformities and according to some studies supplementing with vitamin A may help slow the progression of the disease.
However, we also get vitamin A itself through the diet plus our bodies can convert plant chemicals (carotenoids) such as beta-carotene and alpha-carotene into vitamin A.
Coloured vegetables and fruit contain many carotenoids. A recent study conducted over a 10-year period found that consumption of fruits and vegetables, but in particular orange or yellow fruits and vegetables are the most protective against cardiovascular disease.
The same study named carrots as one of the most heart healthy vegetables because of its deep orange colour and therefore concentration of protective antioxidants and nutrients.
Carotenoids are antioxidants that are plant pigments. This category of nutrients is considered by many eye-care experts to be the most protective for eye health.
One of the best recognised of the carotenoid family is beta-carotene. Beta-carotene has antioxidant effects and aids in maintaining good vision, as well as night vision. It is because of this function that we often hear the phrase eat your carrots, as they help you see at night.
Research indicates it may play a role in cataract prevention. Luckily, beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body, is easily obtained through the diet. However, the conversion of these plant forms to retinol, a better-absorbed form of vitamin A, is not as well absorbed as it is from animal sources.
So there is no need to be concerned about eating too many foods that are a rich source of beta-carotene, as the body regulates how much is converted. In fact, they’re a wonderful inclusion in your diet for a number of health benefits. These foods include carrots, kumara, kale, spinach, papaya, capsicums, and pumpkin to name a few.
KEEP AN EYE ON THESE FOODS
1. Kale. Leafy green vegetables, like kale, are superstars for eye health! Particularly as they’re a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants known to support healthy eye function. Evidence suggests that people with diets high in lutein were up to 23 per cent less likely to develop cataracts than those whose diets were low in this nutrient. If kale isn’t your thing, choose other dark leafy green vegetables, like spinach and silverbeet as they’re also good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, as are egg yolks.
2. Salmon. There is evidence to suggest that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids from fresh, cold-water fish like salmon and sardines, reduce the risk of developing eye disease later in life. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan include plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids such as flaxseeds or chia seeds.
3. Citrus fruit. Citrus fruits are a wonderful source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that is critical to eye health. Oranges, lemons, grapefruit and tangerine are all delicious and beneficial additions to the diet.