Dr. Julie T. Chen, M.D. (integrative medicine)
As we age, one of the main health concerns is eye health. Cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration are hardly the words we want to hear come out of our opthalmologist’s mouth at our annual eye exam visit.
So, what can we do at home to help our eyes stay healthy? Eat foods rich in the nutrients that our eyes need to stay in tip top shape, and here’s how.
If you are one of those people who would prefer not to remember which specific foods help your eye health, then stick to the concept of eating foods that are not processed and is as close to Mother Nature as possible. That would be mostly fruits and vegetables and low saturated lean proteins in the form of animal products or plant-based proteins like nuts.
However, if you are one of those people who would like to know which foods specifically are good for eye health, let’s get started with some top choices you can start incorporating into your daily diet.
Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, zinc, and beta carotenes are particularly helpful in the battle against macular degeneration. These are great for cataract prevention as well since nutrients like zinc and B vitamins like niacin are important for this particular concern.
The easiest way to make sure that you are getting plenty of these nutrients is to eat a lot of leafy greens along with bright yellow, red, or orange vegetables. It would also be a great idea to add some nuts, lean low fat proteins like turkey or ostrich, and fish. Some examples of an eye healthy diet would be pasta primavera or lean turkey with a side of rainbow-colored vegetables. And for all of you out there with a sweet tooth, the dark chocolate would be a great way to finish off your eye healthy meal.
Now that you have a general idea of the types of food we are talking about, let’s move onto some specifics about a diet that helps to promote healthy eyes.
1. Avocadoes, fish, and nuts are rich in healthy fatty acids that help to keep the blood vessels for the eyes healthy.
2. Bright colored vegetables like bell peppers, carrots and sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotenes which are essential for our retinal health.
3. Also for our retina, let’s keep in mind that leafy greens like spinach are rich in the lutein and zeaxanthin that are good for our eyes.
If you are interested in adding in some variety to what’s already been mentioned, there are other foods to take into consideration.
1. Blueberries and other berries are rich in antioxidants to help prevent aging changes to our eyes.
2. Eggs are rich in zinc and B vitamins for prevention in macular degeneration and cataracts.
3. Garlic is rich in sulfur which is essential for eye health as well.
So as you can see, eating healthy for the goal of healthy eyes doesn’t have to leave you with a bland and boring diet. In fact, you might be noticing that a lot of these foods are already a ready staple in your everyday diet. The only thing left to do then is to be more mindful when you are cooking your meals and make an extra effort to ensure that a lot of these foods are appearing on your dinner plate more often than not…and you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that you are not just making your tummy happy with a tasty meal, but your eyes will be happy and healthy as well.