Focus on Eye Health this Season

Did you know? Roughly 3 million people in the United States have glaucoma and is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide1. Moreover, half of the people who have open-angle glaucoma don’t know they have it because it shows no early signs or symptoms1. With January being National Glaucoma Awareness Month, what better way to ring in the New Year than by taking steps to protect your eye health? Just like other organs in our body, we must take steps to preserve and protect our eyes as we age. Even better, we can eat our way to better eye health. Nutrition heals from the inside out, so, eating certain foods may help our eyes age successfully.

Green Leafy Vegetables

Go green by eating green leafy vegetables such as spinach or kale. These foods are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, which are similar to the powerful antioxidants of beta-carotene and vitamin A2,3. These nutrients and antioxidants are known to protect your eyes from sunlight damage and reduce your risk of other eye diseases. Other foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin are broccoli, peas, kiwis, corn, oranges, or red grapes. To improve your body’s ability to use these nutrients, eat them with a healthy fat like a drizzle of olive oil, avocado, tuna or walnuts2,3.

Put the “E” in Orange 

Foods with a deep orange color like sweet potatoes, oranges, butternut squash, or carrots contain the antioxidant, beta carotene2,3. This vital antioxidant may slow the progression of certain eye diseases, such as macular degeneration. The body converts beta carotene to vitamin A, which is a nutrient that may help with night blindness and prevents eye infections3. Other good sources of vitamin A include liver, milk, eggs and green leafy vegetables3. These nutrients are best absorbed when eaten with a healthy fat, such as olive oil. Simply roast the vegetables in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil; top these on a bed of green leafy vegetables or sprinkle with feta cheese for an easy side dish.

Bell Peppers to Help You “C” Better

Biting in to a crisp bell pepper may help reduce your risk of cataracts. This is because bell peppers along with other foods like broccoli, oranges, cantaloupe and strawberries are rich in vitamin C, which is an antioxidant2,3.

Fatty Fish Provides Essential Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, meaning your body doesn’t make them; so the only way to get this nutrient is through your diet. Rich food sources include fatty fish such as salmon or tuna. It is recommended to eat healthy fats from fish roughly 2-3 times per week3. Other food sources include walnuts, flax or chia seeds3. These fatty acids may assist in improving dry eyes as well as support proper retinal function2,3. Specifically, salmon is a good source of vitamin D which may help in protecting against macular degeneration3.

Power Up With Green Tea

Sipping on a cup of green tea is not only relaxing, but it provides your body with a boastful amount of antioxidants and catechins3. Together, these powerful antioxidants and catechins may help in lowering risk of cataracts and macular degeneration along with decreasing inflammation3. Other foods rich in these catechins include red wine, chocolate, berries and apples3.

References:

  1. Don’t Let Glaucoma Steal Your Sight! Cdc.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/features/glaucoma-awareness/index.html. Updated November 27, 2017. Accessed November 28, 2019.
  2. Richer, S. & Newman, S. Diet & Nutrition. https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/diet-and-nutrition. Published 2018. Accessed November 28, 2018.
  3. Wolfram, T. 5 Top Foods for Eye Health. https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/5-top-foods-for-eye-health. Published May 11, 2018. Accessed November 28, 2018.

Blog Post Written By: Ashley Gehl, MS, RD, LD

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