We usually don’t associate the health of our eyes with our nutrition, but you might be surprised to hear that these are very much connected! Our eyesight is one of those things we usually take for granted until something goes wrong and things get slightly blurry. But just like with so many other aspects of our health, our diet can play a big role in preventing things from going wrong with our bodies. Here’s some tips on what to eat (and avoid) to keep those peepers in good shape!
First, let's start with what NOT to eat to keep your eyes as sharp as possible.
Did you know that high blood sugar levels cause the lens of the eyes to swell, inflame, and can cause blurred vision? Processed sugar in high amounts is terrible for the health of our eyes. Cataracts, glaucoma and retinopathy are the three major eye problems seen in those with high blood sugar and diabetics. Scarily, the average American diet consists of 53 teaspoons of sugar each day, which circulates throughout your entire bloodstream, causing inflammation throughout. One of the biggest culprits where sugar likes to hide? If you are one of the many households that has several cereal boxes or bags of bagels laying around, consider the fact that the average cereal is over half percent sugar by weight, and one average bagel turns into 12 teaspoons of sugar in your body! Clearly, not a good way to start the day.
An anti-inflammatory diet, however, actually supports bloodflow to the eye tissue and can help reverse or prevent symptoms effecting our eyes. Here's some great foods to add to your diet to keep those cataracts away and keep that eyeglass prescription number as low as possible.
Those suffering from "night-blindness", or who follow a low fat or vegetarian diet may be low in levels of Vitamin A, an important player in the health of our eyes. A ZINC deficiency, which over 73% of the population currently has, actually contributes to poor absorption of Vitamin A. So load up on lots of Vitamin A and Zinc rich foods, such as:
Vitamin A: Pumpkin. Sweet Potatoes, Papaya, Carrots, Broccoli, Mango, Red Peppers, Liver
Zinc: Pumpkin Seeds, Grass Fed Beef, Cashews, Raw Cocoa, Oysters, Cheese, Spinach, Asparagus
Blueberries contain powerful antioxidants that support the blood vessels in the eye for healthy, sharp vision. The sensitive retina of the eye is at very high risk for free radical damage, so antioxidants in blueberries protect this area from harm over time This is opposed to the processed sugar (found in blueberry pie for example) which can actually cause free radical damage. Other great sources of antioxidants are raw cocoa and goji berries. Sprinkle some raw cocoa nibs and dried gojis on a bowl of fresh blueberries and full-fat cream for the ultimate antioxidant-filled snack! Maybe with a glass of red wine? All in the name of healthy eyesight! :)
If eggs are from chickens that are running around eating grass or flax seed, they contain an omega 3 fatty acid called DHA- a vital nutrient that makes up the cells of the membrane in the retina and supports eye health. And make sure you’re eating the yolks! Yolks contain powerful antioxidants for the eye called lutein and zeaxanthin, which protect the retina from free radical damage. Studies have shown that diets high in both lutein and zeaxanthin may slow the development of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over age 50.
Other great sources of lutein are found in kale (1/2 cup contains 10 mg) and spinach (1/2 cup contains 6.3 mg) 6 mg of lutein per day leads to a 43% lower risk of macular degeneration. It is believed that lutein and zeaxanthin block harmful light from reaching the underlying structures in the retina, thereby reducing the risk of light-induced oxidative damage that could lead to macular degeneration. Orange bell peppers and zucchini are high sources of zeaxanthin.
For the ultimate healthy-eye breakfast, whip up a couple of free run eggs sauteed in butter with plenty of kale, spinach, bell peppers and zucchini. Not only will this keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable, but will keep things crystal clear for years to come.
The Essential Omega Fatty acids DHA and GLA keep our eyes hydrated and play a key role in eye health. Great source of this is fatty wild fish, such as salmon, sardines, trout, and mackerel. Niacin, an essential B vitamin, is also found in wild salmon and helps reduce the risk of cataracts.
Many of us suffer from "dry eyes". Lots of common medications, antihistamines, antidepressants, blood pressure medicines, and diuretics, are very drying to the body. We can to counteract these drying effects by the foods in our diet.
Some dietary ways to prevent dry eye:
Drink 8-10 glasses of water to hydrate every cell in body.
Eat plenty of good fats in sufficient amounts, which act as lubricant throughout your body, are anti-inflammatory and allow the absorption of many nutrients. Stay away from fat-free or low fat foods (which contain more sugar), and load up on avocado, virgin coconut and olive, butter, nuts, and olives.
We can all agree that our eyesight is something that deserves being nurtured and taken care of. By adding plenty of the foods high in Vitamin A, Zinc, Omega Fatty Acids and Anti-Oxidants, while being careful to avoid processed sugars, you can keep your eyes in tip-top shape and prevent damage from occurring. But don't worry, you can still wear those thick-rimmed hipster glasses, just take the lenses out ;)