Eat Well to See Well
Nutrition is such an important part our day and more so for our growing children. Your eyes like other parts of your body require a balance of vitamins and nutrients and daily exercise to keep them functioning optimally. Without a balanced nutrient rich diet, your eyes are at risk for diseases such as age related macular degeneration (AMD), dry eyes and cataracts. As an Optometrist and mother, I recommend parents start early and teach their children healthy eating habits for the entire body.
It’s Simple …. Eat Well to See Well. The foods you eat everyday help not only fuel your body but also your eyes. Important food sources include vitamins, minerals, omega 3 fatty acids and nutrients.
Vitamin A – A fat soluble antioxidant plays an important role in vision, bone growth and the immune system. Vitamin A helps the surface of the eye, mucous membranes and skin be effective barriers to bacteria and viruses, reducing the risk of eye infections, respiratory problems and other infectious diseases. Sources include beef and chicken liver, whole milk and cheese.
Vitamin C – A water soluble antioxidant that is found in virtually all cells of the body especially the eye. Vitamin C supports the health of ocular blood vessels, promotes healthy capillaries, gums, teeth, cartilage and the absorption of iron. Sources include fruits and vegetables – citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, grapefruit and limes; papaya, kiwi, bell peppers, guava, strawberries, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cantaloupe. One hundred percent pure juice contains vitamin C as well as sugar. Recommended juice intake is 1 serving or a half a cup a day.
Vitamin E –A fat-soluble vitamins which help prevent oxidative stress to the body. Sources include oils, nuts, eggs, some fruits and vegetables and fortified cereals.
Minerals come from nature and are found in Earth, rocks and water. Zinc is one of these minerals that helps transfer Vitamin A and E to your eyes from the liver where they are stored. It supports the immune system and healing process in the body. Sources of zinc include seafood such as oysters, meat, nuts, beans, whole grains and fortified breakfast cereals.
Omega 3 fatty acids are good fats and important for eye and overall body health. As an optometrist I recommend patients consume a triglyceride form which is more stable than the ethyl ester version. There are two important components DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). DHA and EPA are good for your brain, heart, skin, and eyes. ALA (α-Linolenic acid) come from plant oils, nuts, flax seed and vegetable oils. DHA and EPA help decrease inflammation in the body. The body converts ALA to DHA and EPA but the process is not as efficient as taking the DHA and EPA directly. Sources include: oily fish, especially cold-water wild caught fish such as salmon, anchovies, sardines, and mackerel. Recommend intake of cold water fish minimum of twice a week.
Carotenoids are naturally occurring pigments that give color and are found in vegetables and fruits. Lutein and Zeaxanthin abundant in the central part of the retina, the macula, and are important to the retina. Our bodies cannot make Lutein and Zeaxanthin so we must obtain them through foods and supplements. They help filter harmful high-energy blue wavelengths of light and act as antioxidants in the eye, helping protect and maintain healthy cells. Recommended intake: 10 mg Lutein and 2 mg Zeaxanthin. Best sources:
1 cup raw Kale 22 mg per serving of Lutein and zeaxanthin, Beta carotene, vitamin C, E, Zinc and fiber
½ cup cooked kale 16 mg
½ cup Collard greens 8.6 mg
½ cup spinach 7.5 mg
1 cup raw spinach 6.7 mg
Goal is to Eat leafy greens every day, a combination of cooked and raw. Orange bell peppers are a great source of zeaxanthin. Eggs are full of lutein and Vitamin E and some are enriched with omega 3.
Beta carotene another carotenoid with a red-orange pigment found in plants and fruits. It is converted to Vitamin A by the body. Sources include carrots, pumpkins and sweet potatoes. Beta Carotene should not take it in supplement form if smoking as it can increase the risk of lung cancer. You can eat carrots but Don’t Forget the Rest!
At Eyedeology, our eye doctors believe eating a balanced diet will help you see well. A good rule of thumb I use in practice is reminding both parents and children to eat both fruits and vegetables from each color of the rainbow every day and especially the Greens! Greens are a GO for eye health. It is never too early to get started and be preventative.
Dr. Farrah Sunderji, OD