I often get asked what foods can be eaten to better eye and vision health … and while I can’t offer a magical diet to reverse the need for eyeglasses or contact lenses I can offer some insights on maintaining and improving the health of our precious eyes.
Just like the advice for overall body health, a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables is a great place to start. Decreasing processed foods, especially white bread, white rice, and white flour, and replacing with nutrient dense whole food options will not only help our eye health but our heart and brain health as well.
Two important antioxidants necessary for our optimal visual functioning are lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin belong to the carotenoid family of plant pigments, and of the 600 carotenoids that occur in nature, only these two are found in high quantities in the specialized central area of the retina called the macula. (The macula gives us the ability to see “20/20” and provides our central vision as well as best color vision.) Both lutein and zeaxanthin protect the macula from the damaging oxidative effects of light. Additionally, these pigments work together to filter out harmful high-energy blue light (think smartphones, ipads, laptops, flat screen computer monitors).
Adults now spend close to 6 hours a day staring at a digital device, so our modern lifestyles warrant concern. The higher amount of blue light emitted by these screens penetrates deep into the eye and the cumulative exposure can damage the retina. High energy blue light is also implicated in the worsening of Age-Related Macular Degeneration.
Unfortunately, the human body does not naturally make the lutein and zeaxanthin it needs and therefore we must make an effort to include rich green vegetables and other sources of these important carotenoids into our diet. I’ve included a chart below showing foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin. How do you measure up?
Most recent studies show health benefits in taking 10mg/day of a lutein supplement and 2mg/day of a zeaxanthin supplement. Consider adding a supplement for optimal therapy and eye protection. And bonus, not only will you protecting those precious peepers, but your brain and skin as well!