The Importance of Nutrition in Maintaining Healthy Eyes as you Age

There are many factors that can contribute to the deterioration of one’s eyes, some of which can be controlled, such as exposure to sunlight, and others which cannot, such as aging. Aging is inevitable, and as you age your eyesight is likely to decline, but there are ways to combat this.

One primary method that can be used throughout your life to ensure that your eyesight is maintained well into your golden years is through proper diet and nutrition. Certain foods contain vitamins and minerals that have been proven to help prevent common age-related eye conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration.

While the relevant vitamins and minerals can easily be incorporated into a healthy diet to improve eye health, they can also be added to ones diet through supplements. Throughout this article, we’ll explore some commonly found foods and their relevant nutrients that can help to protect your vision as you grow older.
 

Which Nutrients Affect Eye Health?

While it’s a good idea to consume nutritious foods for a variety of reasons, if your focus is on improving eye health there are certain vitamins and minerals that are especially important. Below is a list of the most important minerals available when comes to maintaining your vision as you age:

  • Dietary Antioxidants (Vitamins A, C, E and Selenium): In some studies, the consumption of foods rich in antioxidants were shown to aid in the prevention of macular degeneration, a condition which can greatly affect one’s eyesight. This is believed to be because the macula of the eye is an area of high oxidative stress, meaning that there are elevated levels of free radicals. Over time this can lead to the degeneration of the macula, which is why it is so vital to regularly consume these important vitamins.
  • Zinc: This mineral, commonly found in many natural food sources, is needed for good retina health. Much like antioxidants, zinc is also great when it comes to the prevention of macular degeneration.
  • Lutein and Zeaxanthin: These two compounds help to protect the eyes in a similar fashion as do antioxidants. This is because both lutein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids, have been shown to exhibit some antioxidant-like properties within the eye. They can improve your eye’s pigment, as well as increase the density of your macula. Higher pigment levels help to protect the eye through the absorption of excess blue and ultraviolet light.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: The omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, is the material of which your retina is primarily composed. High levels of DHA are also present within the human brain, skin and cerebral cortex. This, combined with DHA’s anti-inflammatory properties makes it an essential addition to the diets of anyone that’s concerned about eye health.
     

What Foods Are Best For Finding These Nutrients?

There are a ton of foods that are rich in all of these important nutrients. Some foods will be good sources of one or two of these vitamins and minerals, while others may contain nearly all of them. If you desire to maintain healthy eyes well into old age, it is ideal that you consume one or more of the following foods on a daily basis:

  • Leafy Greens: The addition of leafy greens such as spinach, kale and romaine lettuce to your diet is a great idea for a variety of reasons, one of which is their high lutein and zeaxanthin contents. Use these in a nutritious smoothie, or a tasty salad as often as possible for good eye health.
  • Turkey: One serving of turkey will contain enough zinc to meet your daily requirements.
  • Broccoli: Broccoli is one of the best foods that you can eat when it comes to maintaining healthy eyes. This commonly used vegetable is not only high in lutein and zeaxanthin but also contains vitamins C and E.
  • Brussel Sprouts: High levels of lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamin C make Brussel sprouts and excellent food to add to your shopping list.
  • Flaxseed, Flaxseed Oil and Walnuts: These are all good sources of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, and can easily be incorporated into ones diet.
  • Salmon, Tuna and Sardines: These, as well as most other fatty fish,  are all good sources of DHA and EPA as well. Although if you’re vegan or vegetarian and then flaxseed is a perfectly viable alternative.
  • Ricotta Cheese: Not only is this common lasagna ingredient absolutely delicious, but it’s also a great place to get some vitamin A.
  • Crab and Oysters: It only takes two oysters to get more than enough of your daily requirements of zinc. A small serving of crab will also provide you with an ample amount of this vital mineral.
  • Eggs: The yolk of an egg contains the nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin. Eggs are also a great source of zinc.
  • Most Yellow and Orange Fruits and Vegetables:  Most vegetables and fruits of these colors, such as papayas, squash, nectarines, corn and oranges are high in lutein and zeaxanthin. Many of these foods contain other vitamins and minerals that are essential for eye health as well, such as vitamin C and E.
  • Carrots: Rich in vitamin A, carrots are well known for being good for one’s eyes.
  • Citrus Fruits:  Most citrus fruits are a great source for vitamin C.
  • Spinach: Not only is this amazing leaf rich in high lutein and zeaxanthin, but it also contains high levels of vitamin A and E.
  • Almonds and Peanut Butter: These natural and delicious snacks are excellent sources of both healthy fats and vitamin E. Peanuts are also a great source of zinc.
  • Red Peppers: These are an excellent place to find both vitamin A and E. Combine them with a raw kale and spinach salad for the perfect snack for healthy eyes!
  • Strawberries: This is another excellent source of the antioxidant vitamin C.
  • Sunflower Seeds and Wheat Germ: Both of these foods are rich in vitamin E, a vitamin which is lacking in many peoples diets.

While this list is by no means comprehensive, as a little bit of research will result in hundreds of foods that are rich in each of these nutrients, it is still a great place to start.

Leading eye doctors advise that the average person consumes two meals of high-omega 3 fatty fish per week, as well as having five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. If this diet is maintained, it is not only great for your eyes, but for your heart as well!
 

Using Supplements to Get Your Nutrients

Even with a perfect diet containing all necessary vitamins and minerals, there is still more that can be done to protect one’s eye health. Through the addition of specially formulated vitamins and supplements made specifically to support eye health, prevent cataracts and slow macular degeneration, you can even further improve the health of your eyes. There are a variety of such supplements on the market, and they can easily be found in most health food stores. One of the primary vitamins formulations made to slow or even reverse macular degeneration is known as AREDS formulation.

AREDS, which stands for Age-Related Eye Disease Study, is a combination of vitamins which are specifically formulated to prevent many of the vision problems that are associated with aging, especially macular degeneration. While the AREDS formula has changed over the years, the most current one consists of 25mg of zinc, 500mg of vitamin C, 400mg of vitamin E, 2 mg of copper, 10mg of lutein, 2mg of zeaxanthin, 1000mg of omega-3 fatty acids (350mg DHA and 650mg EPA). The AREDS formulation is most certainly not the only supplement that contains these ingredients, but its ingredients and the amount of each were specifically designed to maximize the health of your eyes as you age.

So while it’s not entirely necessary to add supplements to your diet in order to get all necessary vitamins and minerals, they most certainly can be helpful. They’re an excellent way to make certain that you’ve consumed the proper dose of the required vitamins and minerals each and every day. If you decide not to go with the AREDS formulation, there are a variety of other vitamin combinations made specifically for eye health. As is the case when starting any new vitamin or supplement, it’s probably a good idea to consult with your doctor first and see what he suggests.
 

Conclusion

Maintaining good nutrition affects every aspect of one’s life, so it comes as no surprise that it is also important when it comes to preserving the health of one’s eyes. While overall health demands that you consume a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, for good eye health you only need to focus on a few.

Fortunately, for those that are suffering from deteriorating eyesight, or those who are just trying to prevent the development of certain eye conditions as they age, there are many foods and supplements that contain these important nutrients. By maintaining a diet rich in all these essential vitamins and minerals, you may not only prevent deteriorating vision, but you may also improve your overall health.