Eat Right for Your Eyes

Eye CareYour Mom always told you to eat your carrots because they’re good for your eyes. But does pretending you’re Bugs Bunny really help your eyes?

Unlike foods that can instantly give you more energy (think pasta before a marathon) or help build muscle tone and the like, foods that benefit your eyes serve a protective function, keeping them healthier and helping them ward off vision problems.

Carrots are full of beta-carotene, a type of vitamin A that helps the retina and other parts of the eye to function. Beta-carotene gives fruits and vegetables their orange hue, so you’ll find it in carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, apricots, and cantaloupe.

Your Mom didn’t tell you about lutein and zeaxanthin, but she would have had she known about these two antioxidants. Lutein and zeaxanthin help the eyes to ward off cataracts and macular degeneration. Leafy green vegetables (cooked kale and spinach are the highest sources) and other green and yellow vegetables are good sources of these antioxidants. Eggs also have lutein and zeaxanthin, along with zinc. The macula has high levels of zinc.

Citrus and berries and full of health benefits. These fruits are great sources of vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid). Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps the body form and keep its connective tissue, including collagen found in the cornea of the eye. It also reduces the risk for the formation of cataracts and macular degeneration. You’ll find vitamin C in berries, sweet red peppers, broccoli, and oranges.

And despite being serious water pigs in California, almonds are loaded with vitamin E, another ally in the fight against macular degeneration and cataracts. Vitamin E appears to neutralize oxidation in the eyes. Cataracts, for example, are formed by oxidation in the lens of the eye caused by the UV rays in sunlight. Almonds, sunflower seeds, cereal with wheat germ, hazelnuts, peanuts, and peanut butter are all good sources of vitamin E.

Finally, get a little fishy when warding off macular degeneration. Oily fish like tuna, mackerel, salmon, and trout are rich in omega-3 fatty acid. A diet heavy in omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to reduce age-related macular degeneration by 38 percent.

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