Protect Eyesight as You Age: Eat a Healthy Diet Every Day
Eye health statistics can be scary. Over 25 million people get macular degeneration or cataracts due to aging. For people over 55, macular degeneration is the main cause of blindness. By age 75, half of white Americans have a cataract. Finally, because women live longer, 61% of glaucoma cases in the U.S. are older women. But, you don’t have to sit back and wait for your eyes to fail.
As people age, their visual acuity decreases. You can protect eyesight as you age, because many eye diseases are preventable with the right diet. So, the next time you’re in the grocery store, look for foods that are good for your eyes. Read below for the foods that contain the best vitamins and minerals for your eyes!
The Science Behind Eyesight Protection and Good Nutrition
Everyone knows the “myth” that eating carrots is good for your eyes, right? So, this isn’t just an old wives’ tale. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study found many nutrients that are good for the eyes.
This series of studies looked at nutrition and cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
- A cataract is a cloudy eye lens. Because of the cloudiness, a person with cataracts does not see well. Furthermore, cataracts get worse as time goes on.
- Macular degeneration causes cells in the retina to deteriorate. Without these cells, the eyes cannot focus, see little details, or send visual information to the brain.
The study had participants take supplements for five years. These were supplements thought to be good for the eyes. The most noteworthy results were that
- The risk of macular degeneration decreased by 25%.
- Those who had moderate macular degeneration saw their condition slow down.
- Lutein and zeaxanthin reduced cataracts by 32%.
Keep in mind that not all supplements help everyone in the same way. But eating foods rich in vitamins, minerals, fats, and antioxidants may slow down the effects of aging on the eyes. From the results of the Age-Related Eye Disease Study, we can be confident that the following supplements are helpful.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Both Lutein and Zeaxanthin are carotenoids, which are plant pigments. These same pigments show up in the retina. By eating foods high in carotenoids, you can increase the pigments found in the eye. Why are these pigments important? Because they help to absorb light waves that damage your eyes. Therefore, eating lutein is like wearing a great pair of sunglasses!
Foods high in lutein include leafy green vegetables, yellow vegetables, and egg yolks.
Zinc is a mineral found in the eyes. It is an antioxidant which means it protects cells from damage. The study found that zinc limited the amount of copper your body absorbs. Thus, when eating foods high in zinc, consider taking a copper supplement. Furthermore, zinc helps vitamin A move from the liver to the eyes. It is important to eat foods high in both zinc and vitamin A to get the most benefit.
Foods high in zinc include meat, fish, dried beans, seeds, nuts, whole grains, eggs, and dark chocolate.
Also known as B1, thiamine reduces swelling, especially in the eyes. Some studies also suggest that B1 can lessen your chances of getting cataracts.
Foods high in Vitamin B1 include nuts, fish, pork, green peas, squash, beans, seeds, and cooked asparagus.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
This is a good fat that most people don’t eat enough of. Your eyes need omega-3 to function optimally. Certain cells in the retina have high concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acids. The purpose of these fatty acids is to decrease inflammation. They also heal cells damaged by exposure to light and aging, and develop cells in the retina.
Studies show that eating two types of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, reduces the risks of age-related macular degeneration. Those who don’t eat enough omega-3s have a greater chance of getting dry eye and retinopathy.
The best source of omega-3 fatty acids is fish. You can also get it from eating flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and soybeans.
Eating vitamin C may reduce the chance of getting cataracts. Vitamin C added to vitamin E slows down cataract progression. Thus, eating foods high in vitamin C is a good idea for eye health.
Foods with high levels of vitamin C include citrus fruits, red peppers, kiwi, strawberries, papaya, broccoli, kale, and brussel sprouts.
Vitamin E stops healthy tissues in the eye from deteriorating. Getting enough vitamin E is easy. Try eating sunflower seeds, nuts, avocados, spinach, squash, kiwi, broccoli, shrimp, and trout.
Vitamin A helps the eye in many ways. First, it is used to interpret light waves, so the brain knows what the eyes see. Second, vitamin A shows up in the corneal structure. Without vitamin A, blindness occurs.
The best way to get vitamin A is through fruits and vegetables that have beta-carotene. Beta-carotene gives fruits vegetables a yellow or orange color. These foods include carrots, dried apricots, egg yolks, sweet potato, pumpkin, and winter squash.
More Than Diet
Of course, you need to do more than eat healthy to have healthy eyes. Here are a few things to consider as you grow older:
- Use a humidifier to keep the air moist in your home. This will help with dry eyes.
- Drink enough water every day. Most adults should drink about eight glasses of water each day.
- Use artificial tears to keep your eyes moist. Be sure to speak with your eye care professional about the correct use of drops.
- Avoid areas high in dirt and dust. This keeps debris from getting into your eyes and causing irritation.
- See your eye care professional yearly after the age of 60. They can help you keep your eyes healthy and stall glaucoma.
- Know your family history of eye diseases. Pass this information on to your eye doctor.
- Stop smoking to decrease your risk of cataracts, optic nerve damage, and macular degeneration.
- Protect your eyes from harmful UV rays with sunglasses.
Although eyes age as your body ages, it’s good to know you can prevent and improve many age-related eye diseases. Protect your eyesight by eating a healthy diet. Foods rich in the right vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants will protect your eyes and help them stay healthy.