While we all know eating carrots won’t magically give us 20-20 vision, can what we eat affect our eyesight?
It turns out, eye health is crucially linked to diet — consuming certain essential nutrients can stave off eye disease and age-related degeneration. Fox News spoke to Dr. Andrea Thau, president of the American Optometric Association, and Lauren Blake, a dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, to get their tips on the best foods to eat for optimum eye health:
1. Leafy greens
The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin — found in eggs and leafy greens like spinach and kale — are essential for eye health, Thau and Blake said. “Studies have shown that lutein and zeaxanthin reduce the risk of chronic eye disease, including age-related macular degeneration,” Thau explained. (Age-related macular degeneration is a common cause of vision loss in people over 50.)
Essential omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish like salmon and tuna, can help reduce inflammation, enhance production of tears, and support the outer layer of the eye, Thau said.
3. Sweet potatoes
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect our eyes from free radicals, which break down healthy tissues, Thau said. She noted that sweet potatoes and fortified cereals are both great sources of vitamin E.
Zinc is a trace mineral and “helper molecule” that plays an essential role in bringing Vitamin A from the liver to the retina, Thau said. Good sources of zinc include chicken, chickpeas and pumpkin seeds.
5. Bell peppers
Vitamin C, found in foods like bell peppers, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, can help protect against UV light damage to our eyes, Blake said. It can also lower the risk of developing cataracts and even, in combination with other nutrients, slow down the rate of age-related macular degeneration, Thau said.
Vitamin E is another essential nutrient that can help prevent cataracts and age-related degeneration, Blake said, noting that good sources include wheat germ, peanut butter and almonds.
7. Vitamin and mineral supplements
An overall healthy diet is the best aid for eye health, Blake said. But what happens if you struggle to get the nutrients you need through diet alone? In that case, discuss your concerns with your doctor during your annual eye examination: Thau noted that your physician can work with you to determine whether you need certain supplements to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need.