As a kid, your mom may have told you to eat your veggies because they’re good for you. As it turns out, the vitamins they contain can help prevent eye problems that lead to loss of vision, like age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. An article about nutrition and eye health published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) online states that recent research has shown strong correlations between good nutrition and the prevention of eye disease.
Carotenoids are pigments found in green leafy vegetables that act as antioxidants in the eye. There are 600 carotenoids that exist in nature, but only two are found in high quantities in the retina of the human eye: lutein and zeaxanthin. These pigments filter harmful ultraviolet light, minimizing the retina’s exposure to these damaging wavelengths. Antioxidants also neutralize free radicals that would otherwise add to the wear and tear of the eyes, causing the normally clear lenses to become opaque, forming cataracts. Lutein and zeaxanthin can also help the body fight against the onset of AMD, another condition that adversely affects vision. The human body cannot make its own lutein and zeaxanthin, but these antioxidants can absorbed from the food we eat. Leafy green vegetables such as: kale, mustard greens, collard greens, and spinach are very high in lutein and zeaxanthin. Non-vegetable sources include eggs and oranges, but contain the carotenoids in lower concentrations.
An article by the American Optometric Association states that studies show a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids in animals’ diets results in visual impairment and damage to the retina. Dietary deficiency of omega-3 has also been linked to eye diseases such as AMD. Luckily, it’s easy to supplement your diet with these essential nutrients, which are mainly found in fish. The species with the highest concentrations are: salmon, tuna, mackerel, anchovy, trout, and halibut. If you don’t eat meat, don’t despair! Vegetarian sources produced from microalgae are available.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant thought to protect eye cells from unstable molecules called “free radicals” which break down tissues. Because of its antioxidant properties, this nutrient also helps impair the development of AMD. Aside from supplements, vitamin E is available in nuts and vegetable oils. The highest concentrations available in food are found in: wheat germ, almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, peanuts, and sweet potatoes.
Eye safety is also essential to maintaining healthy vision. It may not be our first thought when doing our everyday activities, but it is important to be aware of our surroundings so we can prevent injury to our eyes whenever possible. According to Prevent Blindness America’s website, an estimated 2.4 million eye injuries occur in the United States every year. Nearly one million Americans have lost eyesight, to varying degrees, due to an eye injury. Luckily, you can maintain good eye health and vision by taking some simple precautions at home:
• Install safety gates at the top and the bottom of each set of stairs.
• Make sure that there are steady handrails for stairs and adequate lighting to prevent falls.
• Pad or cushion sharp corners on tables and other pieces of furniture as well as fixtures and decorations.
• Keep knives, forks, and other sharp utensils in drawers. Provide child-proof locks on these drawers and on cabinets if children are present.