Diminishing eyesight might seem like an unavoidable annoyance as you get older, but with the right diet you can hold on to accurate vision for longer than you might think. For example, carrots and leafy green veggies are considered some of the best foods for your eyes because they provide antioxidants and eye vitamins, including vitamins C, E, A and zinc, along with carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin. These protect the eye’s macula, lens and cornea while also lowering free radical damage and inflammation, which destroy tissue in the eyes.
The Age-Related Eye Disease Study, a clinical trial that was sponsored by the National Eye Institute, found that a poor diet was a major risk factor for age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Obtaining plenty vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and zinc were all found to significantly lower people’s risk, making them great natural treatments for macular degeneration and cataracts.
It’s been estimated that up to half of adults suffer from some sort of cataracts by the time they’re 75 years old. Anti-inflammatory foods and those high in antioxidants have positive and preventative effects against eye-related disorders besides macular degeneration and cataracts too, including glaucoma, retinal nerve damage, loss of eye strength and partial vision loss. Diabetic retinopathy is another serious concern that can be managed with a healthy diet, and it’s currently considered the leading cause of blindness among working-age people.
Many eye vitamins effectively manage blood sugar levels and hormonal responses, plus absorb UV light and other rays within the spectrum that damage our eyes, such as blue light that’s omitted from technological devices like your phone, laptop or tablet. By lowering inflammation and the amount of blue light or UV light that’s able to enter the eyes, antioxidants help preserve healthy cells and prevent disorders, most of which currently there are no “cures” for.
So what are the best eye vitamins, and how, specifically, do they impact eye health? Let’s find out.
An antioxidant that’s been nicknamed “the eye vitamin,” lutein protects both the eyes and skin. This anti-inflammatory, carotenoid phytonutrient is found in foods like leafy green vegetables, egg yolks, citrus fruits and orange veggies. Once consumed, it’s transported around the body, especially to the parts of the eyes called the macula and the lens.
Researchers at Harvard University have found that supplementing with six milligrams daily of lutein can lower the risk for macular degeneration by an average of 43 percent, proving “the eye vitamin” lives up to its name.
There are more than 600 different types of carotenoids found in nature, but only about 20 make their way into the eyes. Lutein and zeaxanthin are the most important since they’re delivered in the highest quantities into the eyes’ delicate macula. Just like lutein, zeaxanthin helps protect the eye’s tissue, lens and macula, which clears vision and prevents glare, light sensitivity or disorders like cataracts.
3. Vitamin C
The antioxidant vitamin C does more than just fight colds — it also helps protect your vision by fighting free radicals and helping you absorb more trace minerals and nutrients in general. One long-term study also found that among 3,000 adults (ages 43 to 86), cataracts was 60 percent less common among people who reported using multivitamins with both vitamin E or vitamin C.
4. Vitamin E
Vitamin E, vitamin A and vitamin C work together to keep cells and tissue strong and protected from the effects of inflammation. These fat-soluble antioxidants decrease the risk of age-related macular degeneration, plus consuming plenty vitamin E and vitamin A together has been shown to improve healing and vision. Certain studies have found people have about a 25 percent lower risk of developing advanced stages of macular degeneration when consuming at least 400 international units of vitamin E daily, especially when taken with vitamin A (as beta-carotene), vitamin C and zinc.
Studies have found that zinc in combination with other vitamins helps protect the retina and lower risk for macular degeneration. Zinc is one of the most important nutrients for helping with nutrient absorption (it’s involved in over 100 metabolic processes) and allowing for proper waste elimination, which fights inflammation and cellular damage.
Zinc benefits tissues within the eyes because it plays a crucial role in proper cell division and cell growth, maintaining healthy circulation, balancing hormones that prevent autoimmune reactions, and controlling inflammatory cytokines that attack tissue. The human body does not synthesize the zinc it needs, so we need to obtain enough from sources like fish, grass-fed meat, organ meats and nuts.
6. Vitamin A (Beta Carotene)
According to a report by the Journal of the American Medical Association of Opthamaology, we need to obtain adequate vitamin A to prevent xerophthalmia and night blindness, particularly if we’re low in other key nutrients. Vitamin A is an antioxidant and has been shown to prevent loss of vision caused by degenerative conditions, such as cataract and macular degeneration. Studies also show that vitamin A with other antioxidants helps slow the progression of neuropathy (nerve damage) — including diabetic neuropathy — in the eyes caused by diabetes.
7. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have immense benefits for dozens of different health conditions, all because they’re anti-inflammatory and able to slow down the effects of aging. The people most likely to be omega-3-deficient include those who consume a large amount of processed foods, hydrogenated vegetable oils, and those on a vegan or vegetarian diet that doesn’t include fish.
They’re powerful at protecting tissue — so much so that they’re commonly given to people with chronic tissue damage like those with arthritis and heart disease. Omega-3s stabilize blood sugar levels, which lowers inflammatory responses, helps fight eye damage caused by diabetes, improves circulation and helps stop cells from mutating.
This post originally appeared on Dr. Axe.