We probably don’t have to tell you this, but what you eat matters to your health.
A diet that is balanced in the proper nutrients will often take you far, providing your body with a stockpile of tools to provide for all its needs. We’re not always best at variety and healthy choices, though, so this stockpile can look a little empty in places.
When it comes to our eyes, certain foods and nutrients can provide significant benefits and safeguards. So even if you aren’t the best overall eater, there are still plenty of foods you can try working into your diet for the sake of your sight (and they will certainly help you in other ways, too!).
You’ve likely heard a lot about how omega-3 fatty acids are good for your heart, but they’re good for your eyes, too!
Omega-3s are believed to help against dryness of the eyes, but may also help protect against cataracts and macular degeneration, too.
Cold-water fish are the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These include salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna Fresh bluefin tuna is more stocked with it than typical canned tuna, but you can still get a decent amount with the latter.
If fish are not your forte, walnuts, Brussel sprouts, and flaxseed are good sources. You might also consider a fish oil supplement.
You never want to get citrus in your eyes, but consuming it normally can be helpful in reducing the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration (just like omega-3s!). Vitamin C is the winner here.
Another big winner is blueberries. According to a study by Tufts University, the colorful little orbs might help reduce the risk of glaucoma, cataracts, and cancer. If you don’t like blueberries, other colorful berries can have some impact as well, and are excellent sources of both vitamins A and C.
What About the Carrots??
As soon as we said “vitamin A” we could practically hear some of you jumping out of your seats.
“There it is!” we imagine you shouting! “That’s the stuff in carrots!”
Carrots contain beta carotene, which is certainly used to make vitamin A. And vitamin A really is important for your eyes. It helps your eye take the light it receives and convert it into the signal that gets sent to and interpreted by your brain. And do you like your cornea (the clear outer layer over the front of your eye)? Well, you should—and without getting vitamin A, it can literally disappear.
While carrots and their beta carotene do have a positive effect on your eyes, eating a ton of them likely isn’t going to have a higher effect. Your body can only convert so much beta-carotene to vitamin A; it’s often more efficient to get that vitamin directly from other sources.
Aside from the berries we mentioned above, other great sources of vitamin A include green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli. You can also get healthy amounts from bell peppers, cantaloupes, apricots, butternut squash and pumpkins.
Having vitamin A is great, but not quite enough. Your body also needs zinc as a companion mineral in order to help transport the vitamin through your blood. If you have a zinc deficiency, it can lead to a decreased release of vitamin A through the body. That, in turn, can lead to night blindness.
Lean beef and turkey both contain zinc to get that vitamin A moving. They can both be helpful foods in moderation, and turkey also contains niacin, which may help prevent cataracts. But no, this is not an excuse to eat steak every night.
What if you’re vegetarian or vegan? Not to worry. Zinc is also plentiful in legumes such as chickpeas and beans, as well as pumpkin seeds, cashews, and whole grains like quinoa, oats, and rice.
Variety is the Spice of Sight
Just because one type of food might be promoted as “eye-healthy” doesn’t mean you should focus only on that, however.
You might have noticed that there’s a good variety of foods mentioned in this blog, and there are even more possibilities if you’re willing to Google which foods are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. You can probably find some killer recipes that combine many of these items, too!
What we’re trying to say is that, while upping some intake of nutrients is often good when you want to improve a certain aspect of your health, focusing entirely on it is not. You must still strike the right balance so your whole body can benefit. Otherwise, you’re not seeing the forest for the trees!
This post originally appeared on Sight Eye Clinic.