Age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts commonly cause impaired vision and blindness in older adults.
But lifestyle changes, including good nutrition, could help delay or prevent certain eye problems.
Besides adopting a healthy diet, you can help protect your eyes by avoiding prolonged exposure to UV rays and high-energy blue light, quitting smoking and getting eye exams.
During a dilated eye exam, your eye doctor can carefully examine the health of your eyes and check for eye problems such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Detecting these conditions early may help prevent permanent vision loss.
Diet, antioxidants and healthy eyes
Diet is an extremely important part of the daily lifestyle choices you make. Foods you eat and the dietary supplements you take affect your overall health as well as the health of your eyes.
A diet high in saturated fat and sugar may increase your risk of eye disease. On the other hand, healthy foods such as greens and fruits may help prevent certain eye diseases and other health problems.
Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and eye conditions including cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) have been shown to occur less frequently in people who eat diets rich in vitamins, minerals, healthy proteins, omega 3 fatty acids and lutein.
All healthy diets should include ample amounts of fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables. In fact, experts recommend that you consume at least five to nine servings of these foods daily.
Choose dark green or brightly colored fruits and vegetables to obtain the most antioxidants, which protect your eyes by reducing damage related to oxidizing agents (free radicals) that can cause age-related eye diseases.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are plant pigments called carotenoids that have been shown to protect the retina from oxidative changes caused by ultraviolet light.
Spinach and kale are excellent food sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are also found in sweet corn, peas and broccoli.
Vitamin A, vital for healthy vision, is found in orange and yellow vegetables such as carrots and squash.
Fruits and vegetables also provide essential Vitamin C, another powerful antioxidant.
Other diet tips for healthy eyes
Try following these diet guidelines to improve your chance of healthy vision for a lifetime:
Eat whole grains and cereals. Sugars and refined white flours commonly found in breads and cereal may increase your risk of age-related eye diseases. Instead, choose 100 percent whole-grain breads and cereals that have lots of fiber, which slows down the digestion and absorption of sugars and starches. Fiber also keeps you feeling full, which makes it easier to limit the amount of calories you consume.
Eat healthy fats. The omega-3 essential fatty acids found in fish, flaxseed oil, walnuts and canola oil help to prevent dry eyes and possibly cataracts. Eat fish or seafood twice weekly, or take flax oil every day. Use canola oil for cooking and walnuts for snacking.
Choose good sources of protein. Remember that the fat content of meats and the cooking method used to prepare them contribute to making them healthy or unhealthy. Also, limit your consumption of saturated fats from red meats and dairy products that may increase your risk of macular degeneration. Choose lean meats, fish, nuts, legumes and eggs for your proteins. Most meats and seafood also are excellent sources of zinc. Eggs are a good source of lutein.
Avoid sodium. High sodium intake may add to your risk of cataract formation. Use less salt, and look for sodium content on the labels of canned and packaged foods. Stay below 2,000 mg of sodium each day. Choose fresh and frozen foods whenever possible.
Stay hydrated. Round out a healthy diet with low-fat dairy products such as skim or 1 percent milk for calcium, and healthy beverages such as 100 percent vegetable juices, fruit juices, non-caffeinated herbal teas and water. Proper hydration also may reduce irritation from dry eyes.
This post originally appeared on All About Vision.