Our bodies need a specific blend of vitamins and nutrients to function optimally and last well into our elderly years. Most of those critical vitamins come from our diets. Did you know that over two billion people worldwide suffer from micro-nutrient deficiencies? And, some of the organs most affected by deficiencies are the eyes.
How’s your vitamin intake? Try logging your food intake for one week. Upon reflection, you’ll likely see that you don’t eat enough of a certain food group. For many, that’s green vegetables and/or healthy fats. These, among many others, contain crucial vitamins for the eyes to function and stay disease-free. If you can’t get certain vitamins from your diet because of allergies, restrictions or preference, consider taking a supplement. Eye vitamins are perfect for getting the nutrients you’re missing in a convenient way, so we’ve come up with a list of the key eye vitamins you need and where you can get them.
The structure of the eyes is made up of a protein called collagen, which ensures the eye, especially the cornea, maintains its shape and strength. Vitamin C is an integral part of the body’s collagen-making process. Without it, your eyes are susceptible to damage from free radicals (also known as oxidation) which slows down the healing process of cells in the eye. You run the risk of developing various eye diseases, like cataracts. Vitamin C has also been known to slow down the progression of onset age-related-macular-degeneration (AMD).
Orange juice isn’t the only source of vitamin C. You can get vitamin C from dark greens, other tropical fruits and bell peppers.
Vitamin A is a crucial nutrient for the eyes to be able to see in low lighting conditions. Some countries have widespread vitamin A deficiencies, which have proven to cause night blindness and softened corneas. Poor dietary choices lead to vitamin A deficiencies. By not getting enough of this important nutrient, you increase your chances of developing cataracts and AMD. Many supplements will name beta-carotene in the ingredients, so look for that because beta-carotene gets converted by the body into Vitamin A.
You can get vitamin A naturally from sweet potatoes, pumpkins and dark leafy greens. Supplements are an excellent option for those who can’t get enough vitamin A from their diets.
The family of B vitamins are extremely important for the eyes. Some of the most commonly discussed are riboflavin, B6, B9, B12 and niacin. Each one has a specific purpose in the eyes. Niacin, for example, protects the optic nerve from damage and from developing glaucoma. Riboflavin is necessary for the body to protect its source of glutathione which prevents cataracts. B6, B9 and B12 are effective at reducing inflammation in the body, especially the eyes, by limiting a protein called homocysteine. Homocysteine has been related to heart disease, glaucoma and AMD. You can reduce your risk of developing AMD by getting a well-rounded intake of B vitamins daily.
You can get B vitamins in part from a wide array of foods, like meats and legumes, as well as eggs and citrus fruits.
Have you ever had to stop what you’re doing because your eyes feel irritated? Lack of Vitamin D can cause your eyes to feel dry, scratchy and fatigued. They may appear bloodshot and inflamed. Those with wet AMD are commonly deficient in Vitamin D. Inflammation in the eye is the culprit of many diseases and discomforts, so by increasing your vitamin D intake, you can live comfortably and less disease-prone.
You can get vitamin D from fatty fish, cheese and egg yolks. Unlike our skin, the eyes don’t absorb vitamin D from the sun’s rays, so a supplement ensures you get the right amount of vitamin D each day.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps the body fight free radicals, which can cause damage to cells. We’ve all heard about Vitamin E as a natural healing source for many ailments, but its benefits to the eyes often get overlooked. The thing is, many people don’t know vitamin E deficiencies can lead to impaired vision. It is an incredible source to naturally reduce cataracts and just generally improve your vision, as it protects the cells in the retina from the damage free radicals can cause.
You can find vitamin E naturally in wheat germ, fish, avocado, nuts and seeds. By changing up your diet just a little and adding in these vitamin E-filled foods, you can help keep your vision sharp much longer.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 are invaluable and irreplaceable to the eyes. Every cell in your body depends on getting enough fatty acids to function, heal and grow. In the eyes, Omega-3s ensure the intraocular fluid is able to drain, thus decreasing the risk of glaucoma. They can significantly decrease your risk of developing AMD as well. Omega-3s prevent and treat dry eye syndrome as well as inflammation in the eyes. These are crucial eye vitamins for maintaining the cellular function in the eyes and preventing disease.
Although omega-6s are important, you should be getting significantly more omega-3s than 6s. This means reducing your red meat and processed food intake. Also, increase the amount of tuna, flaxseed and walnuts you eat.
This post originally appeared on Rebuild Your Vision.