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Vitamin A can be found in green leafy vegetables, orange vegetables, eggs, and cantaloupe. This vitamin plays an important role in corneal lubrication and ocular moisture, and it has been studied in relation to Dry Eye Disease. Foods rich in Vitamin A include eggs, carrots and spinach.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that aids the formation of collagen in the cornea, helps to maintain the integrity of blood vessels in the retina,7 and may play a role in cataract prevention. Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, broccoli, brussels sprouts, bell peppers, and berries. The recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin C is 75 to 90 mg.
The primary function of vitamin E in the eye is to keep cells healthy. This antioxidant may fight off infection, decrease the risk of Age-related Macular Degeneration, and guard against night vision problems. Specifically, vitamin E enhances lutein’s ability to protect retinal pigment epithelial cells in the retina. Good sources of vitamin E include nuts, seeds, and dark leafy vegetables.
The retina contains a higher concentration of zinc than any other body organ. This mineral can be found in beef, poultry, pork, beans, cereals, and nuts. Zinc is thought to maintain retinal health by protecting against the damaging effects of light. Oysters are the best source of zinc. The RDI of zinc is 11 mg for men and 8 mg women.
Both nutrients are found naturally in the retina—the light sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye. Therefore, boosting your diet with lutein and zeaxanthin is a win for your eye health. You can find lutein and zeaxanthin in leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach, and swiss chard. Broccoli, asparagus, and colorful fruits like raspberries, papaya, peaches, and mangoes are also chock-full of eye-healthy carotenoids.
Essential fatty acid including the omega-3s docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA)—help to prevent AMD, owing to their neuroprotective effects. Sources of these nutrients include cold-water fish such as salmon, trout, tuna, and sardines. Essential fatty acids may reduce inflammation in the eye, and some studies have suggested an association between this form of nutritional supplementation and improvement of dry eye symptoms.
Put simply, antioxidants are foods that keep us healthy by delaying or slowing down oxidation, which causes aging or cell death. Oxidation can lead to cataracts by causing changes to fats and proteins in the eye’s lens, making the lens cloudy.
The Mediterranean diet is named after the eating habits of those living near the Mediterranean Sea. Studies show the plant- and seafood-based diet may reduce your risk of heart disease and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
The Mediterranean diet includes:
People who have or at risk for diabetes or age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can benefit by following a low-glycemic index (low-GI) diet.
With diabetes, blood sugar levels can get too high, which causes serious health problems and can lead to vision loss. Some foods cause rapid spikes in blood sugar (high-GI) and others raise blood sugar more moderately (low-GI). You can avoid quick blood sugar spikes with low-GI food swaps.
The low-glycemic index diet includes:
Dry eye is when the eyes do not produce enough tears to keep them lubricated and comfortable. Artificial tears and medication are very helpful but adding omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to your diet may also provide relief.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in oily fish (like salmon, trout and sardines). Nuts and oils like walnuts and sunflower oil are great natural sources of omega-6 fatty acids. Both are available as oral supplements (pills or tablets). Ask your doctor if omega-3 and omega-6 supplements are right for you.
Studies found that women who ate fish high in omega-3 fatty acids at least twice a week were less likely to get age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Fish is also good for your heart. The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults eat fish at least twice a week. Some fish contain high mercury levels and should be eaten sparingly or avoided completely during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about what fish and how much is healthy to eat if you are pregnant or become pregnant.
People with certain forms of AMD may be able to slow the progression of the disease to advanced form by taking the AREDS2 supplements. This formula—developed from the Age-Related Eye Diseases Study (AREDS)—includes:
The AREDS2 study also looked at whether adding omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, specifically DHA and EPA, to the above ingredients further lowers the risk of AMD progression and found no additional benefit. Moreover, the AREDS studies found no prevention or slowing down of cataract progression by these supplements.
Before stocking up on these supplements, be sure to talk with your primary care doctor to learn if they are recommended for you. Some people should not take large doses of antioxidants or zinc for medical reasons.
As you think about ways to improve your eye health, remember that vitamins and nutritional supplements are not a cure for eye disease, nor will they give you back vision that you may have already lost. But good nutrition at all ages is vital for your entire body and plays an important role in maintaining healthy eyes.
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