What Vitamins Are Good For Eye Health
How many times have you heard that you should eat more carrots if you want to improve your vision? Did you ever wonder why? And what other foods and vitamins are good for your eye health?
What are some of the common eye conditions?
Nearly two thirds of the US population has some form of vision loss. There are various eye conditions, but we listed these as the most common:
Refractive errors are a type of vision problem that makes it hard to see clearly. Nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism all fall in this category, and are the most common causes of vision loss. They occur when light is improperly bent (or “refracted”) while passing through the cornea, producing a flawed image.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
The leading cause of vision loss in adults over the age of 60, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) happens because of the thinning of the macula, a component of the retina. Central vision is adversely impacted, reducing our ability to make out fine details.
Cataracts can develop in either one eye or both. As a cataract develops, vision gradually gets worse. The symptoms are usually cloudy or blurred vision, double vision, lens discoloration, light sensitivity, glares, and other impairments. If untreated, cataracts eventually lead to total blindness.
Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that occurs when high blood sugar levels damage blood vessels in the retina, making people with diabetes susceptible to it. This allows fluid to leak within the eye. Swelling and scar tissue can cause the retina to detach, and may even result in irreversible vision loss.
Glaucoma usually results from elevated eye pressure, which damages the optic nerve. That damage prevents proper transfer of visual information from the eye to the brain.
Can eye vitamins improve vision?
There are plenty of claims that certain vitamins and other nutrients may help improve your eye health or prevent eye-related issues. The truth is, there isn’t that much research being done to back those claims up, however we gathered a list of vitamins that could help you if you’re looking to protect your eyes and eyesight as well as some answers to the most commonly-asked questions.
Zinc is an essential vitamin for your overall health, including eyesight. It helps create melanin - and apart from determining your eye color (eyes with more melanin are darker), it protects your eyes and lowers their sensitivity to light.
There is some evidence that zinc supplements, used in combination with antioxidant vitamins (beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E), can slow the progression of AMD, or age-related macular degeneration. As mentioned above, this is an eye disease that can blur your central vision, and it’s a change in eyesight that comes with age, when aging causes damage to the part of the eye in charge of the sharpness of our vision.
Speaking of vitamins that help eyesight, b12 is one of the nutrients that, when deficient, can cause disturbed or blurred vision. This happens in cases in which the deficiency causes damage to the optic nerve leading to your eyes. The nervous signal traveling from the eye to your brain is disturbed due to this damage, so you end up with impaired vision. This condition is called optic neuropathy and research and praxis has shown that treatments involving B12 supplements may reverse the impairment.
When we think of Magnesium, we don’t see it as a vitamin for eyes. But because Magnesium has a muscle-relaxing effect, increasing your magnesium intake may be beneficial in preventing or minimizing eye twitching.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant and its role in the body appears to be to neutralize oxidation. That is why researchers think it plays a crucial role in protecting certain parts of the eye that are susceptible to oxidative damage.
The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) found that vitamin E, along with other nutrients, helped some people who had age-related macular degeneration. Evidence from other studies suggests that alpha-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E, along with lutein and zeaxanthin, may decrease the risk of cataracts.
Vitamin C is probably one of the most famous vitamins when it comes to our immune system. And maybe you didn’t know this, but if you’re looking for vitamins for eye floaters - vitamin C might just be the perfect solution for you!
Can food help your eyesight?
Food is a really good source of vitamins. Having diverse food choices is always the best way to be healthy and feel strong. However, we know it’s not always possible to achieve that through nutrition only. So, if you’re wondering what foods are good for your eyesight, we’ve got you covered.
Many fish are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3’s are nutrients you get from food (or supplements) that help build and maintain a healthy body. Studies based on food frequency questionnaires suggest that omega-3 fatty acids could have a protective role in reducing the progression of retinal conditions.
Fish oil is a good source of omega-3. Oily fish, therefore, offer higher levels of omega-3-rich fish oil. The fish that contains the most beneficial levels of omega-3s include:
Some studies have found that fish oil can help with dry eyes, including dry eyes caused by spending a lot of time in front of the computer screen.
Seeds & Nuts
Another group of foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids are nuts and seeds. They also contain high levels of vitamin E, which can protect the eye from age-related eye issues.
Nuts, legumes, and seeds that are good for eye health include:
- Brazil nuts
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Hemp seeds
Leafy greens veggies
Another food group rich in vitamin C and a great choice for a healthy, diverse diet are leafy green veggies.
Leafy greens vegetables that include vitamin C:
We mentioned previously that taking enough vitamin C may help with not only your overall health, but also with eye floaters. And fruits most known for having vitamin C are definitely citrus fruits!
Some of the vitamin c-rich fruits are:
Beef is the form of meat that contains the most zinc. As mentioned before, zinc is excellent for your overall health, has a role in creating melanin, and may help delay age-related sight issues and macular degeneration. Retina, a part of the eye, contains high levels of zinc. It is a mineral that helps maintain the health and the protein structure of the eye itself.
Apart from beef, there are other meats that also contain zinc (but in lower amounts):
….and finally: carrots
Have you ever wondered...why carrots? And when did it all start?
Carrots are rich in an antioxidant called beta-carotene, which is later converted into vitamin A. Deficiencies in vitamin A may be some of the leading causes of blindness. Not only that, but it may even lead to the development of eye conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and xerophthalmia - amongst others.
They’re also rich in lutein, another antioxidant. Foods and/or supplements with lutein may increase density of the pigment, protecting the retina further against diseases such as macular degeneration.
When carrots became the staple of good vision
Even though eating carrots will surely do your vision good thanks to its vitamin A content, the popularity of eating carrots to improve your vision happened during the Second World War.
In fact, carrots played a big role during WWII on two fronts: in the kitchen and in the air.
Since plenty of food groups were lacking or rationed in small portions because of food supply shortages, Britain started a campaign called, “The Kitchen Front”. The idea behind it was to encourage housewives to cook economically and not waste food. As there was less sugar available, but enough carrots, plenty of sweet carrot recipes started popping up on the posters around the UK. Soon enough, people were making carrot jams, carrot cakes, and started using carrots as a form of sweetener.
But one of the most interesting stories regarding carrots and the war is the story of a British RAF night fighter ace named John Cunningham. He managed to shoot down 20 enemy planes, 19 of which happened at night. The UK Government's Food Ministry were so impressed that they decided to use that for their own propaganda and the abundance of carrots in the UK. Soon enough, people could read posters telling them, “John Cunningham’s secret is eating a lot of carrots”, “Eat carrots since it’s essential for night vision”, “Carrots keep you healthy and help you see in the blackout”, “Why carrots aid in night vision”, etc.
Even though carrots don’t really help our night vision, the UK Government's Food Ministry’s propaganda worked like a charm - not only on its people, but on the enemies and allies too (as well as our parents)!
We hope we gave you an idea of what vitamins are good for eye health. Our eyesight may worsen with age but with good care and diverse nutrition, we can try and postpone or slow down the process.
Diverse nutrition and an overall healthy lifestyle will improve your life and, with that, your eyes as well.
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