Woman wearing glasses.

Super Nutrients for Eye Health

What if you woke up tomorrow and could not see? Would you be able to get around, make yourself something to eat, or even just get dressed? Probably not, and although blindness affects nearly 40 million people worldwide, those who have full use of our vision are very dependent on it. Because of that dependence, it is important that we take good care of our eyes. Yes, we all know not to look directly into the sun, avoid laser, and wear sunglasses. However, most people don't know how big of an effect our diet can have on our vision health. By including just a few, readily available nutrients each day, you can be sure to keep your vision in good standing, and your eyes looking great!

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a well-known antioxidant. It is frequently used for boosting the immune system and gum health. But did you know, vitamin C is good for your eyes as well? This powerful vitamin improves blood flow to the eye, by keeping blood vessels healthy. Studies have shown that consistent intake of vitamin C long term, will significantly reduce the rate of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Good sources of vitamin C include oranges and other citrus fruits, and dark leafy greens like spinach and kale.

Vitamin E

This fat-soluble vitamin helps to build strong cell walls in the body. Vitamin E does this with the help of the eight powerful compounds within it. The most powerful and well known of these eight compounds is alpha-tocopherol. Many eye doctors recommend the supplementation of vitamin E in the diet because it too can decrease the incidence of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Foods that contain vitamin E include almonds and other raw seeds, olives, papaya, and swiss chard.

Essential Fatty Acids

Essential fatty acids are one of the most beneficial nutrients for the body overall. They include the all-powerful omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, EPA and DHA compounds. When part of a well-balanced diet, they have been shown to improve every one of the body's functions as well as slow the aging process. So it is no surprise that these fatty acids do wonders for your eyes as well. Having omega-3 in the diet has been shown to play a huge role in vision development in children of all ages, as well as prevent dry eyes. EPA and DHA help prevent the onset and slow the processes of diabetic related eye issues and age-related macular degeneration.

Essential fatty acids can not be made by the body so it is extra important to get them in your diet. The good news is they are readily available in plenty of delicious foods such as fish, nuts and seeds, oils, and beans.

Vitamin A and Zinc

Vitamin A is the most popular eye health supplement. And although we have been told to eat carrots to promote good vision, what most people don't know is that there are two types of vitamin A, and without both kinds in the diet, you are missing out. The Vitamin A found in orange and red fruits and vegetables provides carotenoids and is where the well-known beta-carotene is from. However, the vitamin A found in animal products, such as dairy and meats, is called retinol. Together, both parts of this superfood help protect the cornea, keep eyes lubricated (preventing dry eyes), and prevent against age-related macular degeneration.

Okay, so the “A” apparently stands for “awesome”, but sometimes we need a little help absorbing vitamin A. That is where zinc comes in. Zinc is a mineral, and like most minerals, it is known as a “helper molecule”. It is found in high concentration in some eye structures such as the retina. Without zinc, vitamin A is not as efficiently absorbed, and that leads to things like poor night vision, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration. The best source of zinc in the diet by far is oysters. However, if you are not of a fan of shucking shellfish, you can also try beef, bran flakes, or yogurt.

Our eyes play an important part in our everyday lives, but they are very delicate. So it is important that you take the time to make sure you include vitamin A, C, E, essential fatty acids, and zinc in your diet to help protect them and keep them strong.

The information in this article is for general educational purposes only, and should not be construed or interpreted as medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any medical condition or treatment, and before undertaking a new heathcare regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article or any linked materials.

Anna Mahoney is a Licensed Acupuncturist with a Bachelor's Degree in Nutrition from Rutgers University. In her practice, she focuses on bringing her patients back to health through Chinese Medicine, nutritional counseling, and overall wellness care. In her personal life, she is a passionate cook, musician, yogi, and athlete. Anna lives in New Jersey, with her husband, John, and their dog, Betty. Anna blogs at The Green Banana.