Many people consider vision to be their most treasured of the five senses. Every day, people ask how they can best care for their eyes and preserve their vision for a lifetime. Aside from routine eye exams and an overall healthy lifestyle (including sun protection), my answer is: food!
It’s well known that health and nutrition go hand in hand, and we all know that we should eat our veggies! But recent scientific evidence has identified particular nutrients with powerful healing or disease-preventing properties that can help reduce the risk of vision loss.
A diet rich in brightly coloured fruits, green leafy vegetables and healthy fats is central to maintaining our sight and protecting against eye diseases, such as the clouding of the eye’s lens (Cataracts) or the build of debris in the macula leading to tissue damage (Macular Degeneration). Nutrients at the forefront of research are carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants like vitamins C and E, minerals like zinc, and omega 3 fatty acids, which have numerous health benefits due to their anti-inflammatory properties. All of these can be found in the “Eye Superfoods” list below.
|Eye Superfood||Food Source||Eye Health Benefits|
|Lutein and Zeaxanthin||Green leafy vegetables, corn, green peas, broccoli, Eggs||Act as antioxidants to protect healthy cells.Absorb blue and UV light.Raise macular pigment levels in the eye which can decrease glare sensitivity (important for night vision) and increase contrast and sharpness of vision.|
|Vitamin C||Fruits like orange, grapefruit, kiwi, banana, apple, strawberries, Spinach, Broccoli, Red and green bell peppers||Acts as an antioxidant to protect healthy cells and decrease risk of cataracts and Macular Degeneration.Promotes healthy immune and cardiovascular systems and aids in iron absorption.|
|Vitamin E||Cereal, Wheat germ Nuts – almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts Sunflower seeds, Sweet potato||Acts as an antioxidant to protect healthy cells and decrease risk of cataracts and Macular Degeneration.Boosts our immune system to fight eye infection.|
|Omega 3 Fatty Acids||Cold-water, fleshy fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, mackerel (the easiest form for our bodies to process), Scallops, Flaxseed oil, walnuts||Calms inflammation that can lead to dry eyes.Promotes healthy nerve fibers and cardiovascular system.May prevent abnormal blood vessel growth and accumulation of toxic material.
Protects against macular degeneration.
|Zinc||Seafood like oysters, crab and lobster, Wheat germ, Beans and chickpeas, Seeds like pumpkin and squash||Helps protect against Macular Degeneration.
Supports the immune system and the healing process.
|Beta Carotene||Bright orange vegetables – carrots, bell peppers, butternut squash, sweet potato, Kale, spinach, Fruits like cantaloupe and mango||Precursor to Vitamin A – essential for vision processing.Acts as an antioxidant to protect healthy cells and decrease risk of cataracts and Macular Degeneration.Aids in night vision, contrast and adapting between high and low light levels.|
An easy rule of thumb is that brightly coloured fruits and vegetables mean more pigment, and a higher number of antioxidants! The concentration of nutrients is also highest in raw form and can be lost through the processes of canning, cooking and freezing.
Developing healthy eating habits is one of the best ways to prevent disease and create overall health and well being – and the earlier the better! In our day and age – where fast foods, vending machines and obesity in children are commonplace – it’s crucial to develop healthy and balanced eating habits early on. So, be sure to feed your family’s eyes with fresh foods in all the colours of the rainbow.
Sometimes information on health and food can be overwhelming. That’s why two Canadian optometrists created Eye Foods. Dr. Laurie Capogna and Dr. Barbara Pelletier are passionate about using nutrition and lifestyle to maintain vision and eye health, and health in general.
As eye doctors, we have seen the effects that eye disease can have on our patients’ lives and we wanted to help our patients preserve their vision.
Together, they created Eye Foods and Eye Foods for Kids, with an intention to increase public awareness of ocular nutrition. The Eye Foods books include an overview of eye health, vision and an Eye Foods plan, which tells you how much of each nutrient and Eye food you need to eat in a week to protect your eyes. It also includes handy tips on serving sizes, lifestyle advice and recipes just for kids!
~~ WIN IT! ~~
Dr. Sydney Davidson is generously giving away 10 sets of Eye Foods & Eye Foods for Kids books to 10 lucky North Shore Mama readers. To enter, fill in the Rafflecopter form below. Winners will need to pick-up their prize from either the Squamish or West Vancouver Optomeyes clinics. Good luck!