A Feast for Your Eyes

Generations of parents told their children that eating carrots would improve their vision. But those well-meaning moms and dads probably should have said the same about a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables because they also contain key nutrients that support eye health.

Certain anti-oxidants, such as beta-carotene and vitamins C and E, may play a protective role against two common causes of vision loss: age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. The nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin have also been shown to influence the health of the macula, the part of the retina responsible for clear central vision.

Antioxidants are substances that help fight cell-damaging molecules known as free radicals. In addition to supporting eye health, antioxidants are associated with helping to protect against cancer and other diseases.

Your menu for eye health. Most experts recommend regular consumption of dark, leafy vegetables, which contain high levels of lutein and also have trace amounts of zeaxanthin. Additional sources of zeaxanthin include corn and kiwifruit.

Egg yolks are packed with lutein and zeaxanthin. While all the cholesterol in eggs is contained in the yolks, recent research suggests that eating eggs may have little impact on the levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol in your body. For vitamin C, consider adding more strawberries and citrus to your diet - a recent 10-year study (Ophthamology, March 23, 2016) found a 33% lower risk for cataract progression in women whose diet was rich in foods containing vitamin C. Vitamin E is also vital - good sources include nuts and seeds, which also contain zinc, a meneral that has been found large concentrations in the retina and is thought to help bring vitamin A in your body, si most plentiful in dark-green and orange vegetables and fruits.

Consuming the omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish has been associated with a lower risk of AMD. Eat fish rich in omege-3s, such as salmon, tuna mackerel and sardines, at least twice a week. For a good mix of nutrients that support eye health, follow a Mediterranean-style diet, which emphasizes fresh, whole foods, inlcuding fish, a mix of fruits and vegetables, nuts, and healthy oils, such as olive oil.