Nutrition for Better Vision
In today’s world we tend to separate our body into parts, addressing each as if it were an individual entity. We think of “seeing” as an activity rather than vision as a function of the body. In fact, vision is so ostracized from overall health that we have separate insurance plans for vision and health. To make matters worse, we consider failing eyesight to be an inevitable part of aging. In order to preserve and improve eyesight we must recognize vision as an integrated part of overall health, and understand that the foundation for good health lies in good nutrition.
Genetics, accidents which cause injury, and lifestyle factors such as occupation, leisure activities and pregnancy, are not always under our control and can damage eyesight. Something we can control is diet and nutrition. There are a number of dietary components which help to maintain and improve vision. Those we often hear about include:
- Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s)
- Amino Acids
Vitamins A, C, E and the B vitamins, zinc, selenium, chromium, magnesium, taurine, lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids are just a few of the nutrients which contribute to better vision.
You can find these and other nutrients in various pills, powders, and other forms of dietary supplements. For some people supplements provide an excellent, convenient solution to completing their nutritional needs, but supplements vary wildly in quality and bioavailability. For the best nutritional support, nothing beats real, whole foods. Fortunately, there are many delicious foods which support healthy vision along with overall good health.
The under-appreciated avocado is good for you in so many ways. For years people have shied away from avocados believing that they are fattening, but eating avocados can actually lower cholesterol and help protect against many circulatory diseases. They contain the highest amount of lutein of all commonly eaten fruits, and are loaded with Vitamin E. Avocados have the unique benefit of increasing the bioavailability of carotenoids from other foods. Eating even a small amount of avocado with foods like spinach or carrots will boost the amount of nutrition that your body extracts from these foods.
Eggs, particularly the yolks, provide several much needed nutrients for healthy vision. Eating one egg a day can raise blood levels of lutein and zeaxanthin by 25 to 30 percent. Eggs are also rich in EFA’s. Eggs are also a good source of Vitamin A, B Vitamins, and zinc. The quality of the eggs you eat will have a large impact on the amount of nutrients they contain. Pasture raised chickens produce the most beneficial eggs because the diet that they eat is rich in nutrients. Typically, a darker yolk indicates a more nutritious egg.
Salmon is often referred to as “brain food.” The brain plays a large role in vision. Salmon provides Vitamins A and D and omega-3 fatty acids, benefiting not only the brain, but the eyes, and the rest of your body. Many types of cold water fish contain nutrients that are good for your eyes and brain. Unfortunately many of these fish, such as tuna and mackerel, often contain high levels of mercury and other toxins.
Garlic and onions
The health benefits of garlic are endless. Garlic can boost the immune system and cure a cold, lower bad cholesterol, and even rid the body of parasites. It comes as no surprise that garlic and its relatives are beneficial to vision as well. Garlic, onions, shallots, can capers are all rich in sulfur which the body needs to produce glutathione. Glutathione is an antioxidant which benefits the lens of the eye. Garlic and onions also protect the eyes by maintaining circulatory health.
Green leafy vegetables
Spinach, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, Swiss chard, arugula, stinging nettle, broccoli, and cabbage are all green leafy vegetables. They are good sources of many vitamins and minerals including folic acid, Vitamin A, B12, Vitamin C, calcium and are rich in carotenoids (especially lutein and zeaxathin). Remember, green leafy vegetables should not be overcooked.
Yellow and orange vegetables
Finally, we get to carrots, the classic eye-healthy food. Carrots and other yellow and orange vegetables, such as squash, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes, contain Vitamin A (beta carotene) which is good for the retina and helps protect your eyes from sun damage.
Dark chocolate, dark colored berries, and red wine
Good news for those who like to indulge in these treats – they all contain flavonoids which protect the blood vessels in your eyes and your heart. Dark berries, such as blueberries, blackberries, dark cherries, cranberries, dark grapes, black currants, and bilberries are also rich in Vitamin C.
Foods to avoid
In addition to eating nutrient rich foods, avoiding or minimizing certain foods can help prevent vision loss. Foods to avoid include:
- Refined flour
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG) - added to many foods as a flavor enhancer, MSG is a neurotoxin which is known to contribute to glaucoma.
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