Maintaining a well-balanced, healthy diet is key to keeping your eyes healthy, and may help reduce your risk for developing eye conditions. Serious eye conditions may be avoided if you include foods that contain a range of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals, known as antioxidants. Eye conditions that you may be able to prevent with a healthy diet include:
- cataracts, which cause cloudy vision
- age-related macular degeneration, which can limit your eyesight
- dry eyes
- poor night vision
These antioxidants ward off oxidants that can affect your health in negative ways.
Your eyes need many types of antioxidants to stay healthy. These include:
A balanced diet is best created with a variety of proteins, dairy, fruits, and vegetables. Try to eat a rainbow during your day, incorporating many types of foods in many different colors. You should limit consumption of unhealthy foods that are processed, contain saturated fats, or are high in sugar.
Here are seven of the best foods for your eyes. Most are generally available year-round and for a reasonable price. You can enjoy them on their own or in more complex recipes.
Fish, particularly salmon, can be a great food to consume for eye health. Salmon and other fish have omega-3 fatty acids. These are “healthy” fats. Omega-3 fatty acids can contribute to visual development and the health of the retina in the back of the eye. They can also help prevent dry eyes.
Consider incorporating fish into your meal plan a few days a week. When buying salmon, choose a wild-caught version instead of farm-raised salmon. That’s because farm-raised salmon has more saturated fat and less omega-3s than wild-caught salmon.
Salmon, and most fish, can be grilled or broiled. Try seasoning it with fresh herbs, lemons, and salt and pepper for a simple and delicious dinner.
Eggs are a great food to eat for eye health. The yolks contain vitamin A, lutein, zeaxanthin, and zinc, which are all vital to eye health. Vitamin A safeguards the cornea. The cornea is the surface of the eye. Lutein and zeaxanthin lower the chance of getting serious eye conditions like age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Zinc contributes to the health of the retina. The retina is the back of the eye. Zinc also helps eyes see at night.
Eggs are extremely versatile and can work for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A simple way to enjoy eggs is by hard-boiling them. Try them in salads and sandwiches. You can even eat a hardboiled egg for a snack.
Almonds, like other nuts and seeds, are generally good for eye health. Almonds contain vitamin E. This vitamin guards against unstable molecules that target healthy tissue. Consuming regular amounts of vitamin E can help prevent age-related macular degeneration as well as cataracts. You should aim for about 22 international units (IU), or 15 mg of vitamin E a day. One serving of almonds is about 23 nuts, or ¼ cup, and has 11 IU. Other nuts and seeds that contain vitamin E include sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and peanuts.
You can enjoy almonds as a snack at any time. They are also tasty in your breakfast cereal, yogurt, or in salads. Just remember to keep an eye on serving size. Almonds are high in calories, so try to limit your intake to one to two servings a day.
Dairy products such as milk and yogurt can be good for the eyes. They contain vitamin A as well as the mineral zinc. Vitamin A protects the cornea while zinc helps bring that vitamin to the eyes from the liver. Zinc is found throughout the eye, especially the retina and choroid, which is the vascular tissue that lies under the retina. This important mineral helps with night vision as well as the prevention of cataracts. Dairy from grass-fed cows provides the most benefits.
Dairy can be consumed throughout your day. You can drink a glass with a meal or enjoy it in coffee and tea, or breakfast cereal. Yogurt is a healthy option for breakfast or as a snack.
Carrots are well-known to be good for eye health. Like egg yolks, carrots have vitamin A and also beta carotene. Vitamin A and beta carotene help the surface of the eye and can also help prevent eye infections and other serious eye conditions.
Carrots are easy to eat on the go. Julianne whole carrots or keep a bag of baby carrots handy for an afternoon or evening snack. Toss them in salads and soups for some added nutrition, or shred them up and add them to muffin or pancake batter.
Kale is known as a superfood by many because it contains so many important vitamins, nutrients, and minerals. It’s extremely good for eye health. Kale has the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, also found in eggs and other foods. These nutrients may help to prevent serious eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Lutein and zeaxanthin aren’t made in the body, so you have to incorporate them into your diet. A 100 gram serving of kale, which is about 1 ½ cups, contains 11.4 mg of lutein, and it’s recommended you get 10 mg per day. Other vegetables high in lutein are red peppers and spinach.
Kale can be made into snack chips. First wash the leaves, then tear them into small pieces; toss it in olive oil, and bake it 20 minutes or so, until the kale gets crispy. You can season them with a light sprinkle of salt. You can also sauté kale for a side dish or serve it in a salad.
Oranges and other citrus fruit contain vitamin C, which is key for eye health. The vitamin, found mainly in fresh fruits and vegetables, contributes to healthy blood vessels in your eyes. It can combat the development of cataracts, and in combination with other vitamins and nutrients, age-related macular degeneration.
To enjoy oranges, you can drink orange juice, peel one as a snack, or add them to a fruit salad.
A healthy diet is essential for eye health. Maintaining a diet high in antioxidants will prevent the development of serious eye conditions and ensure your eyes work their best. Try to eat a variety of whole, unprocessed foods on a daily basis. See your doctor if you experience problems with your eyes, as early intervention can prevent more serious conditions from developing.
Tips for eye health
It’s important that you take care of your eyes on a regular basis to maintain eye health. Eating eye-healthy foods is not the only way to protect your eyes. Other ways you can keep your eyes healthy include:
- visiting an eye doctor every one to two years
- wearing sunglasses when outdoors
- avoiding smoking
- maintaining a healthy weight
- wearing protective eye gear when engaging in sports, hobbies, home projects, or work-related activities
- managing blood sugar
Eye health: Q&A
I currently wear glasses. Are there foods I can eat to improve my vision so that I no longer need glasses?
Potential vision improvement through food intake is dependent on what is the underlying eye condition. Macular degeneration and night blindness are examples of conditions that can be improved, or the progression slowed, with intake of foods rich in vitamin A, antioxidants lutein, zeathanxin, and omega-3 fatty acids. Near-sightedness and far-sightedness are not likely to be reversed with a healthy diet. However, a healthy diet rich in the nutrients listed in this article can help protect the eyes from early vision loss.Natalie Butler, RD, LDAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.