After cataract surgery, it’s best to avoid foods that promote inflammation, as it can slow down your recovery.

A balanced diet plays a vital role in eye health, as it can help reduce your risk of developing age-related diseases, such as cataracts — a clouding of the eye’s natural lens.

But even if you’ve already developed cataracts or have just undergone cataract surgery, a balanced diet is still important, as it can help reduce inflammation and get you on the road to recovery more quickly.

Eating a nutritious diet after cataract surgery is important for the following reasons:

  • It promotes healing: The foods provide the essential nutrients and vitamins necessary for the body to repair tissues and cells damaged during surgery.
  • It helps prevent infection: The foods help maintain healthy immune function, which can help protect you from some postsurgery infections.
  • It controls inflammation: Following a nutritious diet can help provide your body with nutrients that help regulate inflammation, which can help you recover after surgery.

There isn’t any research suggesting following a specific diet or eating specific foods will speed up the healing process after cataract surgery. However, fueling your body with foods that can contain nutrients involved with immune function and wound healing may help with general recovery.

There also isn’t research suggesting certain foods must be avoided post-cataract surgery, but avoiding certain foods may help prevent inflammation and a slowed healing process:

  1. Highly processed foods: Highly processed foods, such as candy, sweetened breakfast cereals, and chips, are often high in unhealthy fats, sugar, and salt.
  2. Added sugar: Try to avoid added sugar in general after surgery, as research suggests that excessive sugar intake can lead to inflammation. If you crave something sweet, opt for fruit, such as berries or kiwis.
  3. Refined carbohydrates: Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and white rice, are low in fiber and essential nutrients, and they may slow down the healing process after cataract surgery.
  4. Fried foods: Try to avoid fried foods, such as French fries and fried chicken, as they contain high levels of unhealthy and inflammatory fats. One 2015 study found that people with cataracts were more likely to have diets high in saturated fat.
  5. Alcohol: You may want to reduce your alcohol intake while recovering from eye surgery. High alcohol intake is associated with a weaker immune system, and any consumption of alcohol can dehydrate your eyes. A large study from 2022 found a direct link between the level of alcohol consumption and cataract risk in both men and women.
  6. Tobacco smoking: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), people who smoke tobacco have a much higher risk than nonsmokers for developing post-surgical complications, infections, and delayed or impaired wound healing.

After cataract surgery, eating a light meal is generally safe as soon as you feel comfortable and alert. It’s typically recommended that you avoid alcohol for about a week. It’s also important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

It’s important to follow your doctor’s specific instructions, as you may have specific dietary restrictions or recommendations based on your individual case.

After cataract surgery, it’s important to consume foods that are nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory, and aid in the healing process. Nutrients that support eye health include vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which are found in leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, nuts, and seeds.

The following foods are beneficial to the healing process:

  • Protein-rich foods: Foods that are rich in protein provide the amino acids needed to regenerate eye tissue and aid in the healing process. This includes fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, tofu, and legumes.
  • Vitamin C-rich foods: Foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, berries, kiwi, broccoli, and red peppers, can help reduce inflammation and speed up the healing process.
  • Green leafy vegetables: Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collard greens, are high in antioxidants and can help reduce inflammation. Green leafy vegetables also have high amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are the main dietary carotenoids found in the human retina.
  • Zinc-rich foods: Zinc is an essential mineral that plays an important role in wound healing, immune function, and vision health. Zinc also has antioxidant properties, which can help protect the eyes from oxidative damage caused by free radicals.
  • Omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods: Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and can be found in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines, as well as in certain nuts and seeds. Research shows that omega-3 supplements can improve the symptoms of post-cataract surgery “dry eye,” a common side effect of cataract surgery that can lead to poor vision, pain, and slowed healing.
  • Water: It’s important to stay hydrated after cataract surgery. It’s recommended that you drink 2–3 liters of water per day.
  • Lactoferrin supplement: Lactoferrin is a natural protein found in tears and milk that can help with dry eye. A study of 64 cataract surgery patients found that, 60 days after surgery, those who took a lactoferrin supplement performed 77% better on the “tear breakup time” test, a measure of the time it takes for tears to break up in the eye.

It’s even better if you can start eating a healthy diet before cataract surgery, as it may have a protective effect. One 2017 study found that people who ate a diet high in antioxidants had a 79% reduced risk of developing cataracts. Omega-3s were also found to be protective.

Research shows that the following vitamins are also linked to a reduced risk of cataracts:

Eating a balanced diet is always a good thing, but it may be particularly critical after surgery, as it can help prevent infection, manage inflammation, and promote faster healing.

If you’re having cataract surgery, be sure to stock up on green leafy vegetables as well as foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, protein, and antioxidants.