Age-related vision loss can sneak up on you. Certain foods may be contributing to the cause.

It’s well-known that getting older can lead to changes in body function. Visual impairment is a common change that you may be familiar with, but it’s not necessarily inevitable.

What you eat can affect your health in numerous ways. Some foods can hasten the development of visual changes such as macular degeneration, whereas others seem to offer a protective benefit.

Following a health-conscious lifestyle can be one way to avoid some of the risks that come with poor nutrition. This usually starts with an examination of the foods that you’re eating on a regular basis.

Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is an eye disease that occurs when a special part of your retina degenerates. This part is known as the macula, which is responsible for the ability to see objects in front of you.

When the macula is damaged, it commonly results in significant visual disturbances. Some of these disturbances can include:

  • blurred vision
  • distorted vision
  • small-appearing objects
  • fuzzy, dark, or blurry spot in your visual field

Without treatment, ARMD can progressively lead to blindness and is the most common cause of blindness in developed countries.

Visual changes associated with ARMD usually develop slowly and gradually over time. Aside from advanced age, known risk factors include:

  • genetics
  • smoking
  • alcohol consumption
  • poor nutrition/diet

The good news is that most of these risk factors can be avoided with a healthier lifestyle.

The research is conflicting on which foods to avoid in ARMD. However, there have been some loosely identified relationships between the specific foods listed below and their role in ARMD. These foods are generally found in the Western diet, which is also known as the Standard American Diet.

The influence of several dietary patterns has been studied in ARMD, and the Western diet generally seems to have the highest association with ARMD, according to 2019 research. Foods in the Western diet typically contain excess sugar and salt, among other ingredients.

Red and processed meat

Both red meat and processed meat have been criticized through the years for their potential contributions to illness. In the case of macular degeneration, both are considered risk factors, though it does seem to depend on how much you eat.

A recent 2022 study examined the effect of plant-based diets on eye health and concluded that red meat consumption may increase the risk of age-related eye disease.

A 2018 study identified a direct relationship between meat consumption and the development of ARMD. Those who frequently consumed red meat had a significantly increased risk of early but not late AMD.

Popular sources of red meat include:

  • beef
  • lamb
  • pork
  • venison

Common processed meats include:

  • bacon
  • cold cuts
  • hot dogs
  • salami
  • ham

Fast food

It’s well-known that fast food is generally regarded as unhealthy. In terms of your eye health, it’s likely because of the trans fat content. This is because trans fats are typically found in vegetable oils such as soy or canola, which are commonly used for cooking fried food.

One study from 2020 identified a clear association between trans fats and ARMD. Those who consumed a higher intake of trans fats were more than two times as likely to be affected by ARMD.

Dairy products

The role of dairy in ARMD is somewhat controversial, as some research cautions against it, whereas other research encourages its consumption.

An older 2014 study showed that consuming less dairy resulted in a higher risk of ARMD. On the other hand, an older 2015 study identified that those with ARMD consumed higher amounts of dairy.

While the Western diet can lead to poor health outcomes, including eye diseases, the opposite is true for the Mediterranean diet. Research from 2018 showed that following the Mediterranean diet can lower your risk of ARMD by as much as 41%.

While the Mediterranean diet includes a wide variety of healthy foods, only certain foods have been shown to have specific benefits in ARMD. These foods include:


Berries are rich in antioxidants such as anthocyanins. You’ve probably heard that antioxidants are good for you. One reason is that they protect against oxidative stress, which can cause macular degeneration.

Anthocyanins in particular play a big role in protecting your retina from degenerative changes. They help to regenerate retinal cells and improve retinal blood flow, according to 2019 research.

Berries with high anthocyanin content include:

  • blueberries
  • bilberries
  • blackcurrants
  • strawberry
  • goji berries

Aside from berries, fruits and vegetables with colors ranging from red to purple also contain high amounts of anthocyanins.

Green vegetables

Carotenoids are one family of pigments responsible for the various colors of fruits and vegetables. Two types of protective carotenoids, known as lutein and zeaxanthin, are found in high amounts in green-colored vegetables such as:

  • kale
  • spinach
  • basil
  • parsley
  • leeks
  • peas
  • broccoli
  • avocado
  • lettuce
  • brussels sprouts
  • asparagus
  • bell peppers

Although usually in lower amounts, lutein and zeaxanthin can also be found in orange- and yellow-colored foods such as:

  • egg yolks
  • salmon
  • wheat
  • corn

Although fruits and vegetables are a great start, there are other important nutrients for eye health maintenance and ARMD prevention, including beta carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and selenium.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is a great way to obtain the nutrients that offer protection against ARMD. There are clear associations between specific nutrients that help to protect eye health, and many can be obtained by following the Mediterranean diet.

The Standard American Diet is known to lead to health problems, including macular degeneration. It’s safe to say that the fried and processed foods common in this diet aren’t supporting the health of your eyes.

Degenerative eye changes such as those seen in ARMD are usually sneaky and progress over time. Aside from good nutrition, visiting an eye doctor periodically can be one way to catch these changes before they result in vision loss.