We often hear about the various effects – both positive and negative – that food and beverages can have on the body, but how is nutrition related to vision? The month of March is “Save Your Vision Month”, and it is timely to learn more about how balanced nutrition can actually save vision. From foods rich in certain vitamins to plant and seafood-based options, there are many important roles that nutrition can play when it comes to vision health.
It is encouraging to know that enjoying a piece of fruit or a serving of vegetables at a meal can prevent vision loss, particularly vision loss from cataracts. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), “Studies show that a diet rich in foods with antioxidants may reduce your risk of developing cataracts.”
Antioxidants are foods that keep the body healthy by delaying or slowing down oxidation, which causes aging or cell death. Oxidation can lead to cataracts by causing changes to fats and proteins in the eye’s lens, making it cloudy. Foods rich in vitamin A, C, and E, carotenoids, lutein and zexanthin, and selenium are all healthy options to help protect cells from damage.
The best way to consume antioxidants is through fresh fruit and veggies. Examples include broccoli, avocados, sweet potatoes, blueberries, and strawberries.
Plant and Seafood-Based Diets
Also known as the Mediterranean diet, studies show that plant and seafood-based options may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This way of eating includes:
- Green, leafy vegetables and colorful fruits
- Tress nuts, such as almonds, cashews, and walnuts
- Seafood as the primary meat source
- Healthy fats
- Whole grain bread, pasta, and cereal
- Adding herbs and spices to food for flavor, to reduce salt consumption
- Moderate amount of dairy and eggs
AMD is a serious eye disease that can result in the loss of central vision. By implementing a diet similar to the Mediterranean diet, and continuing regular comprehensive eye exams, there is greater opportunity to help slow or stop potential vision loss that may result from AMD.
If you find that you often have dry, scratchy eyes, you may not be getting enough healthy fats. Dry eye is a condition that occurs when the eyes do not produce enough tears to keep them lubricated and comfortable. While artificial tears and medication can help as treatment options, adding omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to overall nutrition can also aid in tear production.
There are a variety of healthy fat options for inclusion, including:
- Oily Fish, such as salmon, trout, and sardines
- Nuts, such as walnuts
- Oils, particularly sunflower oil
Generally, fish has been found to be beneficial across many areas of eye health, including reduction of dry eye and reduced risk of developing AMD. Choosing fish at least twice a week is a great rule of thumb to adopt for vision health, as well as comprehensive health of the body.
As our team of experts reflects on “Save Your Vision Month”, we send the helpful reminder that nutrition does play an integral role in preserving and saving vision. We encourage adoption of healthy lifestyle choices, including a well-balanced diet, to support vision and preserve its health and longevity.