Nutrition for Eye Health

Nutrition for Eye Health

May is Healthy Vision Month and to make sure we all see “eye to eye” on the topic of nutrition for eye health, here are a few power nutrients to keep you “looking sharp!”

Lutein & Zeaxanthin. These powerful nutrients help reduce the risk of many chronic eye disease such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.

  • Sources of Lutein & Zeaxanthin: Dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, turnip greens, collard greens and romaine lettuce; eggs; broccoli; zucchini; garden peas; and Brussels sprouts

Vitamin A-Beta Carotene.  Long known as the power vitamin for good eye health, this vitamin protects the cornea of the eye and, with other vitamins and minerals, can help slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration. A note of caution, though—some patients who may be at a higher risk for certain cancers should avoid supplements with Vitamin A, unless directed by your doctor.

  • Sources of Vitamin A: Sweet potatoes (cooked); carrots (cooked); kale (cooked); butternut squash (cooked); romaine lettuce; dried apricots; cantaloupe; sweet red peppers; tuna fish; and mango

Vitamin C.  This power vitamin lowers the risk for cataracts and, when used with other powerful rich foods, can also help slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration.

  • Sources: Yellow bell peppers; guavas; kale; kiwifruit; broccoli; strawberries; oranges; tomatoes (cooked); peas; and papayas

Vitamin E.  This antioxidant helps to protect the eye’s healthy tissues from unhealthy molecules in the body.

  • Sources of Vitamin E: Cooked spinach; almonds; sunflower seeds; avocados; shrimp; rainbow trout; olive oil; broccoli (cooked); butternut squash (cooked); and kiwifruit

Essential Fatty Acids.  These are necessary for a healthy diet and are important for good visual development and retinal function.

  • Sources of Fatty Acids: Salmon; herring; mackerel; hemp; flax; walnuts; almonds; dark green leafy vegetables; olive oil; whole grain foods; and eggs

Zinc.  Considered a “helper molecule,” zinc helps vitamins get to the retina to protect the retina of the eye.

  • Sources of Zinc: Oysters (cooked); beef and lamb; wheat germ (toasted); spinach; pumpkin and squash seeds; cashews; cocoa powder; pork and chicken; chickpeas (cooked); and white mushrooms (cooked)

As you review the above list, you may notice that some foods are listed in multiple food groups. Foods like these are considered power foods because of the multiple nutrition benefits they provide. These foods are easy to find at the store and can easily be incorporated into a meal.

Here’s an example of a meal that incorporates all the above nutrients and just 421 calories, 21 carbohydrates and 185 mg of sodium.

  • 4 oz. Grilled Salmon (Essential Fatty Acid)
  • 1 cup Cooked Broccoli (Lutein and Zeaxanthin, Vitamin C, Vitamin E)
  • ½ cup Cooked Spinach (Lutein and Zeaxanthin, Vitamin E, Essential Fatty Acids, Zinc)
  • 1 small sweet potato (Beta Carotene)
  • 1 cup Strawberries (Vitamin C)
  • Water with lemon

For those who have diabetes, eye health is also associated with good blood glucose control. In 2010, there were 7.69 million cases of diabetic retinopathy reported. Take control of your nutrition and blood glucose to help preserve your vision.

Take time to make changes in your diet to enjoy your sight today and the days ahead.

Sources:
American Academy of Ophthalmology. (2013, May 24). Diet and Nutrition.
National Eye Institute. (2015). Diabetic Retinopathy.
Richer, S. a. (2015). Diet and Nutrition.

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Heather Venoy, RD, LD, CDE

Heather Venoy is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator for Marshall Health’s Bruce Chertow Diabetes Center in Huntington, W.Va. Heather is a graduate of Marshall University and has 20 years of experience in dietetics.

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