The Best Foods for Your Eyes

Will a carrot a day keep the ophthalmologist away? It just might, especially if you include tomatoes, sweet peppers, dark leafy greens, blueberries, papaya, and other antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables in your diet as well.

A variety of problems can affect your eye health and eyesight as you age. One of the more common concerns is age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a progressive condition that is the leading cause of age-related blindness in the United States. A ten-year study performed by researchers from Brigham Young University and Weill Medical College of Cornell University, found that patients who took a high-dose combination of specific vitamins and minerals, known as the AREDS (Age-Related Eye Disease Study) formulation, reduced their risk of developing advanced AMD by up to 25 percent. The AREDS formulation includes vitamins C, E, and A in the form of beta carotene, plus zinc.

You cannot achieve the same high blood levels of vitamins and minerals from food as you can from supplements. But high-dose supplements are not for everyone, and supplements don't contain all the substances in whole foods that contribute to good health. In the case of eye health, two substances known as lutein and zeaxanthin, which come from plant foods, have long been known to protect the eyes against AMD.

These and other beneficial phytochemicals (plant chemicals) are found in kale, broccoli, spinach, carrots, papaya, peaches and other leafy green and yellow or orange fruits and vegetables. Experts agree that if your diet is rich in foods that provide a wide variety of nutrients, you are already reducing your risk of developing AMD and other forms of eye disease. They also know that when it comes to diet and eye health, plant foods make up just one part of the picture.

People with diabetes are at high risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, an eye disease that damages tiny arteries in the back of the eyes and also leads to blindness. Using data collected from over 1,400 people with type-1 diabetes, researchers at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa found that a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol and low in fiber will speed up the development of diabetic retinopathy whereas a  diet low in total fat and saturated fat will slow the progression of disease by 33 percent.

Put it all together and the picture that develops is the same one we continue to see again and again. A diet that is low in fat, especially saturated fat, and high in fresh fruits, vegetables and other fiber-rich foods, is the diet that will keep you, and your eyesight, intact.



The Brigham and Women's Hospital: Antioxidant-Rich Diet May Protect Against Eye Disease,618674

National Eye Institute

University of Maryland Medical Center: Macular Degeneration

Ohio State University: Research Communications

University of Hawai'i: High-fat, Low-fiber Diet and Diabetic Retinopathy