Could great eye health start with the food on your plate? There is growing evidence that some nutrients, particularly those found in fruits and vegetables, may lower your risk of developing eye diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts. So, yes, good nutrition is important to keeping your eyes healthy throughout your lifetime.
- Reducing Cataract Risk
Some cataract risks are out of our control such as age and family history. But changing certain behaviors, like not smoking and reducing exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays, can reduce the risk of getting cataracts. More and more research studies show that eating healthfully is also a behavior that could delay or prevent cataracts.
- Antioxidants As Heroes
In particular, most studies point to antioxidants such as vitamins C and E for protection against development and progression of cataracts. While the exact cause of cataracts are still unclear, research suggests that free radicals, unstable chemicals formed in the body upon exposure to environmental toxins are to blame. Antioxidants have the power to neutralize free radicals before they can cause damage to cells. If free radicals are the villains, antioxidants are the superheroes.
- Super Star Vegetables
Eating the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables each day should provide a good amount of these powerful antioxidants, but there are some stand out super stars that really pack a vitamin punch – dark leafy greens like kale, broccoli and spinach. In fact one cup of kale contains 80 mg of vitamin C. (The National Institutes of Health recommends 90 mg per day for men and 75 mg for women.)
- Carotenoids Are Helpful Too
And it’s not just antioxidants. Some studies show that foods high in carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, also keep your eyes healthy and reduce cataract risk. In nature, lutein and zeaxanthin protect plants from too much sunlight by absorbing excess light energy. And, they are naturally found in the human eye. They can be found in many vegetables and other plants, such as leafy green vegetables.
While the evidence is not conclusive, it’s probably a good idea to increase your fruit and vegetable intake as a way to keep your eyes healthy throughout your lifetime.