Exploring the Relationship Between Diet and Eye Health

While you certainly know that what you eat directly impacts your heart health and digestive health, did you know that it also has a significant influence on your eye health – particularly as you age?

The Relationship Between Diet and Eye Health 

There’s ample data to suggest that eyesight worsens as we age. It’s why just 61 percent of people under the age of 44 need corrective solutions, compared to 91 percent of people over the age of 55. But to assume that failing eyesight is an inevitable reality of aging would be a faulty understanding of the problem. The reason so many people experience failing vision and other related problems is that they don’t care for their eyes.

In particular, most people don’t have a very firm grasp on the relationship between diet and eye health. The idea that nutrition impacts eye health isn’t exactly a new revelation. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study of 2001 found that certain nutrients reduce the risk of age-related decline in eye health by 25 percent. Yet here we stand in 2019, and most people find this to be an epiphanic idea. 

According to doctors, nutritionists, and optometrists, a selective diet can work wonders for someone who is worried about age-related decline of eye health. It’s all about eating with a purpose. 

“Choose foods that are high in antioxidants, as well as in vitamins A and C, to keep your eyes feeling young. Steer clear of foods that are high in saturated fats, and instead choose leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach and lean proteins like fish,” Swagel Wootton Eye Institute explains. “In addition, vitamin supplements containing lutein and zeaxanthin have been shown to slow down the progression of age-related macular degeneration.” 

While some of these vitamins can be absorbed via supplements, it’s recommended that you get as much of these nutrients via fresh food. 

Eating Your Way to Healthier Eyes 

As you look for ways to improve your eye health, here are some different types of food that are recommended by optometrists and nutritionists: 

  • Oily fish provide the benefit of omega-3, which is excellent for eye health and vitality. Fish with the highest levels of omega-3 include tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, and herring. 
  • Certain seeds are also good sources of omega-3s (as well as vitamin E). Try incorporating chia seeds, flax seeds, and hemp seeds into your diet. 
  • Nuts and legumes. In addition to the aforementioned seeds, nuts and legumes are tasty and healthy options. Foods like peanuts, lentils, walnuts, and cashews are high in fatty acids and vitamin E.

Citrus fruits. Balance out your diet with some healthy citrus fruits to provide the necessary vitamin C to fight age-related eye damage. The three easiest options are lemons, oranges, and grapefruit. 

  • Zinc is also proven to help with age-related vision problems and macular degeneration. Try adding some lean beef to your diet. 

It’s also important to recognize that some foods can actually harm your eye health. According to a study published by the Archives of Ophthalmology, certain junk foods – namely fat-filled snack foods – heighten the risk of developing advanced age-related macular degeneration.

“Vegetable, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, along with linoleic acid, are the types of fat that put junk food enthusiasts at higher risk for the eye disease,” American Macular Degeneration Foundation explains. “The foods that contain these fats are highly-processed, store-bought junk foods. Included in the study were: margarine; chocolate; commercially-prepared pie; cake and cookies; peanut butter; potato chips; french fries; and nuts.” 

Prioritize Your Health

It should come as no surprise to anyone that a healthy, well-balanced diet that’s high in vitamins and nutrients will improve eye health and lead to the delay or lessening of failing vision. But it’s the execution that’s far more difficult for most people.

The key to following any healthy diet is to stop viewing it as a diet. Instead, it needs to be looked at as healthy living. Just like you actively choose not to smoke because it’s terrible for your health, you should feel a natural urge to eat healthy because you know it benefits your eyes (among other vital systems and organs). Make your diet a priority and your entire health will benefit – not just your eyesight!

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