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Our eyes are one of those things we all take for granted. They allow us to see the beauty in the world, read books, and carry out everyday tasks. So it’s important to step back and make an effort to take care of our precious eyes now and for the future.
Especially because vision loss is becoming an increasingly common problem. Rates of blindness and low vision in America are estimated to double, affecting more than 8 million people by 2050.
This trend is thought to be caused by the rising rates of chronic disease and an aging population. But there’s also another reason: very few of us give our eyes the nutrients they need.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 87% of people don’t get the recommended amount of vegetables in their diet and 76% of people don’t meet the minimum fruit recommendations.
That’s an issue because fruits and veggies contain nutrients essential for healthy eyes. Check out these eye-healthy foods and see how you can nourish your vision.
While carrots are, by far, the most well-known food that can boost your eye health, several orange veggies support vision. That includes sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and orange peppers.
These foods are abundant in carotenoids, the compounds that give the veggies their orange hue. One of the most recognized is beta carotene. It’s a precursor of vitamin A which means your body converts it into vitamin A on an as-needed basis.
Vitamin A is essential for good vision. Among many other things, it helps protect the surface of the eye (cornea).
Studies have shown that beta carotene, in combination with other antioxidants, can also decrease the risk of vision loss from macular degeneration or age-related vision loss.
Most importantly, seek out beta carotene from food sources. That’s because synthetic beta carotene is linked to a higher risk of some types of cancer.
Dark leafy greens like kale and spinach are rich sources of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which are essential for healthy eyes.
That’s because these carotenoids are found in the small central part of your eye called the macula. It’s responsible for detailed vision.
Lutein is also found in what’s called your macular pigment. It helps with detailed vision and blue light absorption.
The American Optometric Association also recommends eating foods rich in both lutein and zeaxanthin, citing studies which show people with diets rich in these nutrients have the lowest risk for posterior subcapsular cataracts.
Dark leafy greens are also full of healthy nitrates that the body converts to nitric oxide, which may improve blood flow to the eyes.
Omega-3s provide structural support to the cells in your eyes. As a result, they help keep your eyes in tip-top shape.
One study published in the journal Ophthalmology suggests that diets high in omega-3s, lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamin C can significantly decrease the risk of macular degeneration.
Fortunately, there are a number of plants rich in these essential fatty acids including flax seed, pumpkin seed, and chia seed.
In addition to sprinkling these seeds on salads or in granola, another option is to boost your intake with unrefined plant oil powders in a quality supplement.
Tart and tasty, black currants are one of the richest natural sources of anthocyanins on the planet which means they are full of antioxidants to help your eyes stay healthy.
Anthocyanins have a long list of benefits including their ability to protect our DNA, regulate a healthy immune system, fight inflammation, and improve cellular health.
Native to Europe, the bilberry is a close relative of the blueberry, an American superfood that is packed with antioxidants.
Legend has it that during World War II, Royal Air Force pilots ate lots of bilberry jam enhancing their vision on nighttime flights.
While unlikely to turn you into an ace pilot, both bilberries and blueberries contain anthocyanins and other antioxidants that can protect the eyes.
In one study, anthocyanins in blueberries were shown to help eyes recover to normal vision after exposure to a bright light. This could be especially helpful for night driving when your eyes constantly adjust between light and dark.
Like most nuts and seeds, almonds are a good source of vitamin E. This fat-soluble vitamin is essential for healthy eyes because it guards our cells against unstable molecules that damage healthy tissue.
This means it can protect your eyes from oxidative damage. So it comes as no surprise that getting enough vitamin E can help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
If you eat almonds, try soaking them in water first for 12 hours to inactivate phytic acid, an anti-nutrient that prevents them from getting fully absorbed.
Citrus fruits are packed with natural vitamin C which is essential for immune function and healthy tissues.
Vitamin C helps promote healthy capillaries which are tiny structures that transport nutrients and oxygen to the body’s tissues via our blood. Capillaries are abundant in the eyes so vitamin C is critical for eye health.
If you have trouble getting enough of these foods in your diet, an organic green juice powder is a great way to increase your intake of natural beta carotene and other eye-friendly nutrients. Just one scoop can deliver dozens of healthy superfoods.
It’s important to use food sources when supplementing because plant extracts provide all the cofactors needed to absorb and use nutrients. These cofactors include other vitamins, minerals and enzymes.