In Part 1 of this continuing story on good vision and eye health we learned about the most common vision robbing eye problems and exercises you can do to help restore vision and prevent future vision problems. Next we will learn how what we put in our mouths can have a profound effect on our eyesight.
The Role of Diet in Good Eyesight
In 2009, a study published in Opthamology found that proper diet, especially a low glycemic index diet, can be very helpful in preventing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and other sight-robbing diseases. The nutrients that were found to be most protective in combination with a low-glycemic-index diet were vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, and the omega-3 fatty acids known as DHA and EPA.
Though there have been no formal studies, there have been many anecdotal reports of improved vision from people who regularly use sea vegetable powder supplements and people who regularly consume super foods powders. Both of those items contain a wealth of vitamins, trace minerals, and phyto-nutrients, which are often lacking in most diets. Sea vegetables are especially good sources of over 80 trace minerals that are often missing in today’s mineral-depleted soils.
Food Recommendations for Good Eyesight and Eye Health:
- Cold water fish (sardines, cod, mackerel, tuna.) are excellent sources of DHA, a compound which provides structural support to cell membranes and is recommended for dry eyes. DHA is also used as a treatment for macular degeneration and for sight preservation.
- Spinach, kale and green leafy vegetables are rich in carotenoids, especially lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein, a yellow pigment, protects the macula from sun damage and from blue light. Zeaxanthin is one of the two primary xanthophyll carotenoids contained within the retina of the eye.
- Eggs are rich in sulphur, cysteine, lecithin, amino acids and lutein. Sulphur-containing compounds protect the lens of the eye from cataract formation. Sulphur is also necessary for the production of glutathione, an important antioxidant for the lens of the eye and the whole body.
- Garlic, onions, shallots and capers are also rich in sulfur.
- Fruits and vegetables contain vitamin A, C, and E and Beta-carotene.
- Dark berries such as blueberries, blackberries, and dark cherries are high in flavonoids and contain anthocyanins, which improve night vision.
- Wine has many important antioxidants and other nutrients which protect vision, heart and blood flow. Needless to say, moderation is always important.
- Nuts and berries are nature’s most concentrated food sources. Grains, such as flaxseed, are high in the beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower cholesterol and stabilize cell membranes.
- Virgin olive oil is a mono-unsaturated oil and is a healthy alternative to butter substitutes which contain soy, corn or canola.
Top Vitamins for Vision and Eye Health
- Vitamin A is considered by many to be the ultimate eye vitamin and is essential for the retina to function properly. It is also necessary for the production of rhodopsin, which is the visual pigment used in low light levels. Vitamin A-rich foods include sweet potatoes, carrots, mangoes, spinach, and cantaloupe.
Vitamin A also helps:
- Eyes adjust to light changes
- Moisten the eyes, which can enhance visual acuity
- Prevent the formation of cataracts
- Prevent blindness from macular degeneration.
Vitamin C helps strengthen capillaries and builds collagen. It helps maintain the shape of the cornea, especially in cases of infection, and fights against free radicals. Vitamin C also helps prevent cataracts from developing due to UV radiation and oxidative stresses. Healthy fruits and 100% fruit juices are the best sources of Vitamin C.
Vitamin E’s antioxidant properties help protect against cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. One clinical study showed that vitamin E can cut the risk of developing cataracts in half. Another showed that the combination of vitamins C and E protected against UV rays.
The richest source of vitamin E is wheat germ. Dark green leafy vegetables (such as spinach, kale, and collard greens), sweet potatoes, avocado, asparagus, and yams are also good sources of vitamin E.
B Complex vitamins are necessary for nerve functions, especially vitamin B-12. The retinal receptor cells send all their messages through nerve fibers into the optic nerve and into the brain. 1000 mg of B-12, sublingually (under the tongue), a day is recommended for people with optic nerve disease or glaucoma.
B vitamins are abundant in meat and meat products such as liver, turkey, and tuna. Other good sources for B vitamins include whole grains, nutritional and brewers yeast, molasses, potatoes, bananas, lentils, chile peppers, tempeh, and beans.
Top Minerals for Vision and Eye Health
- Magnesium is important in nerve conduction and it dilates blood vessels. It is especially important for maintaining blood flow to the eye and brain in elderly individuals with macular degeneration or diabetes, at a time of decreased blood pressure because they are lying down.
- Chromium is vitally important in regulation of blood sugar. The healthiest form of chromium by far is glucose transfer factor (GTF) chromium.
- Selenium is a trace mineral that helps boost immunity and fight off infections and it is an important co-factor for vitamin E, iodine, and glutathione reductase. Studies have identified low selenium levels in cataract sufferers.
- Zinc is essential for the conversion of beta-carotene into vitamin A. Our eyes contain the greatest concentration of zinc in our body. It plays an important role in the action of many enzymes present in the retina and helps prevent cataracts and macular degeneration. Note: supplementation of more than 30 mg of zinc daily requires adding 2 mg of copper.
- Copper is essential for the production of collagen, a component of connective tissues. Copper gluconate is a readily absorbable form of copper that is one of the most important blood antioxidants. It helps keep cell membranes healthy and aids red blood cells in hemoglobin production.
Other Important Compounds for Vision and Eye Health
- Lutein, found in our retinas, is essential for healthy vision. Lutein and a related dietary carotenoid, zeaxanthin, accumulate within the retina and imbue a yellow pigment that helps protect the eye. It lowers the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration (low lutein intake is implicated as a risk factor in age-related macular degeneration) and may also help to prevent or slow down atherosclerosis.
- Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a very important nerve stabilizer and is helpful in diabetics, and in patients with glaucoma, to protect their remaining optic nerve fibers.
- Dicosahexaenoic acid (DHA), with six unsaturated double bonds, makes up 30 percent of the good fat in the retina, brain and adrenal gland. Following objects at a distance, driving and hand/eye coordination may all be improved with the use of DHA.
- N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is the primary component in the production of glutathione, an amino acid and major antioxidant in the lens of the eye. It is produced and released by the liver. Besides helping protect tissues surrounding the lens of the eyes, glutathione helps fortify the cellular enzymes glutathione, reductase, super oxide dismutase and catalase. Those are the primary free radical fighting enzymes inside our cells.
- Glutathione has been linked in several studies with the prevention of cataracts, glaucoma, retinal disease, and diabetic blindness.
- Rutin is also considered to be an important nutritional compound for the eyes due to its ability to strengthen capillaries.
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