When I was shopping for designer sunglasses for women with my daughter the other day, she asked me what she needed to do to avoid wearing glasses like some of her friends. I had a lightbulb moment and came up with this reply: Eat right for great eyesight. That should be a saying from now on, and I’m calling dibs on it. Not only does it rhyme, but it makes complete sense. My daughter thought it was cool and swore she would eat her greens as soon as we got home.
Remember the saying about men, food and their stomach? Well, let’s change it up a bit and use: The way to better eyesight for all of us is through the stomach. There are no creams or sprays you can just squirt in your eyes so they get the vitamins and nutrients they need to function properly. Your eyes need you to eat healthy for them to be healthy. Here are the foods you should seriously consider eating or supplementing with (if applicable) to keep your peepers fresh, healthy and age proof.
1. Black Currant
Black Currants contain a bucket load of anthocyanins, roughly 190-270 mg per 100 grams – the highest concentration found in nature. They’re also high in essential fatty acids that help with inflammation. Anthocyanins are flavonoids that have a myriad of health benefits when consumed, the most important ones being the ability to decrease capillary permeability and fragility as well as membrane strengthening. If you’re looking for eye superfood, get your hands on black currant. You can eat them raw or supplement with black currant oil. Just don’t supplement with black currant flavored vodka.
2. Kale, Spinach and other Veggies
Green, leafy vegetables like kale and spinach have loads of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are essential nutrients of for the eyes because both of them are found in your macula, the small central part of your retina responsible for clear and detailed vision. Both lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids called xanthophylls which give some plants their yellow-orange color. Carrots, papaya, corn and squash are also rich in carotenoids, especially beta-carotene, that’s converted into Vitamin A when consumed and is good for our eyes.
If you can’t get your hands on black currant, another berry high in anthocyanins is bilberry. Though not as potent as black currant, bilberries still pack a mean punch when it comes to eye health, with one study showing that long-term supplementation with bilberry extract is effective in the prevention of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
4. Egg Yolks
Egg yolks are also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, albeit in lesser quantities when compared to kale and spinach. One thing going for egg yolks is that the nutrients will be absorbed faster, as long as you consume it raw. If you want to take the raw route, consider looking for organic or free range sources for your eggs.
5. Salmon, Tuna and other fatty fish
Fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids that our cells need to function properly. Our eyes benefit from omega-3 consumption as well, because this wonder supplement has been known to decrease the risk and onset of age-related macular degeneration, an eye disease that affects people over 50 years old that can lead to diminished vision when left untreated. A lot of fish nowadays are contaminated with high amounts of mercury due to the increased toxicity of our oceans, so check the source of the fish first before you buy. Wild Alaskan salmon are a good choice.
Another benefit of eating seafood or supplementing with salmon derived omega-3 capsules is because of astaxanthin, a potent anti-oxidant more powerful than lutein and zeaxanthin. Astaxanthin is produced by microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis when it needs to protect itself from UV radiation when its water dries out. The only sources for this anti-oxidant are the microalgae and the sea creatures that eat them, such as salmon, krill and some shellfish. Astaxanthin has many benefits, including protective benefits that slow or even prevent blindness associated with cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.
Growing up, my parents always made it a point that we eat right. Our dinner table always had greens and fruit. They would explain the benefits of each food and why we needed to eat them. Of course, there were times that I hated it, especially the Brussels sprouts, but looking back I am so thankful that my folks instilled dietary common sense into us at an early age. I still have 20/20 vision because of my past diet, and now it’s my turn to educate my kids on the importance of food and eyesight.