It’s well known that what you eat affects your health. Eating certain nutrients can help support your immune system, while others help build muscle tissue. But did you know that your nutrition can greatly impact your eye health?
Nutrition & Eye Health
There are many antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that are important to eye health. Ingredients like Vitamins A, C, D, and E and Omega-3s are all imperative to keeping the eyes healthy and happy. Perhaps the two most important nutrients are zeaxanthin (zee-uh-zan-thin) and lutein (loo-teen). These antioxidants are found in the brain and blood serum, but they are most heavily concentrated in a small yellow spot located in the back of the eye at the center of the retina, called macula. It supports:
- Visual acuity – the ability to see clearly and identify details
- Contrast sensitivity – the ability to see objects on a similar colored background (a dark car on a dark street)
- Light sensitivity – the ability to see in bright light situations without squinting or wincing too much
- Photo-stress recovery – the eye’s ability to quickly adjust from dark to light (walking out of a dark movie theater on a sunny day)
- Glare recovery – the ability to naturally dim bright reflections (oncoming headlights at night)
Zeaxanthin is critical to the protection of central vision. This carotenoid (fancy word for antioxidant) is concentrated in the center of the macula, protecting light-sensitive cells called rods. Along with crisp, clear central vision, rods are responsible for vision in low light, helping us navigate at night or in dark movie theaters.
Lutein is another critical carotenoid for vision. Found on the peripherals of the macula, it protects the retinal cells called cones. These light-sensitive cells are responsible for color vision and vision in bright light situations, helping us view vivid scenes in all their glory.
It’s no secret that Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to health, supporting heart, brain, and joint function. They are also important for eye health, specifically the surface of the eyes. Symptoms like dryness, irritation, itching, redness, grittiness, and even blurred vision can all be linked to the poor health of the eye’s surface. Omega-3s, along with other soothing ingredients, can help support the surface of the eye and keep your eyes feeling fresh and comfortable. These critical fatty acids can be found in foods like fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
Eating for Your Eyes
Zeaxanthin can be found in orange bell peppers, paprika peppers, corn, and leafy greens like kale, spinach, and broccoli. Lutein can also be found in leafy greens like swiss chard and turnip greens. In the macula, zeaxanthin and lutein are found in a 2 to 1 ratio, meaning that the eye chooses zeaxanthin to be the highest concentrated protectant for its precious cells. Though zeaxanthin is more heavily focused, it’s actually more difficult to get in the diet, with lutein being 5 times more common in food than zeaxanthin.
Nutrition is important for every aspect of health, including eye health. Eating foods like brightly colored fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, and leafy greens is a great place to start eating for your eyes. Learn more about eye health and nutrition by following our social channels: