The eyes, and eyesight, are one of the most important parts of the body, and most people fear losing their sight or their eyesight worsening. However, there are some foods that can help to protect the health of your eyes, and ward off eye diseases such as age related macular degeneration (AMD), and cataracts.
Essential fatty acids or EFAs are fats that the body needs but cannot manufacture itself. Thus, they must be obtained from the diet. The two types of EFAs are omega 3 and omega 6. EFAs have been connected with the development of eyesight in infants and deficiencies in adults can lead to impaired vision. If the deficiency is chronic, retinal or macular damage may result. Omega 3s may help to protect against dry eye syndrome. The body converts EFAs into prostaglandins which helps the aqueous humor in the eye to drain, and also regulates the intraocular pressure. The best source of omega 3s is cold water fish.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are compounds called xanthophylls. These xanthophylls are carotenoids and are found in the flesh and leaves of yellow and orange fruits and vegetables. Dark green, leafy vegetables have substantial amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin. Eggs also contain lutein in the yolk. Both lutein and zeaxanthin are found in high amounts in the lens and retina of the eyes and act as antioxidants to protect eyes from free radicals. They may also protect the eye by filtering out high-energy blue light, thus protecting the underlying cell layers from light damage. A diet high in these xanthophylls may protect the eye from macular degeneration and cataracts.
Vitamin A is important for eyesight as it helps to prevent night blindness. If you are deficient in vitamin A and you have night blindness, uncorrected, this can lead to xerophthalmia, a condition that causes dryness in the eyes, corneal ulcers and swollen eyelids. If xerophthalmia is not treated, that, in turn, can lead to blindness. Vitamin A has also been shown to help stop the formation of cataracts, and may play a part in preventing blindness relating from macular degeneration.
Vitamin C in high levels can help to reduce the risk of cataracts. Cataracts are buildups of protein that result in cloudy vision. It may also play a role in delaying macular degeneration. Vitamin C may also help to prevent and relieve glaucoma.
Bioflavonoids are compounds that give certain foods their colour and they often work as antioxidants. Any food that contains bioflavonoids will contain vitamin C as well. Bilberry is excellent for the eyes, as are citrus fruits, and red and purple fruits. Bilberry is also used to treat diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration.
Vitamin E may be useful for eyesight as it has been shown to prevent cataracts and it may be useful in helping to prevent macular degeneration. This is because vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant.
Zinc is required for normal eye function and adapting to the dark. A zinc deficiency may lead to cataracts, and zinc has been used for the specific purpose of reducing the development of age relataed macular degeneration. Zinc also helps the body to absorb vitamin A. Selenium helps the body to absorb vitamin E. Copper is also used to help reduce the development of age related macular degeneration.