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Eye Healthy Nutrients

The National Eye Institute recommends a diet high in antioxidants, plus vitamin and mineral supplements. Antioxidants are nutrients that protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Too many free radicals can contribute to eye disease, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Antioxidants keep the creation of free radicals under control and help protect and repair cells damaged by them. Common antioxidants include vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin D, selenium and zinc.

The Vitamin A Family

Of particular importance to eye health are the fat soluble carotenoids in the vitamin A family, lutein and zeaxanthin.

  • Vitamin A
    • May protect against night blindness and dry eyes.
      • Food sources: Beef or chicken liver, spinach, kale, eggs, butter, milk, carrots, cantaloupe, corn, nectarines, peaches, pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, watermelon.
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin
    • Help to maintain healthy eye cells and keep the lens clear.
    • Reduce oxidative stress on the eye and absorb blue and UV light.
    • Your body cannot make lutein and zeaxanthin, so you must consume them regularly.
      • Food sources: Spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, mustard greens, turnip greens and collard greens, green beans, peas, broccoli, corn, papaya, eggs, oranges.
  • Retinol
    • Required for the production of the visual pigment used to see in low light levels.
      • Food sources: egg yolk, sardines, liver
    • Lycopene
      • Efficient antioxidant that can scavenge free-radicals
        • Food sources: Cooked tomatoes and tomato based foods, watermelon, pink grapefruit.
  • Beta-carotene
    • When taken with zinc and vitamins C and E may reduce the progression of AMD.
    • Efficient antioxidant that can scavenge free-radicals
      • Food sources: Carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, butternut squash

Vitamin B Complex

  • The combination of vitamins B6, B12 and folate may help to protect against AMD
    • Food Sources:
      • B6: sunflower seeds, bananas, whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts, meats, fish, eggs, fortified breads and cereals.
      • B12: poultry, shellfish, yeast extract, eggs, meat, dairy
      • Folate: beans, legumes, kidneys, whole grains, peas, citrus fruits, fruit juices, wheat bran, dark green leafy vegetables, poultry, pork, shellfish, liver

Vitamin C

  • Help to provide protection from free-radical damage done by ultraviolet light.
  • May reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration
    • Food Sources: oranges, grapefruit, cantaloupe, berries, mangoes, kale, Brussels sprouts, peppers, sweet potatoes and tomatoes, sweet peppers (red or green), broccoli

Vitamin E

  • When combined with carotenoids and vitamin C, may reduce the risk of AMD.
    • Food sources: Almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, broccoli, pumpkin, spinach, carrots, turnip greens, papaya, sunflower seeds, peanuts, peanut butter, wheat germ

Vitamin D

  • May reduce the risk of macular degeneration.
    • Food sources: Salmon, sardines, mackerel, milk, fortified orange juice.
      • The best source of vitamin D is exposure to ultraviolet radiationfrom the sun. A few minutes of exposure to sunlight each day (without sunscreen) will insure your body is producing adequate amounts of vitamin D.

Zinc

  • A high concentration is found in the macula.
  • Helps the body absorb antioxidants.
    • Helps vitamin A reduce the risk of night blindness.
    • May play a role in reducing risk of AMD in certain patients (we will want to link this to our Macular Risk and Vita Risk Testing page as some people’s AMD worsens when they take Zinc)
      • Food sources: oysters, beef, Dungeness crab, dark turkey meat, natural dark cocoa, nuts, beans, dairy

Selenium

  • When combined with carotenoids and vitamins C and E, may reduce risk of AMD.
    • Food sources: Shrimp, crab, salmon, halibut, Brazil nuts, enriched noodles, brown rice, cremini mushrooms, whole grains, tuna, beef, dark meat turkey

Bioflavonoids (Flavonoids)

  • May protect against cataracts and macular degeneration.
    • Food sources: Tea, red wine, citrus fruits, bilberries, blueberries, cherries, legumes, soy products

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

  • May help protect your eyes from age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and dry eye syndrome. Your body cannot produce omega-3 fatty acids, so you must get them from your food or supplements.
  • Note: Limit omega-6 fatty acids, which interfere with your body’s ability to absorb and use the good omega-3 fats.
    • Food sources: cold-water fish such as sardines, herring, salmon and tuna. Eye doctors typically recommend a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids to reduce the risk of eye problems. Other foods containing omega-3 fatty acids are flaxseeds, walnuts and dark green leafy vegetables