Everybody knows that eating right is the way to keep your heart healthy. The good news is that the same diet that helps your heart is probably also good for your eyes. A diet low in fat and rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can pay benefits not only to your heart but to your eyes. The connection isn't surprising: your eyes rely on tiny arteries for oxygen and nutrients, just as the heart relies on much larger arteries. Keeping those arteries healthy will help your eyes.
Some foods stand out as particularly helpful for eye health. Here are four you should make sure are part of your diet.
Kale. Leafy green vegetables, like kale, are high in lutein and zeaxanthin, two nutrients found in the healthy eye that are believed to lower your risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. One large study showed that women who had diets high in lutein were 23 percent less likely to develop cataracts than women whose diets were low in this nutrient. Not a big fan of kale? Not to worry. Other dark leafy green vegetables, like spinach, romaine lettuce, collards and turnip greens, also contain significant amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin. Eggs are also a good source of these nutrients, as are broccoli, peas and corn.
Salmon. Some studies suggest that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acid from cold-water fish like salmon, tuna, sardines and halibut reduce the risk of developing eye disease later in life. A 2010 study from Johns Hopkins found that people who had a diet high in omega-3 fatty acid were much less likely to develop AMD.
Oranges. Oranges and all of their citrus cousins — grapefruit, tangerines, and lemons — are high in vitamin C, an antioxidant that is critical to eye health. Scientists have found that your eyes need relatively high levels of vitamin C to function properly, and antioxidants can prevent or at least delay cataracts and AMD. Lots of other foods offer benefits similar to oranges, including peaches, red peppers, tomatoes and strawberries.
Black-eyed peas. Legumes of all kinds, including black-eyed peas, kidney beans, lima beans, and peanuts contain zinc, an essential trace mineral that is found in high concentration in the eyes. Zinc may help protect your eyes from the damaging effects of light. Other foods high in zinc include oysters, lean red meat, poultry and fortified cereals.
There are lots of other great food choices to keep your eyes healthy. Among them, the one most people think of first: carrots. Carrots are high in beta-carotene, a nutrient that helps with night vision, as are other orange-colored fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes, apricots and cantaloupe. Making them a part of a colorful diet can help you keep your eyes healthy.