The well-known benefits to sticking to a nourishing and sensible diet seem to be endless. For instance, did you know that as well as helping us manage our weight, fight diseases and provide us with the get-up-and-go we need to zoom through our days, eating a healthy and balanced diet plays an important role in keeping your eyes healthy? Including the right foods on the dinner table can also help you conserve your vision as you get older. And the great news is that you will most probably have the most favourable foods for your eyes already in your kitchen.
A wholesome diet can aid in thwarting the development of diseases like macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, Dr Luisa Sastre said while explaining how a rich and varied food plan is essential to eye health. “There is evidence that certain nutrients protect our body from damaging substances. These nutrients are called antioxidants and are found in many common and popular foods. They play a vital role in the health of the retina,” Sastre, who works at Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai, said.
The Foods That Get the Tick of Approval
Foods such as eggs, fish, fruit, nuts, citrus fruits, leafy greens and, yes, carrots can actively promote healthy vision. Meats like beef, lamb and turkey are also beneficial thanks to being packed with zinc, which helps delay age-related sight loss. When it comes to seafood, Sastre, who works at the first overseas branch of Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the oldest and one of the largest centres for ophthalmic treatment, teaching and research in the world, recommends oysters, which contain essential zinc and copper. She also advises eating cold-water fish like salmon, sardines and herring. Additionally, dark chocolate lovers will be happy to know it is packed with antioxidants and essential nutrients.
“It’s easy to make the right dietary choices when it comes to looking after the health of your eyes,” Sastre said. “There are so many foods that have been proven to be beneficial that almost every kind of diet, personal taste and food choice is catered to.” The ophthalmologist added these foods, which have a big impact on our overall health and that of our eyes, can easily become part of our daily eating habits.
For optimum health benefits, Sastre recommends eating five portions of fruits and very lightly cooked vegetables per day to avoid needing supplements. Plus, you should try and add in two servings of cold-water fish each week. “Make your plate as colourful as possible,” she said. “Think of each meal as if you’re making a rainbow with lots of different types of fresh, natural and brightly coloured foods served together."
The Foods To Avoid
While eating correctly can be really helpful in maintaining good eyesight, it is equally important to avoid foods that can be harmful to your vision if consumed in large amounts over time. These include sugary and salty items, as well as foods high in saturated and trans fats.
“Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes and the leading cause of vision impairment and blindness. If you are a diabetic, you should avoid sugar,” Sastre said. She also warned those who are hypertensive should try to limit their salt intake and control consumption to one teaspoon a day, whether added in cooking, at the table or already present in the food.
If you suffer from high cholesterol, the eye specialist advises steering clear of saturated fat, which can be found in some meats, dairy products, baked goods, deep-fried and processed foods. You should also shun trans fats, which are mostly found in foods made with hydrogenated oils and fats, like stick margarine, crackers and French fries. “Instead of these bad fats, try healthier fats such as lean meat, nuts and unsaturated oils like olive and sunflower oils,” Sastre said.
Dr Sastre’s Top 10 foods for a healthy vision:
1. Nuts and Seeds
Legumes are brimming with healthy fats, vitamin E and copper, which are essential for maintaining the biochemical functions of the body and can play a role in maintaining a healthy retina.
Many fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have powerful anti-inflammatory effects that help your heart, brain and retina stay in tip top condition. The recommendation is to eat at least two servings of cold-water fish per week. In addition to salmon, sardines and herring, halibut and tuna are important sources of omega-3.
Eggs contain healthy fats, lutein and zeaxanthin, those all-important nutrients. Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that act as a natural sunblock for the macula (the central area of the retina), absorbing the damaging blue wavelengths of light.
4. Colourful Foods
Foods like oranges, sweet corn and peppers contain zeaxanthin too, and they need to be part of our diet as the human body does not produce them naturally. They should be very lightly cooked because over-cooking them may destroy the pigments.
Beef, turkey and lamb contain zinc, which promotes eye health and helps delay age-related sight loss.
Oysters contain essential zinc and copper and it is important to consume a good amount of the latter as a deficiency may lead to poor night vision.
7. Leafy Greens
Leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach and lettuce are rich in lutein as well.
8. Dark Chocolate
This more bitter kind of chocolate contains less milk and sugar and boasts high amounts of antioxidants and essential nutrients.
Carrots are rich in beta carotene and vitamin A, which is important for healthy vision as it helps protect your retina. Deficiency in Vitamin A is a leading cause of blindness and can lead to eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration.
10. Citrus Fruits
Fruits such as lemons, oranges and grapefruits are loaded with vitamin C, which helps fight age-related eye problems.