As experts in eye health and nutrition, we’re tired of talking about carrots. While carrots are a good source of Vitamin A, there are other foods—and other nutrients—to consider when thinking about the health of your eyes.
We like to keep it simple when we discuss nutrition and eye health with our patients. If you’re eating a balanced, nutrient-rich diet, your eyes are most likely getting everything they need to stay healthy. So you’re already off to a great start.
But our eyes are doing a lot of work these days. Screentime is at an all-time high between remote working, at-home streaming, and endless phone scrolling. This increased exposure to blue-light emitting screens is proven to cause eye strain, and a healthy diet is one way to help protect your eyes.
As practitioners at HealthQuarters (Marissa at MPM Nutrition and the optometrist team at Zak.), we are both focused on holistic care. We worked together to identify how nutrition and eyecare overlap, and what this can mean for your diet.
So what does an eye-friendly diet look like? We looked at 6 key nutrients that play a critical role in keeping your eyes healthy, breaking down their importance to your vision, and sharing our favorite ingredients to help you get your daily intake.
Vitamin A helps to preserve night vision and protects the cornea, the front surface of the eye that provides us with clear vision. Vitamin A also helps improve dry eye syndrome, a condition which millions of Americans suffer from. You’ll find Vitamin A in egg yolks and sweet potatoes.
How to enjoy: Swap out toast for sliced sweet potato “toasts” to change up your breakfast.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants found in the macula. The macula is the area of your retina responsible for sunlight protection and detailed central vision. This group reduces the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over age 50. Leafy greens like spinach and swiss chard or herbs like parsley are great sources of lutein and zeaxanthin.
How to enjoy: Make a chimichurri with parsley and add in some extra spinach.
Essential fatty acids like omega-3, which the body doesn't naturally make, are found in walnuts, chia seeds, and fatty fish. Omega-3 fatty acids improve dry eye syndrome and are necessary for healthy retina function. Using computer screens and digital devices causes increased eye dryness so these are great add-ins for those experiencing dry eye symptoms.
How to enjoy: Use canned salmon to make lunch come together quickly, or sprinkle some walnuts on your salads.
Vitamin C is an important antioxidant required for proper eye function. Vitamin C can slow the progression of macular degeneration and cataract development. Cataracts are a natural part of aging but delaying the onset of cataracts by 10 years can potentially decrease the need for cataract-related surgery. Vitamin C can be found in peppers and in citruses like oranges and limes.
How to enjoy: Use bell peppers as sandwich “cups” or add some citrus to your winter salad for a sweet boost.
Another antioxidant, Vitamin E can play a critical role in preventing oxidative damage that can contribute to cataracts. Almonds and avocado are good sources of this essential vitamin.
How to enjoy: Make your own trail mix and add almonds, or use avocado oil when cooking.
Zinc brings vitamin A to the eye, producing protective melanin in your retina. Oysters and other shellfish are excellent sources of zinc. However, if you are a vegetarian, sprouted beans are a good option too.
How to enjoy: Switch out beef or chicken for shrimp or lentil tacos.
These nutrients play a critical role in keeping our eyes healthy. We always recommend starting with a balanced, nutrient-rich diet that’s rich in leafy greens and fatty fish. If you’re experiencing acute pain or continued irritation, contact your local optometrist for additional recommendations.
Zak. is a one-stop-shop for vision, transforming eye care and eyewear from an obligation to a new way to be well. You can learn more about Zak. or make an appointment at their location inside HealthQuarters here.
MPM Nutrition is a nutrition private practice run by NYC registered dietitian Marissa Meshulam. Marissa coaches clients (both in person and virtually) towards their individual wellness goals by taking a mindful approach to the world of food and nutrition. You can learn more about MPM Nutrition or make an appointment at their location inside HealthQuarters here.