If I were to ask “what’s the best thing to eat for the health of your eyes?” Most would respond “carrots!” And if we look at recent studies, you wouldn’t be wrong to name a source of beta carotene. However, there are so many other nutritional sources that are beneficial to overall health that also benefit your eyes. With a variety of sources, through food and supplementation, you can easily assure you’re getting the recommended daily intake.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
What did I just read!?! Lutein and Zeaxanthin are nutrients that are found in leafy green veggies. They are powerful antioxidants and act as filters to harmful radiation. They are vital for the health of the macula, the part of the eye responsible for your central and sharpest vision. Furthermore, these nutrients are also protective against oxidative stress and tissue damage. While there is no recommended daily intake, studies have shown the amount that is beneficial to the eyes is 10mg of Lutein and 2mg Zeaxanthin daily.
Every cell in your body depends on this super vitamin for regular function, including cells in your cardiovascular, digestive, and ocular systems. The FDA has established the dietary reference intake, or DRI, as 90mg/day for men and 75mg/day for women. Studies recommend 300-500mg daily in combination with other antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals for maximum benefit against certain ocular diseases. Switch up your sources from your daily glass of OJ with the following recommendations!
Another essential antioxidant, vitamin E protects cells and prevents breakdown of tissues. Deficiencies in vitamin E are known to be associated with nerve damage, muscle weakness, poor coordination, and anemia. The FDA’s DRI is 22 IU/day, regardless of gender. To benefit the eyes, 400 IU daily in combination with other antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals is recommended. Of note, the amount of vitamin E should be increased if one’s diet is particularly low in fat.
Essential Fatty Acids: Omega-3 – DHA and EPA
If I had to choose a favorite nutrient, it would definitely be omega-3 fatty acids. They are essential for every system in the body and in regulating inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for cells to obtain nutrition and rid themselves of waste. Deficiencies can lead to visual impairment and dryness of the eyes and skin. The American Heart Association recommends a daily intake of 0.5-1.0g/day of DHA and EPA. For those who do not consume fish or meat, microalgae is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Many systemic and ocular diseases are “nutrition responsive disorders,” meaning many ailments can be reversed with proper diet and activity. While it’s well established that the average American falls far short of consuming the recommended amount of nutrients daily, it is crucial for overall health and, of course, ocular health!
CDC: Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight
Diet & Nutrition: Adding Powerful Antioxidants to Your Diet can Improve Your Eye Health
Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
Majority of Americans Not Meeting Recommendations For Fruit and Vegetable Consumption: http://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/2009/r090929.htm
National Eye Institute: The AREDS Formulation and Age-Related Macular Degeneration: