What are the most important nutrients for healthy vision?
According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), the most common eye problems in people aged between 19 to 40 years are caused by visual stress. Some of these eye issues include:
- Dry eye disease – this is a condition characterized by the insufficient production of the tear fluid. It causes the eyes to dry up, leading to discomfort and potentially, visual problems.
- Formation of cataracts – this is the leading cause of blindness and visual impairment across the world. It is a condition where the lens in the eye develops a cloudy layer leading to reduced vision.
- Glaucoma – this is a combination of diseases that cause the degeneration of the optic nerve. Glaucoma could result in poor eyesight or even blindness.
- Macular degeneration – macula is the central and functional part of the retina. As you age, this part may degenerate leading to poor vision or blindness
- Diabetic retinopathy – as the name suggests, this condition is common in people who have diabetes. It occurs as a result of damage to blood vessels in the retina.
One of the key elements in maintaining a healthy vision is eating a well-balanced diet.
However, some foods have nutrients that will minimize the development of eye-related degenerative diseases as a result of age and maintain healthy eye functioning.
These nutrients also protect your eyes from eye conditions that are a result of age, harmful UV rays from the sun, and short-wavelength light from digital devices, LEDs, and fluorescents.
1. Vitamin A and beta-carotene
Vitamin A supplements have antioxidant properties which play a critical role in maintaining a healthy vision, a good immune system, and bone development.
It also helps the cornea and the mucous membrane in the eyes become effective viruses and bacteria barriers. This reduces the risk of eye infections.
Beta-carotene is a nutrient of the carotenoid family and is a vitamin A precursor. This implies that your body transforms any beta-carotene you consume into vitamin A.
Vitamin A deficiency could lead to such problems as dry eyes, night blindness, and increased sensitivity to light, among other problems.
Natural sources of vitamin A include liver, cod-liver oil, beef, whole milk, and cheese. Carrots are the richest source of beta-carotene. You can also get beta-carotene from fruits and vegetables such as; squash, papaya, apricot, raspberries, spinach, lettuce, broccoli, and cabbage.
2. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are also described as essential fatty acids since you have to get them from your regular diet as the body cannot make them. There are three forms of omega-3 fatty acids which include:
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
The last two are common in fatty fish while the first can be found in non-fish sources.
How do the fatty acids help maintain a healthy vision?
DHA is naturally found in your eye’s retina. Therefore, the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids results in improved retinal function.
Omega-3 fatty acids also have anti-inflammatory benefits that help prevent problems such as macular degeneration.
According to a study, taking DHA and EPA supplements daily for about three months reduces dry eye symptoms.
Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, oysters, mackerel, and cod liver oil, among others. Vegetarian sources of these acids include seaweed and algae, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, and chia seeds.
3. Vitamin C and bioflavonoids
Commonly referred to as ascorbic acid, vitamin C helps maintain the connective tissues in the body, including collagen, which is found eye’s cornea.
When taken alongside other essential nutrients, ascorbic acid slows the progression of macular degeneration and visual acuity loss as a result of age.
Vitamin C also promotes healthy capillaries in the eyes and prevents cataracts.
Bioflavonoids or flavonoids are a group of substances which are found in the same foods that are sources of Vitamin C.
Specific flavonoids such as quercetin stabilizes the cell membranes that release histamine, a compound which is involved in inflammatory and allergic reactions.
Therefore, quercetin could help prevent seasonal allergies.
Vitamin C and bioflavonoids are found in citrus fruits including oranges, grapefruit, limes, lemons, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, sweet red peppers, and sweet green peppers.
4. Vitamin E
This is a powerful antioxidant that protects the eyes from damage caused by metabolic by-products or free radicals.
The free radicals break down the eye’s healthy tissue increasing the chances of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and the formation of cataracts.
The American Optometric Association estimates that over 25 million people across the globe are affected by AMD.
Vitamin E plays a significant role in boosting the body’s immune system as well as the formation of healthy cell membranes across the body, including the eyes.
It also protects fat-soluble antioxidants from harmful oxidation.
As the retina has a rich concentration of fatty acids, ensuring you take vitamin E is critical to optimum eye health. Cereals, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, peanuts, and almonds, are some of the most common dietary sources of vitamin E.
5. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)
This is one component of the essential omega-6 fatty acids group. Unlike most omega-6 fatty acids that are pro-inflammatory, GLA has anti-inflammatory properties.
GLA is the only viable precursor to prostaglandin E1 (PGE1), which is a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Increase of PGE1 levels has been shown by numerous studies to have a positive impact on people suffering from dry eyes.
To be effective, GLA supplements have to be used alongside EPA or DHA supplements. Combining omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids also minimize the levels of arachidonic acid in the eye’s retina.
This acid is responsible for most ocular infections. GLA is common in plant oil extracts such as black currant, primrose, fungal oil, and borage oil.
6. Lutein and Zeaxanthin
These are antioxidants that are naturally found in the human eye’s macula and retina.
They are responsible for the protection of ocular tissues against harmful free radicals. With age, the antioxidant protection begins to get depleted.
This increases the chances of the formation of age-related cataracts and macular degeneration. Lutein and zeaxanthin filter harmful UV rays from the sun as well as blue light wavelengths.
This helps prevent ocular damage resulting from photooxidation reactions.
These carotenoids occur naturally in foods such as kale, parsley, spinach, pistachios, green peas, red grapes, sweet corn, and swiss chards. Egg yolks are also a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin.
As is evident, you can get all the mentioned nutrients from a healthy diet.
Like many naturally occurring nutrients, the way you prepare, consume your food, as well as the food combination affects how well your body can absorb these nutrients.
This makes taking nutritional supplements the most effective way of filling the nutritional gaps in your diet.
Vision Smart Center provides you with high-quality eye supplements.
Make sure you speak to your physician if you are taking any prescription medication before taking any nutritional supplements.
Although our eye supplements are non-prescription items, exceeding the dosage instruction increases the risk of drug reactions or toxicity.