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Do carrots improve your eyesight? Nine good foods for eye health

Consultant Ophthalmic and Oculoplastic Surgeon, Miss Elizabeth Hawkes

Have you ever seen a rabbit wearing glasses? No? That’s because carrots - every bunny’s favourite food - are high in Vitamin A.

But it’s not just carrots that you should think about when considering foods that are good for your eyes. Many of the nutrients needed for good eye health aren’t produced by the body, so it’s essential that you get them from your diet.

We’ve put together a guide to the nine other foods for eye health:

1. Green leafy vegetables

Kale, spinach, cabbage and broccoli contains lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids – yellow plant pigments - which are thought to stop blue light from reaching the underlying layers of the retina, reducing damage and cell degeneration.

This, in turn, reduces the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of sight loss in adults in the UK (source: Macular Society) and lowers the risk of cataract development.

The Macular Society recommends that an adult eats at least 10mg of lutein per day, which equates to about 90g of kale, 130g of spinach or 300g of broccoli.

If you don’t like leafy greens, garden peas or avocados are also a good source of these nutrients.

2. Fish

Dry eye is a common condition, where your tears don’t lubricate the eye, leaving it feeling gritty. According to the RNIB, clinical trials have shown that Omega-3 fatty acids can have a beneficial effect on dry eye.

Omega-3 can be found in oily fish such as herring, salmon, sardines and fresh tuna – as well as some shellfish, such as oysters.

Yellowfin tuna and sardines are also a good source of selenium. Selenium, a powerful antioxidant, is a trace mineral which contributes towards good eye health by reducing the symptoms of dry eye and protecting the lens thus reducing the likelihood of cataracts. Selenium also regulates the hormones produced by your thyroid, so may help prevent thyroid eye disease.

3. Chicken and turkey

When you're thinking about foods for eye health, turkey is one of the healthiest meats you can eat, as it’s high in zinc. Zinc helps your body bring vitamin A from the liver to the retina in order to create the pigment melanin. Not only does melanin determine the colour of your eyes when you’re born, it can also help protect them from UV damage.

4. Eggs

As well as being a prime source of retina-friendly carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, eggs are a great source of vitamin A and selenium.

Too much selenium can affect your thyroid, so it’s important to talk to your GP about the dosage that’s best for you.

5. Nuts, seeds and oils

If you don’t eat fish, meat or eggs, there are plenty of other delicious foods that are good for your eyes. For example, you can get Omega-3 from walnuts, flax or chia seeds; selenium from brazil nuts and zinc from hemp seeds

6. Beans and pulses

As well as being a great source of protein if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, haricot beans (also known as navy beans) are high in Omega-3. Kidney beans, black beans and lentils are a good source of zinc.

7. Firm tofu

Firm tofu contains amino acids that your body can’t make by itself and is high in selenium and zinc as well as that all-important Omega-3. Soy (from which tofu is made) also contains vitamin E, which is important for the maintenance of good eye health (source: Vision Matters).

8. Citrus fruits and berries

Citrus fruits are well known for containing Vitamin C, which is great for the health of your eyes and has been proven to lower your risk of developing cataracts.

Vitamin C is also an antioxidant; good for the tiny blood vessels in your eyes and reduces the chance of developing macular degeneration.

If you’re not a fan of citrus fruit, you can find vitamin C supplements in most pharmacies and health food stores – but remember to check with your GP before you begin taking them.

9. Oatmeal and fortified breakfast cereal

Not only do wholegrains, such as oats, help keep you full – they have a low glycaemic index (GI) which can help reduce the risk of AMD. Why not try topping your porridge with some blueberries, which are high in antioxidants and good foods for eye health.

Which foods are good for your eyes?

Consultant Ophthalmologist and Oculoplastic surgeon, Miss Elizabeth Hawkes, talks about foods that are good for eye health.

Enjoy a confident, clearer future

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Published on 05 May 2021