Beyond Beta-Carotene: Vision Health Demands Complete Nutrition
Have you ever heard the old joke about how carrots must be good for your eyes? After all, you never see a rabbit wearing glasses – because carrots are rich in beta-carotene, an important vitamin for vision health. The only problem with this joke is that, if you really want healthy eyes, you’re going to need to think way beyond carrots. These four nutrients also play an important role in protecting your eyes, so if you want healthy eyes, the first step is to diversify your diet.
Like carrots and other orange fruits and vegetables, oranges are rich in beta-carotene, but when it comes to vision health, they have a lot more to offer, including vitamins A, C, and E, and eating an orange once a week reduces the risk of macular degeneration by 60%. And the reason? It’s all about the flavonoids. Oranges contain a high level of flavonoids that reduce inflammation and can protect against this age-related condition.
Focus On Fats
Most trendy diets attract attention for a few months and then fade to the background, but occasionally, one really takes hold. This is the case with veganism, which has seen a significant increase over the last few years, with consequences for vision. According to nutritionist Dr. Lauren Wyness, insufficient omega-3 fatty acids can cause vision problems, and vegetarians and vegans are particularly vulnerable in this regard.
Nutrition-savvy vegans may object, noting that you can get omega-3s from walnuts and flax seeds, among other foods, and it’s true. The problem is that the long chain omega-3s found in fish are the ones that really yield health benefits. Our bodies struggle to convert short chain omega-3s into the long chain variant, it’s better to consume the long chain form directly.
Block Out Blue Light
Typical light – from light bulbs or the sun – is white light; it contains all of the colors in the spectrum. The light from our phones, computers, and televisions, however, is generally blue light, and this isolated wavelength can be tough on the eyes, causing damage to the retina. In order to protect your retina during all that screen time, then, you need a diet rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, two key carotenoids. Lutein and zeaxanthin build up the macula, blocking out blue light and improving detail vision. But where do these carotenoids come from?
Lutein and zeaxanthin are typically found together in foods, and leafy greens contain the greatest concentrations – but be sure to add an avocado or some oil to that salad, since they’re typically absorbed best with fat. Or, if you’re really not interested in another kale smoothie or spinach salad, egg yolks, red grapes, and even sweet corn are also high in lutein and zeaxanthin. And because of their high fat content, egg yolks hit all the marks when it comes to fighting macular degeneration.
Beat Night Blindness
For individuals with good eyesight, one of the first signs of age-related vision loss is trouble seeing at night. If you want your vision to cut through the dark – or at least help you navigate the roads at night, vitamin A, especially in combination with zinc, can help. Vitamin A, commonly found in beef and chicken liver, eggs, and dairy products, offers protection against night blindness and can also reduce irritating dry eye. As in so many other cases, an omnivorous diet offers you the best tools for supporting your vision.
For most people, our vision is our most important sense for navigating and engaging with the world, but you have to treat it right. That starts with eating a diverse diet that’s rich in meat, fish, dairy, fruit, and vegetables. And don’t forget: carrots are good for your eyes, but you’ll need a lot more than that to keep your eyes healthy.