You may have heard that carrots are good for your vision—and it's true.
But they're just the gateway to a rainbow of other eye-healthy food choices, all rich in carotenoids, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These nutrients concentrate in the macula at the back of the eye and protect it from damage caused by oxygen and light. They also prevent degeneration in the lens and retina.
To repeat the mantra of Moran Eye Center researcher and retinal specialist, Paul Bernstein, MD, PhD, "A diet high in fruits and vegetables is important for overall eye health—especially colorful vegetables—several servings a day."
So, what's on the eye-healthy menu?
Now that we're deep into summer, we're also knee-deep in fresh, local fruits and vegetables from home gardens, roadside farm stands, farmers markets, and supermarkets—so there's no better time to take advantage of the bounty—both raw and cooked.
Bernstein emphasizes spinach and kale, tomatoes of every color, arugula, sweet potatoes, broccoli and zucchini (the summer vegetable that keeps on giving). He also notes egg yolks are an excellent source of lutein.
Omega-3 fatty acids benefit your eyes as well. They may help lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration and help with dry eye syndrome because they're rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)—which contributes to overall eye health and visual function.
Omega-3 supplements aren't as effective as simply eating fatty fish like fresh or canned salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, and sardines. Plant-based sources include nuts, seeds like flax and chia, and dark, leafy greens such as arugula and spinach.
Once you get in the habit, it's easy to add more eye-healthy foods to your diet. For instance:
- Slice ripe tomatoes, sprinkle them with chopped fresh basil and add a splash of your favorite vinegar.
- Top roasted or steamed asparagus, polenta, or whole grain toast and sliced avocado with a poached or sunny-side-up egg
- Add cooked kale or spinach to scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, rice, and pasta dishes.
- Slice peaches or nectarines and sprinkle your favorite nuts and seeds over oatmeal or any cereal.
- Stack arugula on your canned tuna or salmon sandwich
- Toss green salads with canned salmon, cherry tomatoes, and hard-cooked eggs
- Top ice cream with fresh berries or sliced Bing cherries
Eye-Healthy Kale & Banana Smoothie
- One large banana (frozen if desired)
- 3 to 4 kale leaves, rinsed and chopped
- ¾ cup vanilla nondairy milk (rice, hemp, or almond)
- ½ cup mango nectar or orange juice
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.