Patients often ask me what foods are good for their eyes. This is a really good question and there has been quite a bit of research into this in recent years.
One particularly good study is the AREDS (age related eye disease study), which was designed to study the natural history and risk factors of macular degeneration and cataracts and to evaluate the effect of particular vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants on these two diseases. In 2013 a follow up study, called AREDS II, was completed to study the effects of omega 3 and lutein/zeaxanthin antioxidants on the progression of macular degeneration. More in depth information on these studies can be found at http://www.nei.nih.gov/amd/.
The original AREDS found that a combination of zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E, copper and beta-carotene was effective in slowing the progression of age related macular degeneration. Beta-carotene has since been omitted from the formula because of concerns about it increasing the rick of cancer in smokers. The AREDS II found that adding lutein/zeaxanthin also slowed the progression of macular degeneration and omega 3 had no effect on macular degeneration progression. However, recently omega 3 has been proven to help with dry eye.
So, what should a person with healthy eyes do? First of all, there are no studies that prove that vitamin supplements will make sure a healthy eye doesn’t get any diseases. However, I believe that if the above vitamins and antioxidants can slow the progression of early macular degeneration, then they could also be beneficial in the diet of a person with a healthy eye. I wouldn’t actively prescribe vitamin supplements to a patient with a healthy eye, but here are the foods that you can find the vitamins and antioxidants in:
· Lutein and zeaxanthin: kale, pumpkin, spinach, brussel sprouts, peas, broccoli, corn, cos lettuce and eggs.
· Omega 3: salmon, sardines, tuna, prawns.
· Vitamin C: orange, capsicum.
· Vitamin E: almonds and wheat germ.
· Zinc: oysters and rice bran.
· Selenium: brazil nuts and cashew nuts.
If you have a healthy eye then I recommend trying to incorporate some of the above foods into your diet.
My other advice for maintaining good vision throughout your life includes:
· Have your eyes tested regularly.
· Don’t smoke.
· Keep a healthy lifestyle, control your weight and exercise regularly.
· Eat fish 2-3 times per week, dark green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit daily and a handful of nuts per week. Limit your intake of fats and oils. Choose low GI carbohydrates.
· Protect your eyes from the sun, even from a young age.
Nicky Carr is our full time optometrist and is also our practice owner.