Health - General
By: - at September 25, 2013

Top 15 Foods That Improve Eyesight

Seeing is something you can easily take for granted. Many sports, crafts, workplaces, and human interactions require vision, and you have probably become so well practiced at not just those skills but at taking cues from the visual world that you might never give a conscious thought to seeing. That can change, though, if you develop issues with your vision. Vision difficulties can impact every sphere of your life with their direct limitations on your abilities, and can lessen your quality of life with their indirect impacts on your health. Poor vision can lead to headaches and neck aches from straining to focus, as well as an increase in household accidents when important environmental details are missed. Many people naturally experience deterioration in eyesight as they age, and while it’s not possible to reverse detrimental effects without surgery, there may be very simple and natural ways to care for your vision at home and prevent the onset of many troubles.

human eye closeup, eyesight, eye, vision

Food is one such aspect to work on maintaining your quality of vision, as your nutrition lays the foundation for the rest of your health. Read on to find out what foods you should be eating to protect your eyes.


15)  Whole Grains
You may have already heard that whole grains, like whole wheat bread and pasta, are better for the waistline than their refined cousins, but it’s also true they serve some limited functions for eye health and vision. While flour processing often leaches these nutrients out, sources of whole grain contain zinc and selenium; two important minerals for protecting your vision. Zinc in particular is an important catalytic element found in high levels in the retina, and allows numerous chemical reactions to take place. Zinc deficiency is a common issue among adults, and can make the body weaker to stress and the effects of aging.

wheat field, whole grains

Additionally, whole grain diets can be good for eyesight because they are part of eating some low carb diets. In some studies, high carb diets have been linked to advancing age-related macular degeneration. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition noted that a diet with a high glycemic index — one laden with sugary, processed carbohydrates — could be as bad for patients with advanced macular degeneration as it is for diabetics. Both of these patients suffer from a blood chemical imbalance that disrupts delicate systems in the body, leading to visible tissue damage.


14)  Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, a vitamin that affects many bodily systems. The most well-known effect is on the immune system, where vitamin C can give a boost to your body in fighting off microscopic invaders. Vitamin C can also boost capillary circulation, healthy cartilage, and teeth and gums as well. Now, it appears vitamin C is an important nutrient for the eye, where it protects visual acuity, prevents cataract formation and growth, and slows down damage done by advanced macular degeneration. Vitamin C is so important the American Optometric Association discusses its value on their website, and recommends you consume the recommended daily value prescribed for good health.

citrus fruits

While you can — and should — get your vitamin C in a multivitamin supplement, vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin that is easily flushed out of the body. There is no side effect to taking more, and while it is still under research, it appears that the more vitamin C consumed, the stronger an effect it has. Grapefruit, oranges, and many other citrus fruits are loaded with this vitamin and other important nutrients, and so should become a staple of your diet if you want to protect your eyes.


13)  Spinach
This dark leafy green is an underrated wonder food. Popeye may vouch for it, but it seems a lot of people still over look this wonderful source of calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B12, and vitamin C. Additionally, spinach contains lutein, a nutrient slowly coming to the spotlight for its effects on vision. It may take as little as half a cup of spinach a day to reap the benefits from these leafy greens.

Strawberry and Spinach Salad
Strawberry and Spinach Salad

It’s okay if cooked spinach isn’t your thing. Overcooking destroys too many of these precious nutrients anyway. Spinach is excellent in salads, either as an additional green or as a substitute for lettuce. Additionally, you can blend one serving of raw spinach up in your smoothie with rich berries and strong citrus, and gain a green boost in a way that hides the flavor under sweeter tasting foods. Still not feeling spinach? Also look into kale, broccoli, and kelp to find equivalent sources for the same nutrients.


12)  Beans and Legumes
Beans are another good source of zinc, and also contain a couple different carotenoids similar to lutein. Some beans are also good sources of vitamin A and vitamin E. You probably already know this humble vegetable packs a serious protein punch, a food that can easily provide the energy you need to keep your eyes fuelled and ready to roll.

assorted beans and legumes

Like beans, legumes also contain many carotenoids as well as high amounts of protein. Peas are a good source of additional vitamins, and peanuts are a good source of vitamin E. Vitamin E is most known for its effect on skin, but that’s not the only system it can improve the health of. Vitamin E is an important aid in cellular repair and restoration, and so can help eyes repair damaged spots, prevent cataracts, and slow down degeneration from aging.


11)  Nuts
Protein is good for all your systems, and nuts are a great source of lean protein. They also contain nutritious fatty oils like vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin E once again contains a host of restoring capacity for the body to utilize, and can also help protect the eye's most sensitive part; the retina. Fatty acids often make health news in terms of brain boosting abilities, but fatty acids can also have a fantastic effect on your delicate eyes. Human eyes surprisingly have a great need for fats to maintain their overall health.

mixed nuts

Nuts provide a quick energy boost as a snack, which keeps blood sugar levels from crashing, causing the body to divert energy reserves and function from the eyes. Besides its other effects, low blood sugar can cause spots in the visual field, symptoms of eye strain, and a ghosting phenomenon — sometimes called “seeing double.” Reaching extremes of starvation can even cause hallucinations, which, while that’s on your visual processing centers, still affects your vision in terms of what you see. While these effects might not occur under the circumstances of your normal life, where the kitchen and vending machines are never far away, the fact remains that any foods that can help you stay full and satisfied will ensure you never end up testing your limits, whether it be at home or abroad.


10)  Seafood
Seafood also contains omega-3 fatty acids as well as zinc. In fact, oysters in particularly have some of the highest levels of zinc in any food stuff — 76.3 milligrams per serving — as the American Optometric Association's Age-Related Eye Disease Study discovered. That’s only six oysters, if you’re keeping a close count.

fresh seafood dinner

Among the many catalytic activities performed using zinc ions, one of the most important is the process whereby vitamin A produces melanin for the retina. Melanin is a chemical compound that acts like a natural sunblock for us, attempting to repel damaging rays. You may know it most in terms of skin color, as it is what makes up the pigment in dark skinned individuals, freckles, and your summer tan. While pale complexions developing a sudden hue from melanin points to skin damage, melanin is produced in the eyes as a preventative measure from sun damage to the lens and the retina — a very delicate visual disk whose deterioration leads to blindness.





9)  Bell Peppers
These peppers are also packed with vitamin C like some of the other foods on this list. In addition, you can find vitamin E, betacarotene, vitamin B6, capsaicin, antioxidants, and many other enzymatic phtyochemicals in bell peppers. Red bell peppers contain the greatest amounts of many of these nutrients, though any variety is worth giving a try. When you roast them lightly at low heat, these peppers have an almost sweet flavor to them mixed in with the spiciness, making them a favorite vegetable in stir-fry dishes.

red and green bell peppers

Bell peppers are also exceptionally low in calories, making them a good choice if you’re trying to watch your weight. Finally, sulfur compounds in the peppers are also catalytically important to your bodily systems like vision, as well as serving as a protective measure against certain cancers.


8)  Avocado
You may know avocados for their high fat content, but this vegetable also contains folate, lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamin E — among other nutrients. Zeaxanthin is another carotenoid like lutein that is responsible for aiding vitamin A in running the eye’s visual functions. The fat in avocados is monosaturated, which is the healthiest variety for your body that plays a key role in metabolism and cellular processing.

Avocado Tree
Avocado Tree

The oleic acid in avocados is also important in lowering bad cholesterol and promoting healthy cholesterol, which can improve the health of arteries and prevent strokes as well as heart attacks. Along those lines, the folate and high amounts of potassium in these vegetables aid heart health, as both nutrients are vital to maintaining heart regularity and strength. The antioxidants found in avocado flesh help prevent cancer, and many of the other nutrients available appear to aid in the absorption of nutrients found in other foods eaten with this one — particularly the carotenoids needed to protect vision and promote optimal function of the eyes.


7)  Garlic
Garlic, onions, and shallots are all distantly related plants that share many important health benefits. Garlic has been linked to cancer prevention, cardiovascular health, immune protection, and metabolism just to name a few. The sulfur compounds in garlic are the largest contributors to the herb’s health abilities. Garlic regulates blood sugar levels and improves circulation, both of which are important metabolic factors for maintaining eye function. Garlic also has anti-inflammatory properties, a help to any tired tissue, and has anti-microbial benefits. The latter is particularly important to sensitive areas like the eye, where infections are highly communicable and can lead to detrimental effects that include temporary or permanent loss of vision.

garlic

The compound allicin in garlic is great for lowering blood pressure, which is also good for your eyes. Hypertension can cause a variety of eye disorders, and lead to such symptoms as bleeding at the back of the eye, spots on the retina, and swelling of many parts of the eye.


6)  Eggs
Eggs have a strange, wavering reputation with the public, and go through fads of being in and out of diets. At one point eggs were good for you, then it was decided they were bad, and it seems the jury is still out on how healthy consuming eggs is for the body. Cholesterol has been a big concern regarding eggs — as with all animal products. The key here is to understand the difference between cooked saturated fat and the healthy lipids that are present in eggs when they are consumed in their raw state. Eggs are high in protein, zinc, choline, lutein, zeaxanthin, and sulfur. Egg whites are the easiest to digest amino acids among your foodstuffs, and many of an egg’s proteins are ideal for strengthening the structure of the eye. As stated elsewhere in the list, zinc, sulfur, and the carotenoids all work together to aid the catabolic processes need to keep the eye running smoothly and stay well-protected.

egg

Choline isn’t directly important for eye health, but it is increasingly linked to optimum brain function, particularly in fetal development. Even in adulthood, the nutrient appears to be important in helping the brain form neural connections and process information. Choline may work together with omega-3 fatty acids to strengthen neural connections all over the body as well. Since vision is nothing but processed light waves made into sensible, recognizable patterns by the network of the brain receiving the eye’s input, choline can still play a crucial role in how well you see. So, in moderation, eggs are definitely a superfood you should be adding to your pantry if you’re serious about the health of your eyes.  Also eating the egg yolks uncooked (or runny) is a healthier than cooking them.  Just make sure the eggs are healthy from the start, which means organic and free range.


5)  Dark Chocolate
You can never have too many excuses to eat more chocolate, especially dark chocolate. In small amounts, this rich food has a host of health benefits that include many antioxidant powers and its ability to promote circulation. Better blood flow and healthy blood vessels are essential to keep your eyes in tip top shape. Eyes have a lot of work to do just to give you one fleeting nanosecond worth of a view of the world. Most of what they do is involved with complex chemical reactions that capture photons, and reassemble them into basic structures that the brain can read as patterns.

dark chocolate

All of this is powered by the flow of nutrients and the removal of by-products that has to remain in constant function to keep from interrupting our eyesight. High blood pressure, low blood pressure, poor circulation, and oxygen starved blood can all hinder this molecular trade, and over time, an unfit cardiovascular system will contribute to cellular degeneration, cell death, and decline in abilities of the affected system. Poor circulation is the cause behind neuropathy, which the primary symptoms are numbness and tingling, that can eventually lead to necrosis of ocular tissue at both minor and major levels.


4)  Apricots
This humble little stone fruit deserves more recognition for the nutrient powerhouse it is. Containing vitamin C, lycopene, tryptophan, potassium, and betacarotene, the smooth, sweet flesh of a golden apricot is a good nutritional investment for improving your overall health. Apricots are a great way to maintain as well as enhance the function of your eyes. The American Optometric Association recommends getting a full three servings of fruit a day to protect against diseases of the eye that lead to vision loss, and just one juicy apricot already puts you a third of the way there.

apricots on a the tree

Like many foods, buying locally grown produce is the best way to maximize the amount of nutrients you will receive when you eat it. Local fruits are more likely to be fully ripened, have fresher flesh that is less likely to have begun breaking down, and on a grander scale, reduce your carbon footprint by requiring less fossil fuels because the food did not have to travel across continents to get to you. In the U.S., apricot season is roughly from May to August, which you can only assume coincides perfectly with smoothie season. Most commercial apricots are grown in California, but while that might not be what you think of as local, since many winter apricots come from as far away as New Zealand. But in a country like the U.S. where now almost everything seems to be outsourced, that doesn’t sound all that bad.


3)  Bilberries
Historically, British pilots once used these berries to improve their night vision when flying on dangerous military missions. Today, bilberries are still considered important for your ocular health. The primary compound in bilberries that aids eyes is anthocyanosides, which is nourishing to eye tissues. Anthocyanosides are potent antioxidants that make up the dark pigments of many fruits and berries. While not currently supported by many major studies, there is still a strong anecdotal association with these compounds and direct improvements of vision — particularly night vision.

Bog Northern Bilberry
Bog Northern Bilberry

Bilberries are native to North America, and have been used for many years in jams, jellies, and baked goods — particularly as a substitute for black currant. Bilberries are related to the blueberry, which contains many of the same compounds, as well as a similar dose of vitamin C. Bilberries are also known to protect the retina, and in some cases have been noted as improving atherosclerosis, or plaque build-up in blood vessels. Its effects on the circulatory system are prized by holistic medicine practitioners for treating varicose veins in a nonsurgical, all-natural way as well. Bilberries can be eaten raw, drunk in a juice, or consumed cooked or baked in other foods. If you don’t have a decent supply of fresh bilberries close by and you don’t fancy growing them yourself, there are also bilberry extracts, tinctures, and supplements available at most health food stores. The only drawback to supplementing bilberries in your diet is that an overdose of the concentrated bilberry, in some cases, can cause an upset stomach. Possible medical interactions have also not been explored, as bilberries are considered a food and not a medicinal compound. If you’re serious about trying these to enhance the overall functionality of your eyes, it’s best to discuss it with a ophthalmologist.


2)  Sweet Potatoes
These tubers are nutritiously dense, containing zinc, iron, betacarotene, vitamin D, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and magnesium. They are also fibrous and filling, and though a little fattening when smothered and glazed at your holiday table, can be a calorically economical choice when baked with some light seasoning. Sweet potatoes “fries,” or julienned slices of sweet potato baked crispy in the oven with herbs or a pinch of cinnamon sugar are one of the trendiest ways to consume this superfood. Sweet potatoes have a sweet, rich, creamy taste to them, never leaving you feeling guilty; even if you consume this food daily.

sweet potatoes

In addition to the benefits of the nutrients already discussed, iron promotes good cell functioning and oxygen transport throughout the body. Associated with heme, iron is integral in oxygenating blood, providing eyes with the necessary gas that regulates so many respiratory functions all the way down to the molecular level. Magnesium is also an important mineral for nearly all these systems, and is essential to good catabolic function as well. It is also a majorly overlooked ingredient by people trying to live a healthy lifestyle, so move ahead of the crowd by consuming foods rich in it, such as sweet potatoes.


1)  Carrots
You may never refer to carrots as ‘Rabbit food” after you see the benefits carrots can provide. Carrots come in a much wider variety than you might realize, too. Not just orange, there are also green, purple, white and red carrots. Orange and yellow carrots — the most commonly known — are the best protectors against cardiovascular disease, and have a very high level of betacarotene. Some purple and red varieties are also strong in this area and contain the same antioxidant compounds discussed so positively with bilberries and blueberries. While it’s popular to tout other foods less associated with eyesight better than carrots, carrots are just as nutritiously dense, and have the added benefit of being easily accessible in many food markets. Carrots are also relatively easy to grow for new gardeners. So if you’re looking to take a hand in raising your own food supply, you should take a look at these vegetables.

carrots

Carrots can be enjoyed fresh and raw — particularly in their growing seasons of summer and fall — or lightly steamed, and can be found in salads, on sandwiches, in stews, and as a stand-alone side item. You may even consume some in of all places baked goods, like in a carrot cake. It’s important to note, that carrots should be cooked carefully and never over boiled in order to preserve their nutritional value. The betacarotene in many of these vegetables like carrots is a precursor to vitamin A, which the retina transforms into rhodopsin. Rhodopsin makes up the rods in your eyes that give you lowlight as well as night vision. Carrots also contain phytochemicals that are good for the skin, which have anti-septic properties. Additionally, a natural pesticide produced by carrot roots called falcarinol is currently in research for its possible anti-cancer properties.


Final Thoughts
It might be more difficult to truly improve or enhance eyesight, but due to the fact that some level of degeneration is inevitable, just stalling the development of disorders in your eyes will put your vision ahead of your peers. Preventative nutrition is the way of the future as much as biotechnological innovation is. Both intensive biochemical research and the rising cost of healthcare in many places, is a great encouragement for you to make necessary lifestyle changes. By making these nutritional changes, you will be able to take advantage of the properties of your food supply to ward off medical interventions, and ensure your future quality of life as well as eyesight.


 

 

 

 

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