Eye Health

Nutrients Important for Eye Health

Lutein and Zeaxanthin: Lutein and Zeaxanthin are fat-soluble carotenoids of particular importance to eye health. Carotenoids are the red, orange and yellow pigments found in fruits and vegetable like kale, spinach, corn, apricots and orange peppers. Botanically these pigments offer photoprotective effects for the plant. These same photoprotective pigments are found in the lens and retina of the human eye. Lutein and Zeaxanthin reduce oxidative stress on the eye and absorb blue and UV light.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: There are three types of essential Omega-3 fatty acids: ALA (Alpha-linolenic acid), EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexanoic acid). ALA is found in plant sources like flax seed. EPA and DHA are primarily found in oily cold water fish like salmon and mackerel. DHA is metabolized from EPA and is of particular importance to eye and brain health. DHA is the most prevalent fatty acid in the retina. In the Nurses’ Health Study [1], those who consumed fish four or more times each week had a lower risk of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

Vitamin A Family: The fat soluble Vitamin A family includes Lycopene, Beta-carotene and Retinol as well as Lutein and Zeaxanthin. Lycopene and Beta-carotene are efficient antioxidants and can scavenge free-radicals. Retinol is a pre-formed Vitamin A found in animal food sources such as egg yolk, sardines and liver. Retinol is required for the production of the visual pigment used to see in low light levels.

***Note: Smokers and former smokers should not take Beta-carotene as a supplement as it may increase the risk of lung cancer. ***

Vitamin B Complex: These water soluble vitamins help to break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins for optimal metabolism. Research has suggested that the combination of vitamins B6, B12 and folate may help to protect against Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) [2].

Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a powerful, water soluble antioxidant that supports wound healing and the formation of collagen. Our bodies cannot make or store Vitamin C. Vitamin C is found in every part of the eye and helps to provide protection from free-radical damage done by ultraviolet light.

Vitamin E: Vitamin E is a family of fat soluble antioxidants with cardioprotective benefits. Vitamin E was part was one of several vitamins taken in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS, AREDS2) that was shown to have benefits for Macular Degeneration (AMD). Food sources of this vitamin include sunflower seeds, achiote seeds, spinach and almonds.

Zinc: Zinc is an essential trace mineral important for the immune system and brain. In the eye, a high concentration of this mineral is found in the macula. Another important mineral that helps to support eye health is selenium. Zinc and selenium help the body absorb antioxidants. Food sources of zinc include oysters, pepita seeds and natural dark cocoa. Tuna and crimini mushrooms are good sources of selenium.

*NOTE: Charts listing the food sources of these nutrients can be found in Visionary Kitchen: A Cookbook for Eye Health