Eating a good diet and exercising regularly is important for your overall wellbeing. Diet and exercise is also important for your eye health. Here are a few tips on just some of the nutrients required to keep your eyes and vision in top condition.
Cells can be damaged by the presence of free radicals, which are ions derived from the oxidation chemical reactions within the body. Antioxidants are thought to counter the effects of these free radicals. They also provide protection against environmental damage from pollution, cigarettes and sunlight. Examples of antioxidants in the form of eye vitamins include:
• Vitamin C, a water soluble vitamin found in fresh fruits and vegetables. Foods high in Vitamin C include citrus fruits, peppers, broccoli, kiwi and berries. The American Optometric Association recommends Vitamin C for combating age-related eye problems including age-related macular degeneration and visual acuity defects.
• Vitamin E a fat soluble vitamin, found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, nuts, oils, fats and dairy foods such as milk products and eggs. Vitamin E is thought to delay the formation of cataracts.
• Vitamin A and beta-carotene, the precursor of vitamin A. Beta-carotene gives food an orange or yellow colour, and is found in carrots, apricots and sweet potatoes. Like Vitamin E, vitamin A is fat soluble and is found in high quantities in liver, oils, fats and dairy products. Vitamin A is an essential component of rhodopsin, a protein which helps the retina absorb light waves.
Omega-3 fatty acids are derived from polyunsaturated fats and because they cannot be made by our bodies, they must come from our diet –so called essential fats. Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly important in the function and structure of cell membranes, especially those cells in the grey matter of the brain and those lining nerves. For this reason omega-3 fatty acids are vital nutrients for good eye health: they keep healthy the optic nerve and the cells responsible for detecting light. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in plants such as nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables as well as oily fish such as tuna and salmon. Some studies have shown that eating fish oil can help treat dry eyes.
As well as eye vitamins and fatty acids there are eye minerals. Zinc is just one essential trace mineral that is known to be vital to eye health. It is involved in the production of melanin, a pigment that is present in your iris and gives your eye its colour. Zinc is also present in high concentrations in the retina and in the layer of tissue underneath the retina, called the choroid. Zinc deficiency has been linked to cataract formation and age-related macular degeneration, both conditions which impair vision. Foods with a high level of zinc include raw oysters, red meat, beans and nuts.
So, in summary eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables and proteins can help keep your eyes in good shape. If you are unable to meet your nutritional needs for any reason, please speak to your doctor as you may benefit from nutrition supplements.
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