10 best foods for eye health

Daniel Couglin / 19 September 2016 ( 12 January 2021 )

If you want to boost the health of your eyes, these 10 vision-friendly foods should help.



Having the foresight to protect your peepers from age-related conditions such as general vision loss, glaucoma and cataracts could make all the difference to your eye health later on in life.

Giving up smoking, taking frequent exercise and wearing sunglasses to shield your eyes from damaging UV rays are proven ways to safeguard your ocular health, and it's important to have regular eye check-ups with a qualified ophthalmic practitioner, too.

What you eat is also key, so find out what you need to eat.

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Kale

Professor John Nolan of the Waterford Institute of technology in Ireland has carried out pioneering work looking at the effects of carotenoid pigments called lutein and zeaxanthin on the macula, a part of the retina that is crucial for detailed vision.

His research was featured recently on the BBC's Trust Me, I'm a Doctor show in which presenter Dr Michael Mosley concluded that a diet high in these pigments improves vision and may protect the macula from age-related damage.

Cooked kale is the best dietary source of lutein and zeaxanthin, not to mention beneficial vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, so upping your intake should in all likelihood enhance your eye health.

Recipe: Asian chopped omelette with kale

Carrots

There's actually a lot of truth in the old adage that carrots are good for the eyes and help you see better in the dark. Carrots are a rich source of lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body.

Vitamin A is essential for clear vision and general eye health, and may help prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. Several portions a week should suffice and like kale, cooking your carrots will make their precious pigments more bio-available.

Recipe: Carrot and parsnip soup with cumin and chilli butter

Red peppers

Red peppers contain high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids, which have been shown to improve detailed and night vision, as well as protect the macula from degeneration.

Red peppers are also an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C, and a very good source of vitamin E, which studies indicate are all vital for optimum eye health. Again, it's worth remembering that heat releases more of the carotenoid pigments, while eating red peppers raw retains more vitamin C.

Recipe: Balsamic salad of roasted leek and red pepper

Oranges

Not a fan of red peppers? Stock up on oranges instead. Like red peppers, oranges are high in lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids, and make for an excellent source of protective vitamin C to boot.

The sweet fruit is also packed with beta-carotene, the pigment that gives it its characteristic hue, so you really can't go wrong with an orange if you're serious about looking after your vision and protecting your eyes from age-related damage.

Recipe: Carrot, orange and courgette cake

Garden peas

The humble garden pea is an excellent source of those all-important lutein and zeaxanthin pigments, and like kale, carrots, red peppers and oranges, the legume is bursting with eye-friendly beta-carotene.

An outstanding food all round for good eye health, peas also contain a myriad of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C and zinc, that support the eyes and help protect them from age-related damage. Lightly steaming or gently boiling your peas will help extract the most micronutrients.

Recipe: Scallop, bacon and pea salad with warm potatoes

Eggs

Egg yolks are a very rich source of lutein and contain impressive levels of zeaxanthin. Crucially, experts believe the lutein and zeaxanthin in eggs are more easily absorbed by the body than the same carotenoid pigments in fruit and vegetables such as oranges, kale and garden peas.

Studies also suggest a regular intake of eggs can reduce the risk of developing cataracts by up to 18% and protect the macula from age-related degeneration. Chowing down on several healthy portions of eggs a week should be sufficient, as long as you eat the yolk as well as the white.

Recipe: Spanish omelette

Blackberries

In season in late summer, blackberries are loaded with anthocyanins, the antioxidant pigments that give them their dark colour, which studies suggest prevent and slow the progression of age-related conditions such as AMD and cataracts.

Blackcurrants, blueberries, and other high anthocyanin-containing foods like purple olives, offer the same eye-boosting benefits. Try to include these antioxidant foods in your diet several times a week if you can.

Recipe: Frozen blackberry parfait

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Salmon

According to the RNIB, a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent dry eye syndrome, including the more serious forms of the condition such as blepharitis and meibomian gland disease, which are more common in older people. Experts believe omega-3 reduces inflammation and has a regulatory effect on tear production, helping to moisturise the surface of the eyes.

Studies have shown that omega-3 can help prevent AMD, too. Opt for two to three portions a week of salmon or other oily fish like mackerel or sardines to reap the benefits. If you don't eat fish, you can get your recommended daily intake (RDI) of omega-3 from flax seeds, chia seeds and leafy greens.

Recipe: Salmon en croute

Almonds

The almond is one of the richest sources of vitamin E on the planet, weight for weight, and a small handful of the nuts will provide half your RDI.

The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), a major research project sponsored by the US National Eye Institute found that a regular intake of vitamin E can reduce the risk of developing cataracts by 25%. Other excellent sources of vitamin E include extra-virgin olive oil and sunflower seeds.

Recipe: Almond milk

Prawns

Along with seafood delicacies such as oysters and lobster as well as red meat, prawns are particularly high in zinc. This essential mineral is important for eye health because it's one of the main components of the pigment melanin, which protects the eyes from UV-induced damage, and conditions such as AMD and cataracts.

High in protein and low in fat, prawns are a healthy source of the mineral. Vegetarian or vegan? Leafy greens such as spinach and pulses like kidney beans and are the richest sources of zinc for non meat-eaters.

Recipe: Salmon and prawn teriyaki skewers

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.