Nutrition

What Foods Are Good For Your Eyes?

Medically reviewed by Dr.Varsha Prabala, BAMS, MD
by Swathi Handoo

Eye disorders are no longer related to age. Their incidence has risen in adults as well as children, given the poor nutritional value of our daily meals.

Binging only on carrots wouldn’t give you 6-by-6 vision. It’s time we realized that our eyes need not just one but a bunch of macro and micronutrients. Vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and proteins are the chart-toppers (1).

Want to know how to get these nutrients? Scroll on to find the top 6 foods that are good for your eyes.

1. Green Leafy Vegetables

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Green leafy veggies contain important compounds called carotenoids. Of the 20–30 carotenoids found in your body, only lutein and zeaxanthin are found in the lens and retina of your eyes (1).

It is, hence, recommended that you eat foods rich in them. The best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin are (2):

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Collards
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Turnip greens
  • Brussels sprouts 

Intake Limit: Although there is no set intake value (RDA) for them, research suggests a dose of 6-12 mg/day of the two nutrients would work the best (3).

2. Fish

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Fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Two predominant forms of these fats are EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) (1).

EPA and DHA perform a variety of functions to protect your eyes. DHA is a key fatty acid found in the retina and is present in large amounts. These fatty acids maintain the physical and biochemical condition of the eyes and their proteins (1).

The most abundant sources of EPA and DHA in fish are (1):

  • Trout
  • Halibut
  • Anchovy
  • Herring
  • Haddock
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Tuna

Intake limit: Eat oily fish twice a week or get 1.1 g/day of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil supplements. Men and women above 50 years may need 121 mg and 13 mg per day, respectively, of these fats (1), (3).

3. Nuts, Seeds, And Legumes

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Nuts, legumes, and beans have essential fatty acids, zinc, and vitamin E (1).

Zinc maintains the health of the retina. It catalyzes several chemical reactions between antioxidants and free radicals to eliminate the latter. It also plays a vital role in preserving the structure of proteins and retinal cell membranes (1).

Vitamin E (or tocopherols) is primarily an antioxidant. It has potent radical-scavenging activity. It prevents blood clotting in the eyes and improves vasodilation (influx of blood and electrolytes) (1).

You can choose from:

  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Walnuts
  • Beans
  • Cashews
  • Chickpeas
  • Soybeans
  • Flaxseeds
  • Sunflower seeds

Intake limit: The RDA for zinc is 11 mg/day for men and 8 mg/day for women (above 19 years) (1).

4. Citrus Fruits

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Vitamin C, a.k.a ascorbic acid, is a crucial micronutrient for several biological functions. It is required for the synthesis of collagen, which is a structural protein in blood vessels, tendons, ligaments, and bones (1).

This vitamin plays the role of an antioxidant too. It scavenges the free radicals that are building up in your system. The eye has a particularly high metabolic rate. It needs a constant influx of vitamin C to clear the toxin build-up (1).

Moreover, vitamin C may be able to regenerate other antioxidants, such as vitamin E. This replenishment strategically occurs only in your eyes (1). Thus, the necessary intake is a must.

Foods highest in vitamin C are citrus fruits and berries, including (1), (4):

  • Grapefruit and its juice
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Strawberries
  • Orange and its juice
  • Tangerine
  • Lemons

Tomato, cantaloupe, papaya, and green peppers are also good dietary sources of vitamin C (1).

Intake Limit: The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C is 75 mg/day for women (19 years old or more) and 90 mg/day for men (19 years old or more) (1).

5. Meat And Seafood

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Meat and seafood are non-plant sources of zinc and omega-3 fatty acids (1). Consuming them may not be ethically right for some of us. However, these products serve as a great source of nutrition for those living in places with scanty vegetation.

Here are a few options in this category (5):

  • Beef
  • Oysters
  • Crab
  • Pork
  • Turkey
  • Chicken (dark meat)

6. Cruciferous Vegetables

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Cruciferous vegetables include cabbage, cauliflower, and related members from the Brassica family. They are rich in vitamin C and phytochemicals like lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene (1), (5).

Beta-carotene is the primary dietary source of provitamin A, which eventually converts to vitamin A. Supplementing your diet with foods rich in this component reduces the risk of developing age-related eye disorders (like macular degeneration) (1).

Commonly available and consumed cruciferous veggies are (5), (6):

  • Broccoli
  • Lettuce
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Mustard greens
  • Cabbage (Napa, Chinese)
  • Turnip greens
  • Cauliflower
  • Kohlrabi
  • Bok choy (or Pak choi)

Another class of foods that may boost your eyesight includes dairy products. Milk and milk products, along with eggs, contain high amounts of zinc, vitamin A precursors, and potent antioxidants.

In Summary

Age-related eye disorders can be kept at bay with diet and supplementation. Having a diet rich in vitamins A, C, E, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, copper, carotenoids, etc. should be made compulsory across age groups.

These antioxidants work together to reduce the oxidative stress on the retina. By countering the build-up of free radicals in the macula of the retina, several eye disorders can be delayed/prevented.

Pick your favorite(s) from our list of best eye-friendly foods. Talk to your healthcare provider and work your way towards healthy eyes and perfect vision!

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6 sources

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Swathi Handoo

Swathi holds a Master’s degree in Biotechnology and has worked in places where actual science and research happen. Blending her love for writing with science, Swathi writes for Health and Wellness and simplifies complex topics for readers from all walks of life.And on the days she doesn’t write, she learns and performs Kathak, sings Carnatic music compositions, makes plans to travel, and obsesses over cleanliness.