The eyes are the window to the soul—and nobody likes cloudy, dusty windows you can’t see through. Whether you have 20/20 vision or consider the world a scary, shape-shifting place without your trusty glasses, you’ll want to know this: Your diet can affect your eye health. Beyond the “carrots are good for your eyes” lesson you picked up in elementary school are five powerful foods that are scientifically proven to do everything from improve your vision to kick cataracts to the curb. You’re already taking biotin for your hair and eating leafy greens for your mind—what’s another addition (or two) in your quest for the healthiest body ever? Trust us: Your eyes will thank you for these.
Keep scrolling for five foods that will help improve eyesight (and one that makes it worse).
If you suffer from dry, itchy eyes, try upping your fish intake—namely, salmon, fresh tuna, and oysters. Dr. Marguerite McDonald, a board-certified ophthalmologist and associate at Ophthalmic Consultants of Long Island, says that supplementing your diet with omega-3s will aid the amount of normal lipids in your meibomian glands and thus reduce “evaporative tear loss.” If you’re not a fish fan, you can try supplements instead. “There are numerous omega-3 supplements available in every drugstore and grocery store,” she says. “On very rare occasions, patients cannot take salmon-based omega-3s in any form, and must rely on flaxseed-based preparations.” She recommends Barlean’s Organic Oils ($19).
Ever heard of zeaxanthin? What about lutein? Both of these ingredients have been shown to lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This study from the National Eye Institute found that high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin significantly reduced the risk of AMD and vision loss, just like beta-carotene did. Foods rich in these two antioxidants include kale, spinach, collard greens, and turnip greens.
Another food that’s rich in zeaxanthin? Eggs—their yolks, in particular. Avoiding yolks is an outdated notion, mostly stemming from concerns with cholesterol—but recent opinion has swayed in their favor, with some experts even going as far as calling the yolk “liquid gold.” (You can read more about the great egg yolk debate here.) Plus, egg yolks are a great source of zinc, another ingredient that’s naturally found in part of your retina and can help with vision loss. In one study, people at a high risk for AMD lowered their risk by 25% after consuming a supplement that included certain antioxidants and 80 milligrams of zinc.
Nuts like pistachios, almonds, and walnuts are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as vitamin E. Studies show that vitamin E reduces the progression of AMD and cataracts, and protects the cell of your eyes from free radical damage.
In case you weren’t aware, vitamin C is as good for your eyes as it is your skin. Multiple studies have linked vitamin C intake with eye health; one found that women taking vitamin C for 10 years or more experienced a 64% reduction in the risk of developing nuclear cataracts. Plus, it was one of the antioxidants mentioned in that previous study about delaying AMD, too. In other words, load up on vitamin C–rich fruits like grapefruits, oranges, strawberries, and more in the name of good eye health.
We couldn’t help but wonder: Are there any foods that make your eyesight worse? According to McDonald, it’s—wait for it—alcohol. Sigh. “Alcohol is a prominent risk factor in exacerbating dry eye, which is a progressive eye disease and one of the most common complaints to eye care doctors,” she says. “I always tell my dry eye patients to monitor their alcohol intake, and to be sure to have artificial tears in their bags when going out.”
We’re a fan of Similasan Dry Eye Relief Eye Drops ($8)—they’re gentle and homeopathic.
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