Eating for Healthy Vision & Eyes

  • 6 January 2014
  • Troy Cassidy

At this time of year, many of us are trying to recover from the excesses of Christmas and start the New Year in a healthy fashion.  Setting aside that for most of us it will be a short-lived period of discipline before relapsing, many people ask us if there is anything in particular they should eat to keep their eyes healthy.  Generally speaking, the answer is "No".  All the foods that we know are good for our health generally, such as fresh vegetables and nuts, are also good for the eyes.  Food that we know is bad for our general health, such as deep-fried Mars Bars wrapped in bacon, will similarly not be beneficial to ocular health.

However, there are a few food groups which perhaps deserve to get a mention above the others.

Dark Green Leafy Vegetables - Kale and spinach are high in anti-oxidants which help prevent macular degeneration.

Oily Fish - Fish such as salmon, sardines and tuna are good sources of Omega 3 fatty acids - good for dry eyes and possibly also useful in preventing macular degeneration.

Orange Vegetables - Particularly carrots, but also orange kumara and pumpkin are good sources of beta-carotene, which is closely related to the pigment our eyes use to detect light.  While it makes sense that eating more carrots would thus improve night vision, this popular myth originates from a WWII subterfuge when the Allies claimed that eating carrots was leading to improved success in shooting down German bombers at night, in attempt to conceal the development of radar.  More fascinating carrot facts can be found at the World Carrot Museum.

Legumes - Peas, beans and peanuts are all high in zinc, necessary for the healthy function of the retina.  Other good sources of zinc are lean red meat, almonds and brown rice.

So there's no real surprises in the above list.  Almost everyone could do with having more leafy dark green vegetables and fish in their diet.  I would suggest a good balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight as a common sense way of keeping both the body and eyes in good shape.

About Troy Cassidy

Troy graduated from the University of Auckland Optometry programme in 1995, and has worked in optometry practices in NZ, Australia & the UK since then. Along with wife Stephanie, he has owned and operated Cassidy Eyecare in west Auckland since 2010.

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