Mia Syn, MS, RDN | September 7, 2018
The best days of summer are spent at the beach or the pool. While most of us know to lather on sunscreen, many of us forget about the importance of taking equal care of our eyes. Everyone from kids to the elderly is at risk for eye damage from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The longer the time spent in the sun, the greater the risk of developing cataracts, macular degeneration and even vision loss or eye cancer.
While we know that wearing a brimmed cap, eyewear and limiting our time spent outdoors are ways to lessen these damaging impacts, it is important to realize that diet plays a significant role as well. Here are three ways to protect your eyes from the sun – through the food you eat:
Fruits and veggies are your number one food defense when it comes to eye health. Naturally rich in antioxidants, they help protect your eyes by reducing damage related to free radicals activated by excessive exposure to UV rays that can lead to eye damage.
Zeaxanthin and lutein are also carotenoid antioxidants found concentrated in the macula part of the eye. Because excessive UV light can lead to oxidative changes in the eye, these antioxidants are considered protective by sequestering free radicals and in turn protecting and repairing cells. They are found widely in seasonal produce like dark leafy greens, carrots, and orange peppers. Other reasons to eat in-season produce are the fact that it is often at its nutritional peak, tastes the best and is the most affordable.
Beta-carotene is another well-known carotenoid antioxidant that gives carrots its bright orange hue. Besides it’s powerful antioxidant properties, it is also provitamin A, the precursor to vitamin A. Our body uses an enzyme to convert beta carotene to Vitamin A which is important for maintaining normal vision.
Healthy fats play a plethora of roles in maintaining eye health. For one they help absorb important carotenoid antioxidants found in seasonal produce.1 The eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) forms of omega-3 fats found primarily in salmon, tuna and other fatty fish are especially important for proper retinal function.2 Two servings of seafood per week is the recommendation set out by the dietary guidelines and if you suspect you are falling short of this goal, supplementation may be of benefit.
Research suggests that the food you don’t eat can have just as an effect on eye health as the food you do eat. For one, it is important to limit added sugar and simple carbohydrate intake. Consuming these in excess on a regular basis, can increase your risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes is a long-term metabolic disorder characterized by high blood sugar which makes your eyes more susceptible to damage from UV light and can injure blood vessels in the retina where scarring can cause permanent vision loss.3 To stay healthy, opt for slow digesting whole grains like brown rice and whole grain bread over white bread and refined flour products.
Additionally, consumption of trans fats and high levels of saturated fat may have damaging effects on eye health. Fried fast food, lard and some packaged cookies are some known culprits. Consuming these dietary fats in excess can increase Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) levels which build up and narrow arterial walls including blocking smaller arteries that can ultimately lead to loss of vision. 4 Avoiding all trans fats and keeping saturated fat intake to 7% of total calories is the recommendation by the dietary guidelines.
1 Rizvi S., Raza ST., Ahmed F., et. al: The Role of Vitamin E in Human Health and Some Diseases. Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J. 2014;14(2):e157-e165. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3997530/
2. Swanson D, Block R. Mousa, SA: Omega-3 Fatty Acids EPA and DHA: Health Benefits Throughout Life. Advances in Nutrition. 2012;3:1 7. http://advances.nutrition.org/content/3/1/1.full
3. Cdc.gov [Internet]. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; c2018 [cited 2018 Aug.] Available from: https://www.cdc.gov
4. sunyopt.edu [Internet]. New York: SUNY College of Optometry; c2018 [cited 2018 Aug.] Available from: https://sunyopt.edu
The information contained in Healthy Sights is for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Content within this site was based off of recommendations in the United States. Consult your health care practitioner before changing your dietary regimen.
The information contained in Healthy Sights is for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Content within this site was based on scientific information. Consult your health care practitioner before changing your dietary regimen.
© 2018 DSM