Kathleen Tracy | HealthGreatness

When it comes to your eyesight, vegetables are the fountain of youth. Eating a diet with plenty of colorful veggies can help delay or prevent a variety of eye diseases and conditions. For example, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that lutein and zeaxanthin, the antioxidants that give many fruits and vegetables their color, act like sunscreen for your eyes and may reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration, which afflicts more than 13 million people in the United States.

Woman's eye

Here is a sampling of the top foods and nutrients for maintaining eye health and warding off age-related impairments.

Whole grains. Although they aren’t sure why, researchers at Tufts University found that people who eat diets high in refined carbs like white bread, white pasta, and white rice are more likely to develop macular degeneration. So reach for whole grain breads, pastas, and cereals. A good alternative to carbs are legumes such as kidney beans, black beans, and lentils.

Vitamin C. Strawberries, bell peppers, citrus fruits, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are all high in vitamin C, which help maintain the body’s connective tissue, including in the cornea. Vitamin C is also believed to lower the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.

fresh berries

Turkey. If you’re looking to cut back on beef or are tired of chicken, try a little turkey. It is rich in zinc, which is found in the retina and is recommended for those at high-risk for age-related macular degeneration or those already in the early stages of the condition. Turkey also has niacin, known to offer protection against cataracts.

Zinc. Considered an essential trace mineral, zinc is needed to bring vitamin A from the liver to the retina where it produces the protective pigment melanin. Zinc deficiency is related to impaired vision such as poor night vision and cloudy cataracts. Since the body doesn’t naturally produce zinc, we need to get it from out diet. Foods rich in zinc include seafood, poultry, eggs, wheat germ, mixed nuts, baked beans, and beef.

Ostrich. Known for being incredibly lean, ostrich can be substituted for any red or white meat. Because it has so little fat, some people find it bland but it absorbs spices well so you can season to taste. Like beef, ostrich is also full of zinc, iron, and protein but without the fat.

Spinach. There’s a reason spinach is considered a super food. It provides large doses of four eye health powerhouses: vitamin C, beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. The antioxidants in spinach work to increase the pigment density in the eye providing better retina protection and lowering the risk of macular degeneration. Pretty much all leafy green vegetables such as kale are high in lutein and zeaxanthin,

Omega-3 fats. Foods rich in omega-3 fats aren’t just good for your heart; they help protect the eye’s blood vessels. A National Eye Institute study found that people that ate more omega-3 fatty acids foods and less omega-6 fatty acids had a 30 percent lower risk of developing macular degeneration. It is recommended to eat two or three servings of omega-3 foods including wild salmon, sardines, walnuts, flaxseed, canola, and soybean oil.

Carrots. Bugs Bunny was right: carrots are good for your eyes. Carrots get their color from beta-carotene, another antioxidant that helps reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.

Fresh carrots

As a rule of thumb, the same foods that keep your heart healthy are generally also good for your eyes. Also, eating a well-balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight will reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a leading cause of blindness in adults.

About The Author

Kathleen Tracy, a journalist and the author of more than eighty books, has written extensively on science, medical, and technology related subjects from stem cell research and behavioral drugs to smart energy and ecology. Find her on Google+