If you take a multivitamin, you are probably getting some valuable nutrients to preserve the health of your eyes, but does it provide enough? An increasing number of manufacturers are producing vitamins that are specifically aimed at eye health, but what do these vitamins contain that your multivitamin may not? Find out whether you are getting the right vitamins and other nutrients to reduce your risk of ocular diseases and which foods provide these crucial nutrients.
What Do Nutrients Do For Eyes
As you age, your risk increases for a number of eye conditions that can ultimately destroy your vision. Some of these conditions include the following:
- Age-related macular degeneration
- Dry eye syndrome
Just as certain vitamins and nutrients can improve the health of your bones or your skin, the same holds true for your eyes. Some nutrients that benefit eye health can be found in most multivitamins, while others are found in separate commercial supplements. As the name suggests, supplements, which include multivitamins, should be taken to fill in the gaps where your dietary nutrition comes up short. Your goal should be to take in as many of your required nutrients as possible through whole foods. Your mother wasn't trying to trick you into eating your carrots when she promised that you would be rewarded with good vision. They do contain a few things that your vision thrives on.
Beta Carotene and Vitamin A
Carrots, along with sweet potatoes and butternut squash, are rich in beta-carotene. This carotenoid pigment is an antioxidant that, once consumed, converts into retinol, or vitamin A. A deficiency in vitamin A can lead to macular degeneration, cataracts, xerophthalmia, and blindness. Most multivitamins contain some beta-carotene and vitamin A, but you may have to seek out the rest of your daily allowance from the supermarket's produce department. Some foods that contain vitamin A include the following:
Spinach and kale contain both beta-carotene and vitamin A, and these wonder greens also contain two other nutrients for eye health.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
These antioxidants are helpful in reducing cataract formation and in retarding the progression of age-related macular degeneration. Lutein and zeaxanthin are not synthesized by your body, which means that you have to take these nutrients in through supplements and through food. Many multivitamins do not contain lutein or zeaxanthin, but some eye vitamins do. These nutrients are also available as supplements on their own. In addition to spinach and kale, the following foods also contain lutein and zeaxanthin:
- Swiss chard
- Collard greens
- Turnip greens
- Broccoli rabe
- Green beans
- Egg yolks
From vitamin A and beta-carotene to lutein and zeaxanthin, kale really is the super food for eye health, especially since it also contains yet another necessary vitamin.
Vitamins C and D
Vitamin C is found in kale, as well as in other foods. According to the American Optometric Association, studies have shown that consuming vitamin C reduces the risk of cataract formation and slows the advancement of age-related macular degeneration. Other foods that contain vitamin C include the following:
- Citrus fruits
- Cantaloupe melon
- Sweet bell peppers
If you drink orange juice with your breakfast, you could also be getting some vitamin D if the juice has been fortified with it. According to the American Optometric Association, preliminary studies indicate that vitamin D may prevent the onset of age-related macular degeneration. Milk, fortified cereals, sardines, and mackerel all contain vitamin D as well, but spending some time in the sun will expose you to the best natural source. Be sure to wear your sunglasses to protect your peepers against the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays, and take along some nuts to snack on for yet another vitamin for your eyes.
Vitamin E protects your eyes' cells from the damage caused by free radicals. Such damage raises your risks of macular degeneration and cataract formation. Vitamin E is found in most multivitamins, and you can consume vitamin E by eating the following foods:
- Sunflower seeds
In addition to vitamin E, walnuts contain valuable healthy fats.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Often touted as heart health nutrients, omega-3 fatty acids are also eye health nutrients. These healthy fats are not found in most multivitamins, but you can take them in through fish oil supplements. Besides walnuts, the following foods are valuable sources of omega-3 fatty acids:
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
Omega-3 fatty acids offer protection against macular degeneration and dry eye syndrome. These fats also aid in healthy intraocular fluid drainage from your eyes, and optimal drainage reduces your risk of high intraocular pressure and glaucoma.
Zinc, which is also found in salmon, is a mineral that is responsible for transporting vitamin A from your liver to the retinas of your eyes. Working together, zinc and vitamin A are responsible for the production of melanin. This helps to offer protection against poor night vision and cataracts. Zinc is found in many multivitamins. In addition to salmon, you can find zinc in the following foods:
Individuals with early stages of age-related macular degeneration can stave off the advanced effects of the disease by increasing their intake of zinc.
Before increasing your intake of any of these nutrients, speak to your ophthalmologist to determine your need for them based on how much of each nutrient you are currently taking in and on your risk for developing eye problems. Be sure to mention all medications and supplements that you are currently taking. Some nutritional supplements, such as zinc, can pose adverse interactions with certain drugs. Incorporating more of the aforementioned foods into your diet is a proactive step toward preserving your vision for years to come. To learn more about eye health, contact a company like Absolute Vision Care.