By Paula Newsome
The start of a new year signals the grace of do-overs and fresh starts. Now is the perfect time to get the family back on track with proper nutrition for a lifetime of good vision. Our sight is one of the body’s five senses, and being able to see well is critical to taking in information. For students, not being able to see well hinders academic success. For adults, poor vision hinders professional success.
The eyes are meant to last a lifetime, and keeping them healthy can be dependent on genetics. But good eyesight also is dependent upon a healthy lifestyle, with nutritious meals playing an important role. Food provides fuel for the body and, in particular, the eyes. In order to perform well, the eyes need vitamins, minerals, omega 3 fatty acids and other nutrients to work.
There are 13 vitamins – some dissolve (break down) in water and others dissolve in fat. The human body cannot store vitamins that dissolve in water; therefore, it’s imperative to eat food when taking these vitamins so the body absorbs them. Generally, fatty vitamins are best taken with fatty foods. The vitamins most important to eyesight are A, C and E; a quick way to remember them is “ACE.”
Vitamins A and E are important in retinal metabolism. Vitamin C, on the other hand, is important to the cornea, lens and the fluids of the eye – both the aqueous and the vitreous.
Minerals come from nature and are found in earth, rocks and water. When people eat plants and animals, the minerals that the plant or animals consumed from nature are passed through to the body. Minerals are not manufactured by the body, so they must be added to meals through either foods or supplements.
Calcium is an important mineral for developing strong bones. Similarly, zinc is very important mineral for the eyes. Zinc also is necessary to transport vitamins A and E from the liver to the eyes. Some foods high in zinc are nuts, oysters, red meat and turkey.
While eating too much fat is not healthy, omega 3 fatty acids are good fats and important to eye health. Omega 3 fatty acids are used for numerous body functions, including controlling blood clotting and building cell membranes. In the eye (particularly the retina), omega 3 fatty acids are important in maintaining good retinal health and good tear film. Fatty fish (salmon and tuna) are a good source of omega 3 fatty acids, along with walnuts and flaxseeds. Two very important components of omega 3 supplements are the DHA and EPA content. (Note: Pay attention to the amount of DHA and EPA in omega 3 supplements.)
Carotenoids are pigments that give items color. Lutein and zeaxanthin are important carotenoids for humans, as they both are found in the retina of the eye and help protect the retina from harmful UV rays and the damaging effects from blue light (that which comes from high-definition TVs, computer screens, smart phones/tablets, fluorescent bulbs, etc.). The body does not produce either of these carotenoids, so eating egg yolks that are high in lutein, along with yellow foods (squash) and leafy greens are essential.
Zeaxanthin is good for protecting the lens of the eye, along with macula, which is found in high concentrations in goji berries and orange peppers
To start the year off right, let’s eat right for better sight. Good foods to eat for good eye health include leafy greens (kale and spinach), egg yolks, broccoli, peppers, kiwi, citrus fruit, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, sweet potatoes, carrots, wild salmon, sardines, tuna, trout, oysters, turkey, lean red meats and whole grains.
Dr. Paula Newsome is president of Advantage Vision Center.