We’ve all heard the saying that eating carrots helps you see in the dark.
But they’re not the only food that can improve eyesight.
?Just as we can eat to feed our minds, we also need to help feed our eyesight,? says Dr Emma Derbyshire, a Surrey-based public health nutritionist.
Globally, at least 2.2 billion people are visually impaired and at least 1 billion cases could have been prevented or managed, the World Health Organization says.
She emphasizes that eating the right fruits and vegetables is essential to getting the vitamins and minerals needed to support eye health.
Here, Dr. Derbyshire reveals the foods you should be eating to feed your eyes.
Foods containing vitamins A, C, E and B2, also known as riboflavin, which support eye health, and minerals such as copper and zinc are all crucial for eye health
Spinach, cavolo nero and kale
Chewing leafy greens like kale, spinach and cavolo nero is essential for eye health, says Dr Derbyshire, who is also a consultant to an eye supplement company MacuShield.
This is because the vegetables contain carotenoids called lutein and zeaxanthin.
The body deposits these carotenoids on the macula — the most sensitive part of the retina — which provides the sharp central vision essential for reading and driving.
But the body cannot make macular carotenoids on its own, so it must be consumed through diet or supplements.
In addition to leafy greens, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, courgettes and orange peppers provide lutein and zeaxanthin, says Dr Derbyshire.
Citrus fruits, broccoli and Brussels sprouts
Eating oranges and broccoli could be key to maintaining eye health with age, says Dr Derbyshire.
Because they contain vitamin C, which is necessary for the body to produce and maintain collagen – a protein that gives the eyes their structure.
“Collagen is very important for the eyes because it holds the eyes together and helps protect them,” she said.
“Since collagen levels decline as we age, it’s important to maintain healthy levels of vitamin C.”
She noted that the vitamin also protects the macula, part of the retina at the back of the eye, from oxidative damage — damage to the body’s cells and tissues. The macula is responsible for our color vision and seeing fine details.
Bell peppers, citrus fruits and green vegetables, such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts, all contain vitamin C, said Dr Derbyshire.
Red meat, dairy and legumes
Zinc, copper and vitamin A are essential for healthy eyes, say experts.
Eating seafood, such as shellfish, as well as liver and whole grains, provides copper, while red meat, dairy products and legumes provide zinc. Vitamin A is found in whole milk, eggs and carrots, which are known to help people see in low light.
Dr Derbyshire said: ‘Zinc is responsible for transporting vitamin A from the liver to the eye to produce melanin, a protective pigment in the eyes.
“And both copper and zinc are involved in retinal function.”
Melanin not only provides pigmentation of your skin and hair, it also gives the color to your eyes.
Vitamin A is not only found in carrots, it is also found in whole milk and eggs and works together with zinc to produce melanin
It is this substance that absorbs harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun and protects your cells from sun damage.
Red meat and seafood also keep the retina healthy, which helps translate what you see from light into an image.
Vegetable oils, nuts and seeds
Adding nuts, seeds, and oils to your diet can give your eyes the vitamin E boost needed to keep disease at bay.
‘Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that helps protect eye cells from oxidation and damage,’ says Dr Derbyshire.
Oxidative stress, an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals in your body, can accelerate retinal diseases such as glaucoma — diseases that cause vision loss — and retinal vein occlusion, which causes blurry vision.
Vitamin C, found in bell peppers, citrus fruits, and green vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, helps your eye produce collagen, which helps keep your eye together
But eating enough vitamin E, an antioxidant, can help maintain a healthy retina, Dr. Derbyshire says.
It is found in sunflower oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, spinach, pumpkin and red peppers.
Mushrooms, yogurt and cereal
Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, is essential for keeping the eyes, nervous system and skin healthy.
Found in milk, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, mushrooms and plain yogurt, like vitamin E, it can also protect the eyes from cell damage.
‘Vitamin B2 is essential for a wide range of biochemical processes, including oxidation-reduction reactions, and thus helps protect cells from damage,’ says Dr Derbyshire.
But dr. Derbyshire warns that only a third of adults eat their five fruits and vegetables a day, meaning many people are deficient in key nutritional areas that can help with our eyes, including vitamin B2.