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Eat your carrots

Published in Eye Care, For the Health of It Author: Jeffrey Pearson,OD Author: Jeffrey Pearson, OD

You were always told to eat your carrots to improve your eyesight. Unlike most old wives’ tales that we grew up with, this one is actually true. Your diet and dietary supplements can delay or prevent certain eye problems as you age.

Eat brightly colored fruits and vegetables — with an emphasis on dark green leafy veggies — to obtain the most antioxidants. Antioxidants protect your eyes by reducing damage that can cause age-related eye diseases. Spinach, kale, sweet corn, peas and broccoli are excellent sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been shown to protect the retina from changes caused by ultraviolet light. Vitamin A (carrots!) and Vitamin C are powerful antioxidants. There are many other health benefits of antioxidants from protecting against heart problems to boosting the immune system.

On the other hand, a diet high in saturated fat and sugar may increase your risk of eye disease. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and eye conditions including cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) have been shown to occur less frequently in people who eat diets rich in vitamins, minerals, healthy proteins, omega-3 fatty acids and lutein.

Tips to keep your eyes healthy

  • Eat whole grains and cereals. Choose instead 100 percent whole-grain breads and cereals that have lots of fiber, which slows down the digestion and absorption of sugars and starches. Sugars and refined white flours may increase your risk of age-related eye diseases.
  • Focus on healthy fats. The omega-3 essential fatty acids found in fish, flaxseed oil, walnuts and canola oil help to prevent dry eyes and possibly cataracts. Eat fish or seafood twice a week or take flax oil every day. Use canola oil for cooking and walnuts for snacking.
  • Choose lean protein. Limit your consumption of saturated fats from red meats and dairy products that may increase your risk of macular degeneration. Choose lean meats, fish, nuts, legumes and eggs for your proteins. Most meats and seafood also are excellent sources of zinc. Eggs are a good source of lutein.
  • Avoid sodium. High sodium intake may add to your risk of cataract formation. Stay below 2,000 mg of sodium each day. Choose fresh and frozen foods whenever possible.
  • Stay hydrated. Proper hydration also may reduce irritation from dry eyes.

The best way to safeguard your vision is to have regular visits with your ophthalmologist or optometrist.