For your eyes to be as healthy as possible, they need a full range of nutrients every day. Vision can deteriorate from various diseases and disorders that result from nutrient deficiencies. You may not know you’re deficient in something until it’s too late. There’s a whole list of all the nutrients your eyes need and risks that come with being deficient in them. Here, we talk about what happens when you don’t get enough of certain nutrients and how to increase your intake.
A deficiency in vitamin A can cause a range of diseases, all under the xerophthalmia umbrella. This includes corneal ulceration and melting, retinopathy, night blindness, and dry eyes. It’s also necessary for proper immune system function. The most common reasons for not getting enough vitamin A is malnourishment, malabsorption, and poor vitamin metabolism.
In fact, since many children in the developing world suffer from malnourishment, they are also vitamin A deficient. However, even if they have enough vitamin A in their diet they can still be deficient if they suffer from liver disease because the liver is required to metabolize vitamins for the body. Deficiency in vitamin A is the leading cause of childhood blindness in the developing world.
Ensuring children in third world countries get enough nutrients in their diet is a multi-faceted challenge that can’t be solved overnight. However, children and adults all over the world can improve their eye health by incorporating foods that are rich in vitamin A when possible. These foods include milk, meat, fish, eggs, leafy greens, and yellow fruit.
Antioxidants are critical to your eye cells’ ability to prevent oxidation from free radicals from occurring. Since the macula and retina are so dependent on oxygen to function, they need extra protection from oxidation. When you are deficient in antioxidants, oxidation can occur and result in higher chances of suffering from macular degeneration. Since age plays a part in eye health, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can also be sped up due to antioxidant deficiency. However, in one study, antioxidants in the diet were able to decrease the participant’s risk for AMD by 25 percent. That’s a substantial decrease in risk.
Antioxidants also decrease the risk for cataract development. In fact, the same study mentioned above also reported that antioxidant vitamins, like C and E, could decrease the progression of existing cataracts in addition to preventing them from forming. Cataracts are highly common eye health issue in America; cataract surgery is the most common surgical procedure done with over two million performed in America each year. Such a common health issue can be resolved by increasing our antioxidant intake.
You can find antioxidants in berries, dark chocolate, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, etc. Although most people don’t get enough antioxidants in their daily diet; simply adding additional servings of fruits, veggies, and mixed nuts can impact your antioxidant levels and your eye health.
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Zinc is an essential trace mineral not created by our bodies but sourced from our diet. It has multiple benefits for our overall health and specifically our eye health. Zinc slows down the progression of onset AMD and visual acuity loss and prevents the onset for those who are high risk. When someone has a deficiency in zinc they can suffer from poor night vision, cloudy cataracts, and become more vulnerable to infections. In fact, zinc is responsible for transferring an important pigment that protects the retina from damage and infection, melanin, from the liver to the eyes. Without zinc, you are at a higher risk for retinal damage, infection, and disease.
If you are already at high risk for AMD, you should consider increasing your zinc intake greatly. Most people can benefit from more zinc since it’s common to be deficient in it, but those who are at risk for AMD specifically need to make a change to their diets. You can find zinc in poultry and red meats, as well as beans and mixed nuts.
Omega 3-Fatty Acids
Omega-3s are critical to your eyes’ drainage of intraocular fluid, preventing glaucoma and protecting our eyes from macular degeneration. Our eyes naturally produce different clear fluids that keep the eyeballs moist and flush out toxins. When these fluids can’t drain properly they build up and put pressure on the eyes. High eye pressure can result in glaucoma development and even permanent vision loss. Luckily, by ensuring you are getting enough omega-3s in your diet, you can prevent these eye health issues.
Omega-3s are also able to prevent and treat dry eye syndrome, an issue often caused by various medications and existing diseases. It’s important to note that omega-3s and omega-6s are different cannot be used interchangeably in your diet. Omega-3s are the healthy fats that come from salmon, tuna, flax seed, and dark leafy greens. You can find omega-6s in deep-fried foods and cooking oils. They’re also important to the body, but in far fewer doses than omega-3s. Your ratio should be 4-1 omega-3s to omega-6s.
Other Foods to Incorporate into Your Diet
If your diet is lacking nutrients that benefit eye health, here is a list of additional foods to add to your daily diet. Some of these include the nutrients mentioned in this article as well as many more. Click each item for a corresponding recipe.
There are many more eye-benefitting foods out there; these are just a few examples that most people can incorporate into their diets.
Interested in Learning More?
Your eye health should be a priority when it comes to creating a healthy lifestyle and choosing the right foods. Unlike other muscles, the eyes are working the entire time you’re awake. For all that work, it’s only right to treat them with respect and all the nutrients they need.
If you’re interested in learning more about eye health and how to prevent eye diseases, check out the rest of our blog.