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The Role of Nutrition in Eye Health

Food is nourishment for the body but not just from hunger. Vitamins and minerals play a key part in combating certain diseases and maintaining optimal ocular health. The role of nutrition in eye health means that foods can naturally improve eyesight and lower risks of long-term eye conditions that can cause vision impairment such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Most people are lacking in consuming enough of the proper nutrients necessary to help the body function at its best, and without supporting proper eye function, deficiencies can affect vision.

There are 9 essential vitamins and nutrients to aid eye health. These are vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, B vitamins (B6, B9, and B12, riboflavin, niacin) lutein, zeaxanthin, omega-3 fatty acids and thiamine. Vitamin A helps maintain a clear cornea, the transparent layer that covers the eye. Vitamin A also has rhodopsin, a protein that allows the eye to see in low-light conditions. To see the full spectrum of light, the eye needs to produce certain pigments for the retina, the light sensitive layer at the back of the eye, to work properly. Without vitamin A, production of these pigments ceases which could lead to night blindness. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects the eyes against damaging free radicals. Vitamin C protects against UV light damage and oxidative damage. Additionally, vitamin C is needed to make collagen, a protein that provides structure to the eye. Combination of vitamins B6, B9 and B12 lowers levels of homocysteine that is associated with inflammation and increased risk of developing AMD. Vitamin-rich foods by type include the following: sweet potatoes, leafy green vegetables, pumpkins and bell peppers for vitamin A; nuts, seeds, salmon, avocado and leafy green vegetables for vitamin E; citrus and tropical fruits, bell peppers, broccoli and kale for vitamin C; and animal meat, fish, eggs and dairy for the B vitamins.

Riboflavin is another vitamin; in fact, it is vitamin B2. It has the potential to prevent cataracts and helps to reduce oxidative stress. Some examples of riboflavin-rich foods are oats, milk, yogurt, beef and fortified cereals. Niacin converts food into energy as well as serving as an antioxidant that may aid in preventing glaucoma. Food sources include beef, poultry, fish, mushrooms, peanuts and legumes. Lutein and zeaxanthin are part of the carotenoid family and are always on the list of recommended supplements for eye health. Both carotenoids are found in the macula and retina where they filter harmful blue light protecting eyes from damage. Cooked spinach, kale and collard greens are excellent sources. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, flaxseed, chia seeds, soy and nuts help form cells, protect against inflammation and have the potential to protect against diabetic retinopathy. Thiamine (B1) aids in proper cell function and helps reduce the onset of cataracts. Whole grains, meat and fish as well as cereals and pasta can be included in your diet to reap its benefits.

In addition to nutrition, yearly eye exams are necessary for eye health. Call Skyline Vision Clinic at 719-630-3937 or visit WEBSITE.