Over time our eyes are exposed to many harmful substances. Exposure
to ultraviolet light rays, blue light from digital screens, free radical
stress, pollution, dust and debris, plus the natural aging process can have an
impact on our precious and fragile eyes.
It’s also not unusual for the eyes to age faster than the rest of
the body – party due to the unique structure of the eyes and partly due to the
eye’s high demand for oxygen. (Oxygen brings the risk of oxidative stress to
As we age, we see an increase in age-related eye disorders,
so it’s no wonder that many adults are concerned about their eye health.
There are many healthy habits that can help protect our
vision, including being adequately hydrated, increasing antioxidant protection,
and eating the right foods. There are specific nutrients that can be just as
powerful in supporting vision even as we get older, and prevention is key.
Foods that support healthy vision include leafy greens. Kale
and spinach are sources of magnesium, beta carotene, and lutein; cruciferous
vegetables are high in antioxidants; yellow and orange vegetables are sources
of beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin; cold-water fish and egg yolks are
sources of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid); and grapes and berries are sources of
the antioxidant pterostilbene and also support night vision.
Supplements to consider for healthy vision as we age:
- Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for visual processes, including night vision. Vitamin A is also necessary for the maintenance and health of the eye membranes, helps support normal eye moisture, and serves as an antioxidant. Good sources of vitamin A are cod liver oil, eggs, butter, milk, and spinach.
- Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen, which is a major component of eye tissue. Vitamin C helps maintain the integrity of ocular blood vessels, helps protect the eye lens, and helps maintain eye tissues by preventing free radical damage. Vitamin C can be found in fruits and vegetables such as oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, sweet red peppers, and broccoli.
- Vitamin E is an important antioxidant for the entire eye, especially the retina and lens. Vitamin E may help protect the eye from the effects of ultraviolet light and may also help decrease oxidative damage to the lens, retina, and other eye tissue. Vitamin E is widely distributed in vegetables and seeds but is not found in substantial amounts in any foods.
- Magnesium supports healthy blood flow to the eye and is important in aiding the synthesis of glutathione peroxidase, a powerful antioxidant. Green, leafy vegetables are rich in magnesium, as well as 100% bran cereal, shredded wheat, and whole brown rice.
- Zinc is an important mineral that’s critical for retina health and is found in high concentrations in the eye. As we age, important zinc-dependent enzymes decline, so maintaining optimal zinc levels may become even more important for eye health. Zinc may protect eye membranes and the macula from oxidative damage. Zinc is necessary for vitamin A utilization and can be found in shellfish, beef, nuts, and legumes.
- Selenium is a necessary component of the antioxidant enzyme, glutathione peroxidase, which our cells produce for protection from free radical damage. Selenium is found in higher amounts in organ meats and seafood, followed by muscle meats.
- The omega-3 DHA is an important structural component of the rods and cones of the retina, which enable vision. Maintaining healthy DHA levels support normal visual acuity. Fish is an excellent source of DHA. It can be found in substantial amounts in herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and whitefish. DHA is also found in egg yolks, especially in omega-3 eggs.
- Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids supplied by fruits and vegetables, which are important to vision. The retina of the eye contains concentrated amounts of lutein and small amounts of zeaxanthin in and around the macula. The macula of the eye is a tiny area in the center of the retina, which produces sharp normal vision. Lutein and zeaxanthin also help protect the eyes from blue light damage.
It isn’t hard to protect the health of our eyes as we age. Following a healthy lifestyle that is recommended by nutritionists and doctors alike to protect the heart and brain, will also support healthy aging of our eyes.