Diet Rich In Nutrients Helps Promote A Lifetime of Healthy Vision

Clinical Research Shows Strong Correlation Between Good Nutrition and the Prevention of Age-Related Eye Diseases

Everyone's heard the saying "you are what you eat." Well, it's true for your eyes as well as for your heart, bones and teeth. During March's Save Your Vision Month, the Michigan Optometric Association (MOA) reminds Michigan residents that caring for eyes includes looking carefully at what you eat.

Six nutrients ― antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, essential fatty acids, vitamins C and E and the mineral zinc ― have been identified as helping to protect eye sight and promote eye health. Since the body doesn't make these nutrients naturally, it's important that they are incorporated into a daily diet and, in some cases, supplemented with eye vitamins.

"More than two decades of extensive research have provided a better understanding of how diet and nutrition can not only keep our eyes healthy, but reduce the risk of certain eye diseases as we age," said Dr. Amy Dinardo, Associate Professor at Michigan College of Optometry, MOA member and practicing optometrist in Big Rapids, Mich. "From dry eye to age-related eye diseases, research shows that nutrition plays a critical role in maintaining the health of our eyes."

Key Eye Nutrients in Fruits and Vegetables

The MOA recommends eating a diet with a variety of foods loaded with key nutrients, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, for maintaining and improving eye health.

The American Optometric Association's (AOA) American Eye-Q® survey showed that nearly half of all Americans (49 percent) still believe carrots are the best food for eye health. While carrots do contain nutritional value by supplying beta-carotene, which is essential for night vision, spinach and other dark, leafy greens are the healthiest foods for eyes because they naturally contain large amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin.

The MOA recommends the following foods which contain key nutrients for eye health:

•Lutein and zeaxanthin: To help reduce your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), eat one cup of colorful fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale, corn, green beans, peas, oranges and tangerines four times a week.

•Essential fatty acids: Studies suggest omega-3 fatty acids such as flax or fleshy fish like tuna, salmon, or herring, whole grain foods, lean meats and eggs may help protect against AMD and dry eye.

•Vitamin C: Fruits and vegetables, including oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, papaya, green peppers and tomatoes, can help minimize the risk of cataracts and AMD.

•Vitamin E: Vegetable oils, such as safflower or corn oil, almonds, pecans, sweet potatoes, and sunflower seeds are powerful antioxidants that can slow the progression of AMD and cataract formation.

•Zinc: A deficiency of zinc can result in poor night vision and lead to cataracts; therefore, consuming red meat, poultry, liver, shellfish, milk, baked beans, and whole grains on a daily basis is important.

"Nutrition is a component of health for the entire body, including the eyes," said Dr. Dinardo. "I frequently encourage my patients to make small dietary changes in order to experience a big impact with vision."

For a list of quick and simple recipes that promote healthy eye sight and vision, visit: