April Showers will soon have us seeing green. Flowers will be sprout, the grass will be thickening and the leaves on the trees will begin to bud. As we watch this wonderous rebirth and growth in nature, why not begin our own rejuvenation by pledging to eat healthier foods and sticking to that pledge once and for all. When it comes to the eyes, just like the rest of the body, they have to be well nourished in order to function efficiently and protect themselves against harmful environmental factors and the body’s natural aging process.
Getting the right amount of vitamins and nutrients may not eliminate the need for glasses but they will help you to maintain the clearest and highest quality vision possible by optimizing the health of the retina and the lens of the eye. Vitamins A,C, E, zinc, copper, lutein and zeaxanthin, along with UV protection, can help prevent and treat macular degeneration and cataracts in the eyes. Vitamin E, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Fish oil and flaxseed can help patients suffering from Dry Eyes by giving your body the building blocks it needs to produce a higher quality tear film layer.
There are so many vitamin supplements out on the market, it can be confusing for patients to determine what they are actually used for and which ones they should take. The following list will give you a brief summary of the vitamins and minerals that can be highly beneficial to your eye health and how to get them onto your plate and into your everyday diet!
Vitamin A- found in carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, cantaloupe, pink grapefruit, apricots, broccoli, spinach, and most dark green, leafy vegetables. The more intense the color of a fruit or vegetable, the higher the beta-carotene content.
Vitamin C- found in blueberries, orange juice, grapefruit juice, oranges, spinach, tomatoes, bananas, apples, peaches, lemons, limes.
Vitamin D-found in cold water fish (red rockeye salmon, sardines and cod liver oil), vitamin D fortified milk, sunlight exposure (“approximately 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 is produced by one hour of midday summer full-body skin exposure for Caucasians living at southern latitude.” source)
Vitamin E-found in peanuts, peanut butter, sweet potatoes, almonds, fortified cereals, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds.
Omega 3-Fatty Acids: DHA and EPA (Docosahexaenoic Acid and Eicosapentaenoic Acid)- found in salmon, tuna, mackerel, anchovy, trout, halibut, scallops, snapper.
Zinc-found in beef, lobster, pork, oysters, yogurt, salmon, milk, eggs, tofu, black-eyed peas, tofu and baked beans.
Copper- Zinc supplementation has been known to interfere with copper
absorption, so 2 mg/day of copper is strongly recommended for
individuals supplementing their diet with zinc.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin- found in spinach, broccoli, kale, collard greens, turnip greens, green beans, corn, romaine lettuce, eggs and oranges.
When it comes to taking vitamin and mineral supplements, it is best to seek advice from your health care provider and eye care professional so that they can recommend the safest and most effective supplements based on your individualized needs. Remember, the correct amount is different for everyone based on age, the medications you are taking, existing health conditions you may have and your family medical history. “More isn’t always better” and taking too much of certain vitamins can make you sick (for example, always be weary of taking too much of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Stick with what your doctor recommends)! Being well-informed is essential before making any big changes to your diet. The U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health have an excellent website, MedlinePlus which contains helpful indexed information including USRDA and contraindications on vitamins and minerals.
Do you see a common theme to the list of vitamins and minerals above? Yes, there are a lot of fruits and veggies in there, but specifically, Spinach is brought up time and time again! Perhaps Popeye had it right all along? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention thinks so too, their website is also an amazing source to learn all about why Fruits and Veggies Matter or visit The Fruit and Veggie Guru for recipes and more!
Time and time again, study after study, article after article, researchers and scientists are coming to the conclusion that “an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure” and that many diseases stem from poor nutrition. Many studies recently published link specific vitamin deficiencies or lack of adequate amount of physical activity with certain forms of cancer. (source) “Eating plenty of healthy vegetables and fruits help prevent heart disease and strokes, diverticulitis, control your blood pressure, prevent some types of cancers, and guards against cataracts and macular degeneration.” (source)
I am not expecting anyone to throw out everything in their fridge, but start to think before you eat. Make smart choices when available. Have a handful of blueberries, eat yogurt sprinkled with oats and flaxseed, add fish to your diet two more times a week than you eat it now. These small changes will add up, get you thinking and will help you to create healthy habits that will reward you in the long run! Be healthy, feel good and stay healthy by thinking green and eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day.