Eating for better eye health


Our diets play a significant role in the health of our eyes as well as the quality of our eyesight. Certain nutrients, such as vitamins A, C, and zinc, omega 3 fatty acids, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin and amino acids like taurine and l-carnitine, are essential for promoting good vision and protecting against eye diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts.

We don’t necessarily need to take all of these in supplement form if we are eating a balanced diet. Leafy greens like spinach and kale are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, which act as natural antioxidants protecting the eyes from harmful UV rays and oxidative stress. Citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, guavas and cherries are high in vitamin C. Oily fish, such as salmon and tuna, is high in omega-3 fatty acids which can help reduce the risk of dry eyes and macular degeneration. Colourful fruits and vegetables like carrots, oranges, and berries, which are a good source of beta-carotene and antioxidants that promote overall eye health.

Prioritising a balanced diet that is high in antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats will help to make sure that our bodies are nourished with the right nutrients, which not only support overall health, but are especially good for our eyes.  

Just as certain foods can benefit our eyes, others can have adverse effects. When it comes to managing degenerative eye conditions such as glaucoma, there are certain foods and dietary habits that should ideally be avoided or limited to help us maintain good eye health.

Foods and lifestyle habits to avoid include the following:

High sodium foods:

Consuming high-sodium foods can lead to increased fluid retention and higher intraocular pressure, which can exacerbate glaucoma symptoms. Foods such as processed snacks, canned soups, and fast food often contain high levels of sodium and should be limited.


A moderate caffeine intake is generally considered safe for most people, but excessive caffeine consumption may increase intraocular pressure, which can be detrimental for individuals with glaucoma. Beverages like coffee, tea, and energy drinks should be consumed in moderation.


Alcohol consumption can temporarily increase intraocular pressure, potentially worsening symptoms of glaucoma. Limiting alcohol intake or avoiding it altogether may be beneficial for some individuals with glaucoma.

Fatty and fried foods:

 Diets high in saturated and trans fats have been linked to various health issues, including cardiovascular disease, which can indirectly affect eye health. Opting for healthier fats found in sources like avocados, nuts, and olive oil may be a better choice.

High glycemic index foods:

Foods with a high glycemic index, such as white bread, sugary cereals, and sweets, can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. These fluctuations may contribute to inflammation and oxidative stress, potentially impacting eye health.

Processed and refined foods:

Processed and refined foods often lack essential nutrients and may contain additives and preservatives that can be detrimental to overall health. Choosing whole, unprocessed foods whenever possible can provide a better balance of nutrients for overall wellbeing.

Tobacco smoke:

Smoking and exposure to second hand smoke can have numerous adverse effects on eye health, including an increased risk of developing glaucoma and other eye conditions. Quitting smoking and avoiding exposure to tobacco smoke are essential steps in protecting eye health.

Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 14 March 2024 to learn more. Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am.