We only have one set of eyes and we cannot take them for granted.
As we age, our vision can degenerate as a natural consequence of ageing, but there are also more severe degenerative eye diseases that can affect our eyesight and even cause loss of vision.
As with any organ or system, a healthy lifestyle goes a long way to keeping our eyes healthy, but there are some important nutrients that can help to preserve our vision.
Lutein, zeaxanthin (pronounced zea-zanthin), Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Omega oils and zinc are important nutrients to support healthy eyes, but if a person already has some degeneration there are others like bilberry extract, taurine and carnitine which are especially important for eye health.
The following foods are rich in these nutrients:
- Lutein & Zeaxanthin
These are found in leafy green vegetables, as well as eggs. Studies show that lutein and zeaxanthin reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables. Evidence shows that taking vitamin C can lower the risk of developing cataracts, and, in combination with other essential nutrients, can slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration and loss of visual sharpness.
- Vitamin E
This antioxidant is found in nuts and sweet potatoes as well as some fortified cereals. Antioxidants prevent the formation of free radicals which cause tissue degeneration.
- Essential fatty acids
Healthy fats, such as omega 3 fatty acids, are an essential part of the diet as they maintain the integrity of the nervous system, fuel cells and boost the immune system. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for proper visual development and retinal function.
Zinc is an essential trace mineral that plays a vital role in transporting vitamin A from the liver to the retina to produce melanin, which is the protective pigment in the eyes. Zinc is highly concentrated in the eye, mostly in the retina as well as in the vascular tissue layer which lies below the retina.
Bilberry fruit extract has been shown to help reduce eye fatigue and can play a role protecting retinal cells from degeneration.
Studies show that carnitine can improve several parameters of visual function in people with age related macular degeneration. Animal products such as meat, fish, poultry and milk are rich sources of carnitine. The redder the meat the higher the carnitine content. In dairy products the carnitine is concentrated predominantly in the whey portion.
The anterior part of the eye contains high levels of taurine, which prevents the development of cataracts and the dehydration of the eye. Food sources of taurine include:
Behaviors that can impact the health of the eye include spending too long in front of your computer or television without a break. Eye strain and a lack of blinking causes the eyes to become dry.
Lifestyle conditions such as diabetes can also contribute to deterioration of the nerves supplying the eyes and can thus have an impact on vision and age-related eye diseases.
Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 21 January 2021 to learn more.
Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am