Wouldn’t it be lovely if candy provided all of our essential nutrients? Pop a Tic-Tac into your mouth and your body has all the resources it needs for the day; sounds great! Unfortunately, science isn’t quite there yet; as it stands, we still need to eat a wide array of foods in order to live our healthiest lives. Our eyes are no exception to this rule; as one of the most complex organs, they need a wide variety of nutrients to function properly and to stave off degeneration. Discussing the nutrients we need might help select the best foods to eat; when you’re eating a balanced meal, you’re far less likely to need any form of supplement to keep your body as it’s best.

Vitamin A is absolutely essential for your eyes. This vitamin is used in their maintenance and repair; one form of Vitamin A is called Retinol, for the retina in which it is found. Without getting too complicated about it, retinol is processed by rod cells to enable them to change shape. This is especially useful in low-light conditions, where the rods become useful for discerning shapes and depth. One of the first signs of vitamin A deficiency is night blindness. Long-term vitamin A deficiency can cause chronic dry eye and corneal tears, both incredibly unpleasant. At worst, the cornea becomes so misshapen that the eye cannot function, leading to blindness. Vitamin A is found exclusively in animal products; liver, fish, cheese and eggs are all excellent sources of the nutrient. This would be problematic for vegetarians and vegans, but there’s a happy workaround.

One of the most talked about nutrients in the eye health world is beta-Carotene. When it is synthesized by the body, it becomes vitamin A; it is therefore known as a provitamin. You can find it in orange foods, like carrots and sweet potatoes; it’s also available in leafy greens, like kale, collards and shards. You should be careful, and consult an optometrist before taking any supplements designed to stave off age-related macular degeneration; smokers who consume beta-Carotene supplements may be at an increased risk of lung cancer. When possible, get vitamin A through food.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are two more important eye nutrients. They are carotenoids, like beta-Carotene, but they serve a vastly different purpose. These nutrients aren’t made naturally by your body; fortunately, they are found in the aforementioned leafy greens. Kale, chard and spinach are winners here. You can get some lutein and zeaxanthin from eggs, but vegetables are the best source. They help filter high-energy blue light, which we discussed in another blog post; that means they may lower the risk of cataracts.

When you’re considering a new eye related diet, you should speak with your optometrist. Winnipeg eye care professionals will be able to help you figure out what you can eat in order to get enough nutrients. Health is holistic, so we can help you even if you have a number of dietary restrictions; we want what’s best for you!