There’s an old wives’ tale that eating plenty of carrots helps us to see in the dark. It might sound far-fetched, but there’s actually some truth to the idea that certain foods can help improve sight.
Eyesight can degenerate as we age, and age-related macular degeneration is quite common in older people. This happens when the cells of the macula – the light-sensitive part of the retina – become damaged, and we find it harder to focus on detailed things up close. Nobody knows exactly why this happens, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that eating certain foods can help to prevent macular degeneration and improve eyesight. So if you want to protect your eyes, make sure you include the following in your diet.
Carrots and other brightly coloured-foods such as tomatoes and bell peppers are rich sources of vitamin A and C. They also contain carotenoids, the compound that gives carrots and other orange veggies their distinctive colour.
Carotenoids are thought to protect our eyes from disease.
Carrots also contain carotene. When your mom told you carrots would help you to see in the dark, she wasn’t kidding. They really do help! Carotene in carrots is converted to vitamin A, which absorbs light energy passing through the eyes. The more vitamin A in your diet, the better able you are to see in low light conditions.
Carrots and other orange veggies are good for eyesight, but there is such a thing as too much vitamin A. Since it’s a fat soluble vitamin it’s important to get enough, but not overdo it. Here are the NIH recommendations for Vitamin A.
Green vegetables such as kale, broccoli, spinach, and cabbage might not be terribly appealing to the average five-year old, but they are good for the eyes. Greens contain a nutrient called lutein. The body can’t produce lutein naturally, so it has to come from our diet, specifically green vegetables.
Lutein is very important for eye health because it helps us filter out harmful blue light, which can cause damage to our eyes. The more lutein you have, the better. The good news is that even very small amounts of greens can significantly increase blood lutein levels.
Eat greens every day for maximum benefit.
There are lots of health benefits to including whole grains in your diet. Try cutting out refined carbohydrates such as white bread and cake from your diet and replacing them with brown rice, quinoa and oats. Whole grains contain higher levels of vitamin E, niacin and zinc, which are good for the eyes.
Blueberries are known to improve night vision. Blueberries contain anthocyanosides, which are a group of compounds that help us to see in the dark. So if you want to improve your night vision and keep your eyes healthy, add a handful of blueberries to your porridge in the morning.
Legumes such as lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas and black-eyed peas are a good source of zinc and bioflavonoids. Both of these nutrients are good for eye health and can reduce your risk of developing cataracts in later life. So if you want to protect your eyesight in later life, make sure you include legumes in your diet.
Nuts are good for us. They also make tasty, nutritious snacks for those moments when your energy levels are flagging and you need a quick boost. All nuts are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, so if you want to boost your eye health, make sure you snack on peanuts, walnuts, cashew nuts, almonds, pistachios, or nut butters instead of chocolate and donuts.
Regular eyesight checks can help to pick up eye problems such as cataracts, so try and schedule a visit with your local optician at least once a year and prevent deteriorating vision from reducing your quality of life.
This post was sponsored by Vision Express. Images via Shutterstock.