6 important nutrients for healthy eyes
50 percent of Americans have low levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in their eyes. Having low levels of these beneficial carotenoids is considered a risk factor for age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness for people over 50.
Lutein This antioxidant protects the macula, a small spot in the back of the eye that’s responsible for central, high-resolution vision. Lutein helps to increase macular pigment, allowing the eyes to safely absorb potentially damaging light. It may also improve low-light vision and object perception.
What to eat: Kale, spinach, collard greens, turnip greens
What a healthy adult should take*: 10 milligrams a day
Zeaxanthin This pigment is similar to lutein and performs many complementary functions. The combined level of lutein and zeaxanthin is called the macular pigment optical density and is an important gauge of eye health.
What to eat: Eggs, spinach, goji berry, kale, turnip greens
What a healthy adult should take*: 2 milligrams a day
Omega-3s Omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA are important for visual development in infants and retinal function in adults. Deficiencies have been associated with dry eye syndrome and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
What to eat: Salmon, tuna, mackerel, anchovies
What a healthy adult should take*: 900 milligrams a day
Vitamin C This powerful antioxidant is present in all eye tissues. It supports the health of ocular blood vessels and may contribute to healthier eyes.
What to eat: Oranges, orange juice, grapefruit juice
What a healthy adult should take*: 500 milligrams a day
Vitamin E Research suggests that vitamin E, in combination with other key nutrients, may support eye health.
What to eat: Wheat-germ cereals, almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds
What a healthy adult should take*: 400 International Units a day
Zinc This trace mineral transports vitamin A from the liver to the retina in order to produce melanin, a protective pigment in the eyes. Deficiencies have been linked to impaired vision, poor night vision and cataracts.
What to eat: Oysters**, beef, lobster, pork
What a healthy adult should take*: 25 milligrams a day for people at high risk for AMD
Supplementation with these nutrients may also be beneficial. Speak with your eye doctor or pharmacist to see if supplementation with any of these or a once-daily eye vitamin containing multiple nutrients is right for your needs.
*Consult your physician or Pharmacist before starting or changing any medication or supplement. Follow all dosing instructions.
**Consuming raw or under-cooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish or eggs may increase your risk of food-borne illness.
Seenu M. Hariprasad, M.D.,is associate professor of surgery and chief of the Vitreoretinal Service for the University of Chicago Medicine and Biological Sciences Division.