Vision is one of our precious senses. We must protect our eyes from harsh sun by wearing sunglasses/hat outdoors. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle and good eating habits we can protect them from within. There exists a strong correlation between good nutrition and prevention of eye diseases such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). A diet rich in vitamin A (beta carotene) antioxidants – lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc can prevent these diseases. However, a good diet alone does not lead to good eye health, and it is subject to overall well being and a good lifestyle. It has been established that people who smoke or drink need more vitamin A because alcohol depletes the existing vitamin A in body and tobacco interferes with its absorption. Therefore it is beneficial to avoid smoking, eat a diet rich in vitamin A and manage stress for maintaining good eyesight.
Food items essential for maintaining good eye health:
- Fruits and Vegetables: Oranges, Strawberries, Grapefruit, Papaya, Green Peppers, Tomatoes, Spinach, Broccoli, Peaches, Carrots. Fruits and vegetables are good sources of vitamin C and therefore are important for health of your eyes.
- Dark-leafy vegetables and Yellow fruits: Dark-leafy vegetables are good source of Beta-carotene. These are also source of lutein and zeaxanthin. Orange and yellow colored fruits and vegetables are also rich in Beta-Carotene.
- Almonds, Sunflower seeds, Eggs, Peanuts: Vitamin E can be obtained through almonds, peanuts, eggs and sunflower seeds. Vitamin E is essential for the health of retina and blood vessels.
- Garlic and Turmeric: Antioxidants in garlic are useful in preventing cataracts, as suggest preliminary studies. Turmeric contains Curcumin antioxidant which has been found to prevent cataracts in rats.
In addition to fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts, few medicinal plants are known to be beneficial for eye health:
- Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba): It is known to improve flow of blood to retina and protect nerve cells. It is also an antioxidant. According to preliminary research, Ginkgo extract improves sight of glaucoma patients.
- Cannabis (Cannabis saliva): It carries cannabinoids which lower pressure in eyes of glaucoma patients. However, studies have shown some side effects on consumption of Cannabis.
- Eyebright (Euphrasia officials): It has been used to cure eyes for centuries. This herb is used in preparing teas, eyedrops and tinctures.
- Green tea ( Camellia sinensis): It contains antioxidants which protect body from free-radicals that are responsible for many health conditions including cataract, glaucoma and macular degeneration.
Recent discovery: Astaxanthin Algae
Astaxanthin is a kind of marine algae which is more effective in maintaining eye-health than beta-carotine of its family. Flamingo and Pacific Salmon derive their pink color from astaxanthin diet. Astaxanthin belongs to family of cartenoids which are strong antioxidants and are extremely useful for maintaining health. Cartenoids are pigments found naturally in the environment. These provide brilliant colors to fruits and vegetables, these colors range from organge, green and red to yellow etc.
Although most of 700 cartenoids that are found in nature can be easily obtained from a good diet, Astaxnthin is difficult to obtain. It can only be obtained majorly from either micro-algae Haematoccous Pluvias, which produces it in order to protect itself from UV radiations when its moisture dries up, or from aquatic life which feeds on it such as Shellfish, Krill and Salmon.
Astaxnthin is believed to be the most powerful naturally occurring anti-oxidant. It acts strongly on oxidants and protects body organs from damage. Ataxnthin is useful in conditions of Glaucoma, Cataract, Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), Venous occlusion, Retinitis, Scleritis, Keratitis, Iritis and Diabetic retinopathy. Moreover, its consumption does not cause any adverse reaction. The only side-effect known so far is that one could turn pinkish for sometime if large quantity of Astanthin is consumed.
Natural Astaxanthin must be prefered over synthetically produced one since natural variety has antioxidants which are approximately 20 times more effective than synthetically produced ones. Therefore wild salmon must be preferred over others, to make sure that color is from natural agent and not some color supplement.
Does the form in which food is consumed matter?
Yes, fresh foods are good source of vitamin A and vitamin C, and cooked vegetables contain lutein. Therefore, care must be taken while deciding the form in which food is taken.Vitamins play an important role in maintaining the health of eye. Certainly, vitamins empower you to fight the eye diseases more effectively, if not making you completely immune to them.