It's a common adage that carrots are good for your eyes. But is that really true? As Easter approaches, the peak professional body for optometrists addresses the question, and lists the top ten foods that will boost your eye health and help you protect them from eye disease.
Optometry Australia's resident optometrist Luke Arundel explains the reasons the below list of foods are great for more than just your waistline:
1. Fish – 'Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for your body to produce new cells, muscles, nerves and organs and they also have potent anti-inflammatory properties. They benefit our bodies for many important functions, including producing tears to keep the eyes moist and healthy, reducing dry eye syndrome. Cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel are rich sources of omega-3s, or you can get a good supply through supplements such as fish oil."
2. Leafy green vegetables – 'Leafy greens such as kale, spinach and green veggies are packed with lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for good retina health. Broccoli, avocados and peas are also good sources of this powerful combination of antioxidants."
3. Eggs – 'Eggs are also a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin. One study found, that when subjects ate one egg per day, lutein levels increased by 26 per cent, while zeaxanthin levels increased by 38 per cent. Eggs are also a source of Vitamin A, an important contributor to eye health."
4. Whole grains – 'Whole grains contain Vitamin E, zinc and niacin, which can all improve eye health by reducing the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Replacing refined carbohydrates with a high glycemic index (GI) such as white bread or pasta with whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice and oats is a great idea for eye health."
5. Nuts – 'Pistachios, almonds, walnuts, whichever take your fancy, are excellent sources of Vitamin E and minerals such as zinc that help keep your eyes healthy and may decrease your risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration."
6. Berries and citrus fruits – 'Oranges, lemons, red capsicum and berries are high in Vitamin C – a water soluble vitamin and a powerful antioxidant that helps the body form and maintain connective tissue, including collagen found in the cornea of the eye. Vitamin C also promotes healthy bones, skin and blood vessels, including the delicate capillaries in the retina."
7. Sunflower seeds – 'Excellent sources of Vitamin E and zinc, sunflower seeds can help to keep your eyes healthy."
8. Garlic – 'Garlic contains a compound called allicin which has potent medicinal properties, which can enhance blood flow and boost the immune system, for overall health benefits."
9. Dark chocolate – 'Dark chocolate contains antioxidants and flavinoids, which can help circulation and blood flow in the retina[i], so make sure those Easter eggs have a high proportion of cocoa (at least 70 per cent) or, even better, cacao which is the unprocessed, more pure form of chocolate."
10. Carrots! (Or, more accurately, any colourful fruit and vegetables) – 'Perhaps this is where the part about carrots started. Foods such as carrots, tomatoes, strawberries, pumpkin, corn and cantaloupe are excellent sources of Vitamins A and C. And carotenoids – the compounds that give these fruits and vegetables their yellow, orange and red pigments – are thought to help decrease the risk of eye disease."
'The above list is great to stick to for a healthy overall diet," said Mr Arundel. 'The added implications for eye health are a positive bonus.
'The absolute best way to ensure you stay on top of your eye health, however, is to have regular eye examinations with your optometrist."
For more information on optometry services in Australia, including finding your local optometrist, visit www.optometry.org.au