Your eyes are, without a doubt, one of the most important complex organs in your body that require a collection of different nutrients to function as they should. Conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, myopic (also known as short-sightedness) can all be prevented or corrected to some extent by simply incorporating vitamins for good eye health in our dietary regimen. And although research shows that there is a range of diverse factors that are behind the genesis of some of these conditions, lack of proper nutrition is the common denominator in almost all of them.
Our appreciation of vitamins for eye health have, for sure, come a long way. Just a few decades ago it was unheard of for people to plan their meals around the idea of boosting their vision, fast forward and we now have a slew of supplements and vitamins for eye health care that are not just affordable to the common man, but also quite accessible and available easily.
Are Vitamins Important for Eye Health?
Deficiencies in a few particular nutrients can significantly increase the risk of developing certain eye abnormalities such as glaucoma, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) etc. Recent research even shows that by integrating the following nutrients in your supplementation program, you can effectively slow down, prevent or halt the development of these debilitating conditions. The list of the best vitamins and minerals for eye health includes;
1. Vitamin A (Retinol)
Of all liquid vitamins for eye health, none other plays a more paramount role in boosting and maintaining proper eye function like Vitamin A. It is highly involved, for example, in the maintenance of a clear cornea - the outermost covering of your eye - something which makes a big difference on how sharp and accurate one's vision is.
Vitamin A is, as you would expect, an integral component of the protein rhodopsin which gives you the ability to see at night or in low light conditions. In fact, night blindness - also known as Xerophthalmia - is caused by serious vitamin A deficiency which if not addressed in good time can deteriorate to irreversible blindness. Optical experts and eye health scientists believe that this is caused by the progressive drying out of the tear ducts causing the cornea to soften which is just a step above permanent vision loss.
Apart from this, vitamin A is also a factor in the prevention of numerous other eye afflictions. Studies, for instance, show that people who adhere to a diet high in vitamin A have reduced risk of developing cataracts and AMD (age macular degeneration).
The best whole food sources of vitamin A are sweet potatoes, carrots, leafy dark green vegetables, bell peppers and pumpkins. And although you can use supplements to fill in the nutritional gaps in your diet, scientists recommended taking foods rich in vitamin-A over standard additives when it comes to the maintenance of general eye health.
2. Vitamin E
The list of essential vitamins and supplements for eye health would not be complete without including Vitamin E. You see, most nutritional-based eye ailments can be traced back to oxidative stress, which is basically an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your system. Now, vitamin E is a renowned and potent antioxidant that has the capacity to protect your eye cells from progressive damage caused by the presence of free radicals. Remember that these free radicals are unstable molecules whose extent of damage is yet to be fully understood by nutrition experts and physiology specialists.
What's more, a 7-year study completed back in 2009 showed now taking at least 400 IU of this nutrient a day through a quality supplement reduced the progression and deterioration of AMD to untreatable advanced stages by as much as 25%. Other studies also show how eating foods that are high in vitamin E contributes to the prevention of age-related eye disorders such as cataracts. Hence, there is no doubt that the nutrient has a significant role in the maintenance of proper eye function and health.
Vitamin E rich sources include seeds, nuts, salmon, avocado, and dark leafy vegetables. If for any reason you cannot access the above foods, then a suitable tocopherol based supplement should fit the bill too.
3. Vitamin C
Ascorbic acid is one the most accessible vitamins for eye health floaters you can get today for cheap. Just like tocopherol above, it is a potent antioxidant that could protect the constituent cells that make up your eye from damage by free radicals. Vitamin C also plays a paramount role in the production of AREDs, a medication used to combat the progression of age-related macular degeneration which is the main cause of blindness in seniors above 75.
Besides, ascorbic acid is also needed in the synthesis of collagen - an important protein that gives your eye foundation structure, especially in the sclera and cornea. A number of observational studies have unearthed how vitamin C plays a consequential role in lowering the risk of one developing eye cataracts, a condition characterised by cloudy eyes and partial blindness.
Fortunately, unlike other nutriments, ascorbic acid is easily available through any of the numerous tropical and citrus fruits you can come across. Kale, broccoli and bell peppers are also some reliable sources of this vitamin that can be eaten on a daily basis.
4. The B Family of Vitamins (B9, B6 and B12)
Researchers have observed how several B vitamins such as vitamins B9, B6, and B12 play a crucial role in the proper maintenance of eye function. Also, the combination of these vitamins when taken in the right proportion can lower one's levels of homocysteine. This is a protein that is associated with the onset of inflammation and an increased probability of developing AMD in your later years.
The best sources of these specific B vitamins include cheese, milk, fish, meat, shellfish, green vegetables, eggs, kidney, eggs and chicken. As you can see, most of these are mainly animal-based sources. Hence, vegetarians and dietary vegans may want to explore the field of external supplementation to meet their B vitamin needs.
Riboflavin is an antioxidant with a massive potential of reducing oxidative stress to the eye cells when consumed regularly. This will create a kind of a knock-on effect that will eventually culminate to proper eye health and function at the end of the day. Scientists have also observed the immense role that vitamin B2 plays in the prevention of the formation of eye cataracts in the older and advanced age demographic.
Speaking of which, a 2010 study shows how a deficiency in Riboflavin predisposes one to the development of eye cataracts by as much as 50%. The good news, however, is that you can extract this antioxidant from sources such as yogurt, milk, oat, beef, duck eggs and fortified breakfast cereals.
The main function of this vitamin revolves around helping the body in the conversion of food into usable energy as efficiently as possible. It also doubles up as a reliable antioxidant that helps protect your eye cells from oxidative stress. Besides, studies now show that niacin plays a paramount role in the prevention and slowing down the progression of glaucoma. For those who may not be in the know, this is a unique animal in which your eye's optical nerve becomes damaged over time thereby predisposing you to irreversible blindness.
An observational study, for instance, on the study of the nutritional consumption of Korean adults and their overall risk of developing glaucoma unearthed a striking association between the condition and a low dietary niacin intake. That being said, it is still advisable for you to remember that supplements are supposed to be used sparingly and with caution to avoid exacerbating other related anomalies such as cornea-related inflammation, macular damage and blurred vision.
That being said, foods rich that are naturally rich in this nutrient should find a spot in your weekly food plan if you are to keep your niacin levels within the recommended threshold. They include; poultry, beef, peanuts, fish, mushrooms and legumes.
7. Zeaxanthin and Lutein
They are part of the renowned carotenoid family, a group of plant synthesized compounds that are known for being very beneficial to proper optical health. Speaking of which, each of these carotenoids are found in the retina and macula of the eyes where they are involved in the filtration of potentially damaging blue light thereby effectively shielding your eyes from damage and prolonging their longevity.
That aside, other studies have shown how the presence of these two compounds is necessary for the prevention of cataract development and progression of macular degeneration. Into the bargain, a controlled and randomized study has even illustrated the potential benefits of taking lutein for people diagnosed with optimal cataracts in improving their vision.
Apart from quality lutein supplements that should only be taken under instruction from a physician, a diet rich in flavorful fruits and vegetables should furnish your levels of zeaxanthin and lutein. Cooked kale, spinach and collard greens are also considered to be rich in these two carotenoids.
8. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Although not exactly considered a vitamin, it's exclusion from this list would be understating its role in boosting and maintaining proper retina function. You see, the cell membrane of the retina is made up of DHA, a variant of omega-3.
Apart from aiding in the process of forming the basic components of the eye, omega-3 fats also have decent anti-inflammatory properties that play a significant role in the prevention of the development and progression of diabetic retinopathy also known as DR. If anything, regular consumption of foods that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids like what happens when you adhere to a mediterannean diet has been proven to be helpful in protecting against DR.
Omega 3 fats are also crucial in the prevention and treatment of dry eye disease; the fats aid in the secretion of tears whose absence caused discomfort, dryness and occasional blurry vision. Boosting your omega 3 fats intake will call for an increased intake of seafood, chia seeds, flaxseed, nuts and soy. Alternatively, substituting your conventional cooking oil with olive and canola oil when frying and cooking your favorite meals is also a good way of increasing your intake of omega 3 fatty acids.
Thiamine has long been known for its legendary role in cell nutrition and the conversion of food consumed into energy. But it is only recently that scientists have isolated its potential in reducing the risk of one developing eye cataracts. In fact, a study conducted in Australia suggests that consumption of a thiamine-rich diet can reduce the chances of one developing cataracts by as much as 40%. The study also indicated how vitamin A, riboflavin, niacin and thiamine all come together to form an almost bullet-proof shield against cataracts.
To boot, thiamine has also been recently proposed as a reliable treatment of early stage diabetic retinopathy. Food sources that can help you boost your thiamine levels include whole fish, unrefined grains, white meat and vitamin B1 fortified cereals.
Vitamins for Dry Eye
As discussed earlier, dry eye disease describes a phenomenon where a person is unable to secrete enough tears to keep their cornea lubricated and, as a consequence, in excellent shape. The tear film plays a far-reaching role in the prevention of the onset of this debilitating illness and, therefore, any nutrient that is responsible in the formation of the stabilising layer that makes up the film is considered a prevention factor. This includes the likes of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids plus other assorted vitamins for dry eye such as B12, B6, D, C and E. A deficiency in Vitamin D, in particular, has been found out to be a common denominator in people suffering from impaired tear production and dry eye disease.
Vitamins for Eye Bags
Nothing makes you look older than you really are than sporting dark circles under your eyes. Luckily, however, you can fight this and reclaim your youthfulness by consuming foods rich in vitamin E. You see, apart from being a powerful antioxidant as discussed before in this write up, tocopherol is also known for its impressive ability to repair and heal damaged soft skin tissue like the one found under the eyes. The effectiveness of vitamin e for eye bags in reversing aging can also be boosted further by complementing its intake with other nutrients such as vitamin k for under eye bags.
Eye Vitamins for Glaucoma
Zeaxanthin and lutein lead the charge of the most reliable natural vitamins to improve eye health for glaucoma patients. But that does not mean that you can complement their intake with other eye vitamins for glaucoma such as retinol (vitamin A) and beta-carotene. What's even better, make it a habit of drinking smoothies made from blending foods rich in these three best eye vitamins for glaucoma i.e yoghurt (for retinol), papaya (for beta-carotene) and collard greens (for zeaxanthin and lutein) to reduce your risk even further.