Healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce the risk of eye health problems. Today, doctors confirm that in addition to boosting our immunity, managing our weight and giving us the energy we need, a balanced healthy diet can play a significant role in keeping our eyes healthy and maintaining our vision and explain to patients how their daily food choices can have a huge impact on their eyes.
Dr. Luisa Sastre, a Specialist Ophthalmologist in Medical Retina at Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai, explains that zinc, antioxidants and other nutrients are very important to the health of our eyes. They are present in many foods such as fruits, meats and nuts. Other foods that contain large amounts of salt, sugars and unhealthy fats should be avoided as they may be harmful to your eyes if consumed in large quantities over a long period of time.
“A healthy diet can play a significant role in preventing the development of diseases like macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy,” says Dr. Sastre.
“There is evidence that certain nutrients called antioxidants protect our body from damaging substances, they are found in many common and popular foods. They play a vital role in the health of the retina.”
Dr. Sastre also recommends oysters, which contain essential zinc and copper, while dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants and essential nutrients.
“It’s easy to make the right dietary choices when it comes to looking after the health of your eyes,” says Dr. Sastre. “There are so many foods that have been proven to be beneficial that almost every kind of diet, personal taste and food choice is catered for.”
“These foods can easily be incorporated into a person’s daily eating habits and are going to have a big impact on your overall health and that of your eyes.”
A diet rich in foods such as eggs, fish, fruits (particularly citrus fruits), nuts, leafy greens, and of course carrots, actively promotes healthy vision. Meat, such as beef, lamb and turkey, is beneficial to our eyesight thanks to the amount of zinc it contains, which helps delay age-related sight loss.
For optimum health benefits, Dr. Sastre recommends eating five portions of fruits and very lightly cooked vegetables per day, as well as two servings of cold-water fish, such as salmon, sardines and herring each week. Other foods that promote healthy eyesight include nuts and seeds, leafy greens, meat, eggs and dark chocolate.
A general rule of thumb is to add as much colour as possible to your plate. “Make your plate as colourful as possible,” says Dr. Sastre. “Think of each meal as if you’re making a rainbow with lots of different types fresh, natural and brightly coloured foods served together. If you eat a healthy diet including at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, you should not need a supplement.”
While eating correctly can play a significant role in maintaining the health of your eyes, it is equally important to avoid foods that can be harmful to your vision if consumed in large amounts over a period of time. These include sugary and salty items as well as foods high in saturated and Trans fat. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes and the leading cause of vision impairment and blindness. If you are a diabetic, you should avoid sugar.
“The same applies to salt. If you are hypertensive you should try to limit the amount of salt that you eat to no more than 2,300 milligrams (about one teaspoon of salt) a day. That includes all the salt you eat, whether it was added in cooking or at the table, or already present in food products.”
If you suffer from high cholesterol, Dr. Sastre advises avoiding saturated fat (found in some meats, dairy products, baked goods, and deep-fried and processed foods) as well as trans fats (mostly in foods made with hydrogenated oils and fats, such as stick margarine, crackers, and french fries).
“Instead of these bad fats, try healthier fats such as lean meat, nuts, and unsaturated oils like olive, and sunflower oils, “The old saying ‘you are what you eat’ is profoundly true to this day. What we eat has a massive impact on our health and our entire system, and that especially means our eyes” says Dr. Sastre.
The following 10 foods are highly recommended by Dr. Sastre for healthy vision:
Carrots are rich in vitamin A and beta carotene. Vitamin A is important for healthy vision as it helps protect your retina. Deficiency in Vitamin A is a leading cause of blindness and can lead to eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration.
2. Nuts and Seeds
Legumes contain healthy fats, vitamin E and copper, which are essential to maintaining the biochemical functions of the body and could play a role in maintaining a healthy retina.
Many fish are rich in Omega 3 fatty acid. They have a powerful anti-inflammatory effect that helps your heart and brain stay healthy, as well as your retina. The recommendation is to eat at least two servings of cold-water fish per week. Salmon, sardines, and herring are top sources of Omega-3s; halibut and tuna are also good sources.
Eggs contain healthy fats, lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important nutrients. Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that act as natural sunblock for the macula (the central area of the retina), absorbing the damaging blue wavelengths of light.
5. Colourful Foods
Such as oranges, sweet corn and peppers contain zeaxanthin. These foods need to be consumed in our diet as the human body does not produce these antioxidants naturally. They should be very lightly cooked because over-cooking them may destroy the pigments.
Beef, turkey and lamb contain zinc, which promotes eye health and helps delay age-related sight loss.
Oysters contain essential zinc and copper. It is important to consume a good amount of zinc as a deficiency may lead to poor night vision.
8. Leafy Greens:
Leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach and lettuce are rich in lutein.
9. Dark Chocolate:
Contains small amounts of milk and sugar. It boasts high amounts of antioxidants and essential nutrients. Consuming dark chocolate promotes better overall health.
10. Citrus Fruits:
Fruits such as lemons, oranges, and grapefruits contain high amounts of vitamin C which help fight age-related eye problems.
Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai provides world class outpatient diagnostic and treatment for the full range of both surgical and non-surgical related eye conditions, for both adults and children, from basic screenings and eye health checks, to retinal surgery, laser refractive surgery, cataracts, corneal grafts, diabetic retinopathy treatment, squint correction surgery, oculoplastic surgery, genetic eye disease consultations and counselling, and ocular oncology services through permanent and visiting consultants.