Foods rich in carotenoids are good for our eyesight.

What foods should we eat to protect or even improve our eyesight?

What foods can improve eyesight?

According to the American Optometric Association, we should consume foods rich in lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, essential fatty acids, zinc, vitamin E, and vitamin C.[1]

Foods rich in these nutrients can preserve your good vision and reduce the risk of certain eye diseases.

What is beta-carotene?

Beta-carotene is a red pigment. Most noteworthy, it’s found only in plants. Many fruits and vegetables are good sources.

Beta-Carotene is a member of the carotenes. They are powerful antioxidants. Moreover, it’s the most common form of carotene. 

Beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E are antioxidant vitamins.

The human body converts beta carotene into vitamin A. Vitamin A is also called retinol. As beta-carotene, is converted into vitamin A in the body, it’s also called provitamin A. There are other carotenoids, but beta-carotene is the most popular and well-studied.

Can food cause vitamin A toxicity?

We can consume two types of vitamin A from food:

  • preformed vitamin A, only in animal products and
  • provitamin A carotenoids. The most popular is the beta-carotene. Only in plants.

Vitamin A from animal products is metabolized easily by the body, to active forms of vitamin A. On the contrary, the conversion of beta-carotene to vitamin A isn’t effective.

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. It is stored in the liver. If you consume regularly animal products high in vitamin A, you may accumulate vitamin A in your body.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the upper safe dose for vitamin A is 3 mg. This stands for animal source foods and supplements.[2]

You should be careful, if you take supplements with vitamin A. They may cause vitamin A toxicity. Animal products, such as beef liver, can be harmful as well.

On the other hand, eating plants high in beta-carotene can’t cause vitamin A toxicity.

What is lutein and zeaxanthin?

Lutein and zeaxanthin are important carotenoids. They are present only in plants. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources.

Moreover, lutein and zeaxanthin are powerful antioxidants which protect our eyesight. Studies have shown that they can reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.

What are essential fatty acids?

Healthy fats are important for the proper function of the body. The modern Western diet is high in fats, such as vegetable oils. For instance, olive oil, canola oil, and sunflower oil are the main sources of fat.

We shouldn’t consume too much fat, though. Especially, vegetable oils high in omega-6s can be bad for your health. Excess omega-6s may cause chronic inflammation. More here.

On the contrary, we should consume high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, as they’re beneficial for good vision, as they’re essential for proper visual development and retinal function!

Furthermore, omega-3s are good for losing weight, fighting inflammation, building muscle mass, preventing hair loss and many more!

Walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds are the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. See the whole lost here.

Recommended daily intakes

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, we can slow the progression of eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration, if we consume daily:[3]

  • vitamin C, 500 mg
  • vitamin E, 400 IU
  • lutein, 10 mg
  • zeaxanthin, 2 mg
  • zinc, 80 mg
  • copper, 2 mg

There isn’t a daily beta-carotene recommendation, as it’s difficult to be established. Beta-carotene from supplements, beta-carotene from food, and vitamin A from animal products are all absorbed differently from the body.

Most noteworthy, we should take all these nutrients from food, not supplements. Hence, better prefer to drink a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice than taking a vitamin C tablet.

Foods with beta-carotene

Above all, carrots, spinach, and beet greens are especially rich in beta-carotene. Analytically, the whole list of foods high in beta-carotene:

(mg per 100g)
(mg per 100g)
moringa powder28.5cayenne21.8
grape leaves16.2chili15
sweet potato 9marjoram4.8
turnip greens7coriander leaf, dried3.4
dandelion greens5.9thyme, dried2.3
spinach5.6parsley dried1.2
beet greens3.8
swiss chard3.6
chicory greens3.4
romaine lettuce3.3
collard greens3
bok choy2.7
melons cantaloupe2
mustard greens1.8
red sweet pepper1.6
winter squash0.8
red cabbage0.7
onion young leaves0.6
Foods rich in beta-carotene

Foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin

Moreover, eating foods high in lutein and zeaxanthin is also good for your eyesight.

VegetablesLutein & zeaxanthin
(mcg per 100g)
SpicesLutein & zeaxanthin
(mcg per 100g)
moringa powder41500cayenne13157
dandelion greens13610parsley dried2428
turnip greens12825coriander leaf, dried2428
swiss chard11000marjoram1895
chicory greens10300sage1895
watercress5767thyme, dried1895
collard greens4323
mustard greens3730
summer squash2125
grape leaves1747
Brussels Sprouts1590
beet greens1503
dried tomatoes1419
onion young leaves1137
Foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin.

Moringa powder is the best source of beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.

Additionally, many fruits, vegetables, and whole cereal are high in lutein and zeaxanthin. For instance, whole-wheat pasta has 130 mcg per serving!

Other foods good for eyesight

We should consume foods rich in vitamin C and zinc, as well. Vitamin C and zinc are important for our eye health. You don’t need supplements. There are so many foods high in vitamin C and zinc!