A plant-based diet can protect your eyesight. Do you want healthy eyes? What foods are good for you? What foods are bad?
How does the eye work?
The human eye is a marvel. It is one of the most complex organisms in the human body. Only the brain is more complex.
Our eye is two centimeters in diameter. Despite its small size is very complex having over 2 million moving parts. The human eye can distinguish over 2.7 million colors.
Our eyes work like a camera. They focus images through a series of lenses.
Sight is the result of light passing through the lens. Then it’s imprinted on a part of the eye, called retina. Retina is a sensitive membrane that transmits images to the brain, by electrical impulses. Other important parts of the eye are:
- cornea, that is located in front of the eye and its job is to focus incoming light,
- iris, that control the amount of light that passes, by expanding or contracting,
- eye lens, that refracts light to be focused on the retina. Lens can change shape, changing the focal distance of the eye. That way eye can focus on objects at various distances.
- ciliary muscles that hold the lens. These muscles pull on or contract the lens, depending on the distance we try to see. For long-distance objects, ciliary muscles pull on the lens to flatten it. For close-distance objects, they contract the lens, to thicken it.
- vitreous body, which is tissue in the interior of the eye, through which the light has to pass, in order to reach the retina.
- optic nerve, that transfers the electrical impulses from the retina to the brain.
Most common eye conditions
Astigmatism is a very common eye condition. It causes blurred vision at all distances. It usually occurs when the corneas are “rugby ball-shaped”.
Reading or driving becomes difficult. People with astigmatism may experience tired eyes or headaches. Due to over-straining their eyes.
It is thought that the condition is inherited. You are more vulnerable to obtain the condition if one of your parents has astigmatism. Also, astigmatism can also occur as a result of an eye injury that causes scarring on the cornea.
In recent years, many cases of astigmatisms became treatable with surgery.
Myopia or short-sightedness
Myopia is also known as short-sightedness or near-sightedness. People with myopia have difficulty to focus on objects in the distance.
The main symptom is when objects in the distance appear blurry. Close-up vision is generally unaffected in people with myopia, except in severe cases.
Also, people with myopia may have tired eyes or headaches, as they tend to over-straining their eyes.
Short-sightedness is a refractive error caused by an imperfection in the eye. If the eyeball is longer than normal, or the cornea is more curved than it should, focusing point of the eye changes, so the light rays focus in front of your retina, instead of exactly on it. This makes objects in the distance look blurry. Close-up objects generally still appear clearly, because the light rays enter your eye at a slight angle. This angle is enough for the light ray to be exactly focused on your retina.
It is thought that the condition is inherited. You are more vulnerable to obtain the condition if one of your parents has myopia. Also, short-sightedness can get worse on tasks that the eye is constantly focused on close distance objects like reading.
Myopia can be treated with glasses and contacts. However, for permanent vision correction, laser eye surgery is an excellent option.
20-20-20 rule… Rest your eyes with the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look about 20 feet away for 20 seconds (1).
Long-sightedness, also known as hyperopia or far-sightedness, makes it difficult to focus on objects close up.
It affects the eye’s ability to focus on close-distance objects. Near-distance objects appear blurry. Headaches along with sore and tired eyes are also common symptoms.
Long-sightedness is a refractive error caused by an imperfection in the eye. If the eyeball is shorter than normal, or the cornea is less curved than it should, or lens is thinner than normal, the focusing point of the eye changes, so the light rays focus behind of your retina, instead of exactly on it.
Hyperopia is also believed to be an inherited condition.
Age-related long-sightedness is called presbyopia, and relates to a stiffening of the eye’s lens.
Both types of long-sightedness are normal. They can be treated with new technics.
Early macular degeneration
A macular hole is a condition when a hole in the macula is created.
Most commonly affects people aged 60 and over. It can cause blurred and distorted vision. The macula is the tiny, central area of your retina. It is the focusing surface at the back of your eye. A hole in the macula can cause that blurring, among other issues.
As we age, the gel inside the eye naturally shrinks. This gel may pull on the retina. This way a macular hole is created. Usually, fluid fills the gap, which created by the vitreous gel. If that fluid leaks, through the hole, onto the macula, blurring or distortion occurs.
The presence of another eye condition may increase your chances of developing a macular hole. Such conditions are severe short-sightedness, retinal detachment, diabetic retinopathy or some other eye injury.
Treatment is generally most effective when carried out early in the development of the condition.
What food can improve eyesight naturally?
We should consume food rich in:
- vitamin A,
- vitamin C,
- vitamin E,
- carotenoids, especially beta carotene, and also,
- lutein, and zeaxanthin.
Why lutein and zeaxanthin are important for good vision?
Lutein and zeaxanthin are powerful carotenoids.
They have potent antioxidant properties.
Many studies have conducted for these nutrients and their importance on vision:
- Most noteworthy, lutein and zeaxanthin are the only carotenoids found in the lens (16, 17).
- Also, they are found in the retina of the eye.
- Furthermore, lutein and zeaxanthin protect the macula by improving pigment density in the retina.
- Also, they absorb ultraviolet and blue light.
- Finally, they can protect against macular degeneration (6).
You can find a list of food rich in lutein and zeaxanthin here.
Remember… Lutein and zeaxanthin are present only in plants.
Why should we eat food rich in vitamin A?
Vitamin A is an essential micronutrient.
Why vitamin A is important for good vision?
Our bodies cannot manufacture it. Therefore, vitamin A has to be provided through our diet.
Vitamin A is stored in the liver.
Also, vitamin A is essential for many physiological processes, including maintaining the integrity and function of all surface tissues (epithelia) like the eye. Vitamin A is also essential for vision under conditions of poor lighting (3).
Some evidence shows that dietary antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E may help prevent the progression of macular degeneration along with overall good eyesight (2). Vitamin A is important for maintaining your eyes’ light-sensing cells, known as photoreceptors.
What foods are rich in vitamin A?
There are two main sources of vitamin A. Animal and plant sources.
Vitamin A is obtained through diet in two forms:
- The first form is the preformed vitamin A (retinol and retinyl ester). Retinol is the active form of vitamin A and it is derived from animal sources.
- The second form is called provitamin A (beta-carotenoid). It is derived from colorful fruits and vegetables.
Both ingested forms of vitamin A must be converted from the body to retinal and retinoic acid.
Animal sources of vitamin A
Animal sources of vitamin A are:
- egg yolk (not the white),
- dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and butter,
- meat isn’t a good source of vitamin A (3).
Animal sources of vitamin A, along with high dosages of vitamin A supplementation can cause vitamin A toxicity.
A plant-based diet provides carotenoids, important for vision
Plant sources contain vitamin A in the form of carotenoids.
Carotenoids are yellow, orange, green and red organic pigments of plants and algae. They absorb light energy for photosynthesis. Above all, they protect chlorophyll from photodamage (4).
Carotenoids have to be converted by the body to vitamin A.
There are over 1,100 known carotenoids. Lutein and zeaxanthin are the best known.
Vitamin A sources are better to combined with dietary fats. Due to fat will help to better absorption of the vitamin.
Can vegetables protect our good eyesight?
The best food for protecting your eyesight is dark leafy vegetables.
For instance, peppers, carrots, squash, turnip greens, peas, spinach, collard greens, sweet potatoes, dill weed, cress, beet greens, kale, cabbage, amaranth leaves, broccoli, arugula, and brussels sprouts are good for your vision.
|Description||Vitamin A (IU), |
|Peppers, pasilla, dried||35760|
|Spices, marjoram, dried||8068|
|Dill weed, fresh||7718|
Spices can protect your eyesight
Always consume spices.
It’s the most nutrient-rich food you can eat.
Vitamin A rich spices are: marjoram, bay leaf, savory, tarragon, and thyme.
What fruits can protect your eyesight?
Many fruits contain adequate amounts of carotenoids. Dehydrated apricots are the best option. They are especially high in vitamin A.
Other common fruits rich in vitamin A are grapefruits, mangoes, papayas, cherries, peaches, oranges, olives, gooseberries, black and red currants, figs, blackberries, blueberries, grapes, and apples.
|Description||Vitamin A, (IU)|
|Grapefruit, pink and red||1.150,00|
|Tangerines, or |
Other foods that can promote good eyesight
Moreover, Goji berries, Ginkgo Biloba, Saffron, healthy fat, and sulforaphane from cruciferous vegetables can promote a good vision.
Moringa powder is the best food supplement for good eyesight
Did you know that moringa powder is important for eye health?
Moringa powder is the best source of beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. All powerful carotenoids, present in eye.
Furthermore, moringa powder is rich in vitamin C, vitamin E. Both vitamins are well-known for their potent anti-oxidant properties.
Goji berry is good for your eyes
Goji berries are rich in antioxidants.
Moreover, Goji berries have the third-highest antioxidant capacity of any common dried fruit.
First is dried pomegranate and second a Middle East common fruit, called barberries (7).
Goji berries contain also zeaxanthin. Zeaxanthin is shuttled into retinas and promotes good eyesight.
Also, just for comparison, egg yolk contains 1442 IU of vitamin A per 100gr. Contrary dried goji berries contain 26822 IU of vitamin A (8,9). That’s eighteen times more vitamin A content.
Ginkgo Biloba has unique antioxidant properties
Ginkgo Biloba is a popular herbal medicine.
Did you know that among other uses, Ginkgo Biloba extract can act directly as an antioxidant during light exposure (18,19)?
Saffron can protect the eye health
Saffron is a spice, mostly used for its aroma and wonderful deep red color.
Moreover, it also has a long history of use in traditional medicine.
Researchers found that saffron may protect photoreceptors from retinal stress, maintaining both morphology and function.
Also, saffron may probably act as a regulator of programmed cell death (18,20).
You can easily use it in your recipes. It’ll provide unique color and flavor.
Dietary fat is important for good vision
Yes, you should eat healthy dietary fats with your vegetables.
Zeaxanthin, like all carotenoids, is fat-soluble. Dietary fat can improve the absorption of carotenoids.
As a rule of thumb, combine large quantities of vegetables with just a small amount of healthy dietary fats.
The healthiest fat you can eat is on seeds and nuts. Also, use olive oil. It has unique properties.
Furthermore, try a simple dressing of lemon juice and olive oil in your salad. Lemon juice is rich in vitamin C, and olive oil rich in polyphenols.
Last, but not least, eat foods rich in omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids can protect your vision. Flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts are good sources.
Sulforaphane in cruciferous vegetables is good for eyesight
Sulforaphane is a plant compound of cruciferous vegetables.
Among other benefits for the human body, sulforaphane is very promising for improving our eyesight (11).
Common cruciferous vegetables are broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, watercress, cabbage, arugula, cauliflower, collard greens, and turnip greens.
What food should you avoid?
As a rule of thumb, avoid foods with a high Glycemic Index, and bad dietary fats.
Why food rich in sugar is bad for your eyesight?
Food with a high Glycemic Index may be harmful to your vision. Especially to early age-related macular degeneration (13).
Food with a high Glycemic Index spike the blood sugar fast.
Foods with a high glycemic index, that we should avoid are white bread (75), white rice (73), cornflakes (81), instant oat porridge (79), instant mash potatoes (87), and rice milk (86).
As a general rule of thumb, consume food as close to natural state. Avoid highly processed food.
Also, try to eat whole plant-based foods, as they contain more dietary fiber. Fiber protects us from instant blood spikes.
Vegetable oils may be bad for your eye health
A high vegetable oil consumption was associated with an elevated risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
But vegetable oils differ greatly. There are different types of fatty acids:
- polyunsaturated fats, or
- linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid.
A study showed that higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids was associated with a lower risk for AMD.
The health benefits of eating foods rich in omega-3, observed only when people didn’t consume high amounts of omega-6 fats (15).
Contrary, if people consumed high amounts of omega-6 fats, the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids were lost.
Most noteworthy, most vegetable oils are rich in omega-6 fatty acids.
Contrary, the only plants that are super rich in omega-3 are flaxseeds, walnuts, and chia seeds.
The preferred ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is 4 to 1.
If this ratio changes drastically, like 20 to 1, you may have health problems, like vision degeneration.
Why you should avoid excess salt?
It is known that high quantities of salt will cause high blood pressure.
Certainly, high blood pressure isn’t good for your health.
Moreover, high blood pressure can impact your eyesight, as the blood vessels in your retina can be damaged.
If you have high blood pressure avoid salty processed foods and processed meats. Also, prefer to prepare the meals yourself, as you can control the salt quantity.
Why vitamin C is important for good eyesight?
Vitamin C is essential for many functions of the human body. It’s a powerful antioxidant which protects the eye.
We need about 90 mg of vitamin C daily. The best natural sources of vitamin C are vegetables and fruits. It’s easy to consume more than the daily recommended vitamin C intake.
See a list of foods rich in vitamin C here.
Vitamin E is important for healthy eyes
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant. It’s important for many functions in the human body. The recommended daily vitamin E intake is about 15 mg.
Common plant-based foods that are rich in vitamin E are sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, curry powder, thyme and mustard seeds.
Zinc to protect your vision.
Zinc plays a key role in human health.
The most important mineral for good eyesight is zinc. Eyes contain high levels of zinc, as it’s part of many essential enzymes.
Zinc involves in the formation of visual pigments in your retina.
Vegan foods that contain zinc are sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, squash seeds, mustard seeds, sunflower seeds, lentils, chickpeas, walnuts, peanuts, almonds, and cashew nuts to name a few. Also, zinc is present in some spices like thyme, curry powder, turmeric, and savory (12).
See the whole list here.
Hydration is the key, drink plenty of water
Always drink plenty of water.
Water will hydrate your eyes, providing them with sufficient lubrication to keep them clean and healthy.
Don’t drink sweetened drinks though, as they may have sugar. Sugar has a high Glycemic Index.
- National Institutes Of Health (NIH): National Eye Institute (NEI) – Healthy Vision Tips
- Harvard Health Letter: Top foods to help protect your vision
- International Center of Eye Health: What is vitamin A and why do we need it?
- Macular pigment and risk for age-related macular degeneration in subjects from a Northern European population.
- The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide.
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release Basic Report: 09110, Goji berries, dried
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release Basic Report: 01125, Egg, yolk, raw, fresh
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release Basic Report: 11124, Carrots, raw
- Sulforaphane can protect lens cells against oxidative stress: implications for cataract prevention.
- National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release Nutrient Lists: Zinc
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Dietary glycemic index and carbohydrate in relation to early age-related macular degeneration
- Harvard Health Publishing – Glycemic index for 60+ foods
- National Institutes of Health – Dietary fat and risk for advanced age-related macular degeneration.
- A randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial of high-dose supplementation with vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and zinc for age-related macular degeneration and vision loss: AREDS report no. 8.
- Lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation reduces H2O2-induced oxidative damage in human lens epithelial cells.
- Retinal Light Damage: Mechanisms and Protection
- Functional protection of photoreceptors from light-induced damage by dimethylthiourea and Ginkgo biloba extract.
- Saffron supplement maintains morphology and function after exposure to damaging light in mammalian retina.
All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.