Our eyesight is such a gift – it allows us to see and appreciate beautiful scenery, to curl up and enjoy a good book, and to watch our children and grandchildren play and grow up.
For many people, eye health just isn't a conscious priority – new research in Australia indicates that only 6 per cent of people aged between 50 and 64 years rate an eye disease check as their top health priority.
Assuming that we British have similar health priorities, this is concerning as it has previously been shown that 99 per cent of people aged 55 years and over have noticed changes in their vision.
Despite this, only half schedule frequent eye exams, and many are not aware of ways in which they can proactively enhance their eye health, such as through a plant-rich diet full of vision-supporting nutrients.
Did you know that dark green leafy vegetables are considered the best vegetable for great eye health? We often hear about the importance of taking care of other organs, such as our heart, but eye health tends to be less of a focus – perhaps due to a perception that declining eyesight and compromised vision are an inevitable consequence of ageing.
I'm not denying that ageing affects the eyes, but science tells us that we can mitigate this process with good nutrition.
Nutrients for great eye health include:
The concentration of vitamin C in the fluid in the eye is higher than in any other body fluid. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps to protect the eyes from damage associated with exposure to environmental factors, and it also enhances nutrient delivery to the eyes by promoting healthy blood vessels. Vitamin C-rich foods include citrus fruits, kiwifruit, broccoli and capsicums.
Vitamin A is needed to form rhodopsin, a molecule used by specialised cells called rods in the retina that detect light in dim or dark conditions. Beta-carotene – a plant compound – is a precursor to vitamin A and it also protects the eyes through its antioxidant capacity. Vitamin A is found in liver, egg yolks, fish and cod liver oil, while beta-carotene is found in yellow and orange vegetables, such as carrots, kumara and pumpkin. Beta-carotene is also found in green leafy vegetables (the yellow/orange pigment is masked by the green from chlorophyll, another plant compound).
LUTEIN AND ZEAXANTHIN
These plant compounds belong to the carotenoid family (of which beta-carotene is also a member), and are concentrated in the macula of the eye. Lutein and zeaxanthin are powerful antioxidants that protect against oxidative damage, and they filter and protect the eyes from blue light. This is particularly important as this is the type of light emitted from screens (think smartphones, tablets, laptops, computers and TVs), which our eyes are increasingly exposed to. The best food sources of lutein and zeaxanthin are green leafy vegetables (such as spinach, kale, silverbeet, broccoli, parsley), egg yolks, kiwifruit, corn and pumpkin.
Zinc deficiency is associated with functional impairments in various parts of the eye. Zinc is needed for the conversion of retinol (a form of vitamin A) into retinal, which is required for night vision. Zinc is also needed to deliver vitamin A to the eyes, and it works with vitamin C to protect the eyes against oxidative damage. Zinc is found in oysters from clean waters, meat, eggs, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.
Remember, a healthy well balanced diet, with regular exercise can make the world of difference. Further advice and information on supplements are available here at The Eyecare Centre. Call by or book in for an Optomap wide field examination that can help determine the health of you eyes.