Wouldn’t life be a whole lot easier if you didn’t have to keep track of your glasses, remember to pack contact solution wherever you go or squint to read this very article? Hang onto your seats, glasses-wearers of America: We’ve got some good news. If you (or your wallet) aren’t ready for any major surgical changes, some simple lifestyle changes could be the TLC your eyes need.
Unfortunately, your diet cannot specifically improve your visual acuity or your score on those letter-reading eye exams. However, you can make dietary changes to prevent or reverse the development of other eye diseases, called visual impairments.
“A visual impairment is a decreased ability to see to the degree that causes problems not fixable by usual means, like glasses, contacts and LASIK,” said family and preventative medicine expert Dr. Mikhail “Mike” Varshavski. “Common issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated cholesterol all contribute to early-onset vision impairment.”
There are two more common visual impairments that you can work to prevent.
The first very well-known problem is cataracts. Mainly occurring to individuals over the age of 55, a cataract is a cloudiness in the typically clear lens of the eye. While typically age-related, other key factors to the development of this impairment are nutritional deficiencies.
The second visual impairment is macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in Americans over the age of 65. This occurs when the retina, the layer of the eye that detects light and works with the brain to create images, begins to deteriorate. According to optometry specialist and licensed acupuncturist Dr. Marc Grossman, there are two types of this deterioration: wet and dry. While dry macular degeneration occurs due to aging, he has made different findings for wet degeneration.
“Wet macular degeneration arises from the body’s attempt to make up for lack of nutrients by building extra blood vessels beneath the retina, but the new blood vessels leak fluid, which causes permanent damage to the retinal cells,” Grossman told SheKnows. “Studies are showing that age-related macular degeneration is a nutritional- and lifestyle-responsive eye disease.
And while cataracts can be surgically removed, there is currently no cure for AMD, making these dietary changes crucial to your future eyesight.
In terms of what you can (and should!) be adding to your diet, both Varshavski and Grossman had similar recommendations.
1. Omega-3 fatty acids
These essential fatty acids can help prevent AMD and even help drain fluid from your eyes that can lead to high eye pressure and glaucoma.You can get sufficient servings through:
- Fish oil pills
- Salmon or tuna
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Flax seeds or flaxseed oil
2. Vitamin A
According to Grossman, “Vitamin A as an antioxidant plays an important role in immune function, helping the surface of the eye to be an effective barrier to bacteria and viruses. It may help or slow the progression of dry macular degeneration.” Try adding:
- Sweet potatoes
- Kale or spinach
- Dairy products
3. Vitamin C
“Vitamin C helps the body form connective tissue like collagen, which is found in the cornea of the eye,” Grossman told SheKnows. “Studies are showing that vitamin C may help prevent the formation of cataracts and vision loss from macular degeneration.” Incorporate these easy additions into your daily meals:
- Citrus fruits (e.g., oranges, grapefruits)
- Red, yellow and orange bell peppers
- Brussels Sprouts
- Strawberries, raspberries or blueberries
4. Non-processed complex carbohydrates
Eating a high-glycemic diet results in blood sugar spikes that can cause eye damage and increase your chances of developing diabetes and AMD. Complex carbs break down more slowly, providing your body with more fiber, sustained energy and a more controlled rise in blood sugar.
- Brown rice
- Whole grain pasta, breads, and cereals
- Kidney or Black beans
Overall, maintaining a balanced diet will do wonders for your vision. “Recent evidence shows that a high-fat diet wreaks havoc on your vision as it forms harmful fatty deposits into the retina and occludes the tiny blood vessels leading to the eye,” Varshavski told SheKnows. “In general, if you want to take care of your vision, you need to take care of your health in its entirety.”
You heard it here, ladies. While you might not ever achieve that 20/20 vision, do your future self a favor today: Think low-fat, high-antioxidant.