- Vitamin A, C and D are important for eye health
- Omega-3 fatty acids help in maintaining eye function
- Zinc can help in preventing oxidative damage
World Sight Day 2018 is observed on October 11. Vision is one of the most important of our senses. The most common eye diseases include cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. Some nutrients are important for eye functioning. They are needed to protect eyes from the harmful light and oxidative damage, and to prevent age related degeneration. Diets rich in antioxidants have shown to lower their risk to some extent. As we commemorate World Sight Day, I enlist here nutrients that are important for eye health:
1. Vitamin A:Vitamin A deficiency is the number one cause of blindness. It is essential for maintaining the light sensing cells (photoreceptors). The richest sources of vitamin A are animal products including egg yolks, dairy products, liver etc. Plant foods contain the precursor of vitamin A, carotenoids. These are powerful antioxidants and get converted to vitamin A in our body. Rich sources include spinach, kale, carrots and most yellow-orange colored fruits and vegetables.
Also read: 5 Foods That Will Improve Your Eyesight
2. Lutein and Zeaxanthin: These are yellow carotenoids that act as sunblocks and prevent the damage from harmful radiations. They also reduce age-related degeneration. Good sources include leafy greens, egg yolk, sweet corns, red grapes, mangoes, etc.
3. Omega-3 fatty acids: These are essential to maintain normal eye function and prevent dryness and various eye diseases. Good sources include fatty fish, walnuts, flaxseeds etc.
4. Vitamin C: It is an important antioxidant and may provide protection against cataracts. It is abundantly found in fruits and vegetables like guava, citrus fruits, amla, broccoli, tomato, bell peppers etc.
5. Vitamin D: It seems to have the potential to lower the risk of macular degeneration. Important food sources include dairy products, egg, fatty fish etc. In a country with abundant sunshine like India, it's a pity that vitamin D deficiency is an epidemic and hence the need to take supplements.
6. Vitamin E: It is an antioxidant too. Thus it can possibly protect against retinal degeneration and blindness. Food sources include almonds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, vegetable oils etc.
7. Zinc: Zinc is a part of many essential enzymes that act as antioxidants and prevent oxidative damage. Food sources include peanuts, pumpkin seeds, beans, oysters, meats.
Also read: Top 7 Ayurvedic Remedies To Improve Eyesight
8. Selenium: Selenium functions together with antioxidants such as carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin E etc. Important food sources include seafood, brazil nuts etc.
It's easy to see that food items that are beneficial for overall health are crucial for eye health and help prevent degenerative diseases of the eye too. It's best to try to obtain your nutrients from eating a variety of fresh, local and seasonal foods. However, if you can't meet your nutrient requirements owing to food allergies or your requirements are increased due to stress, you may consider taking supplements.
(Pooja Malhotra is a city-based nutritionist)
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