Vitamins & Minerals
There is a parade of vitamins and nutrients that contribute to keeping your eyes healthy and even factor in staving off some ocular diseases. In today’s pill and tablet-taking society, the good news is that we can get many of these vitamins right at our dinner table.
The essential vitamins and nutrients required for eye health are the alphabet group (A, B-complex, C, D, E), other antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin, and minerals zinc and selenium. Recent studies suggest that these may help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.
All of the above can be found in common foods enjoyed by a large segment of the population. Many are the familiar staples that we have heard about for years: fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts. A few others may be less recognized for their relation to eye health: lean meats and liver, whole grains, and eggs.
Vitamin A aids in the prevention of night blindness and can be found in beef, chicken, and liver, as well as carrots (of course), sweet potatoes, and red peppers.
Of the vitamin B-complex, B-6 and B-12 curb homocysteine levels in the blood. High levels of homocysteine is believed to be related to disorders that keep small blood vessels from functioning properly, a link to macular degeneration. All whole, unprocessed foods contain vitamin B, but it is concentrated in meat products and also bananas, potatoes, beans, and molasses.
The sources of vitamin C are probably the most widely known: fruits (and juices), vegetables, and potatoes. The formation of
collagen important to the cornea and maintenance of the small capillaries in the retina are vitamin C’s contribution to the eyes.
Vitamin D is also enlisted in the fight against macular degeneration and is the first vitamin you are likely to encounter each day, as it can be found in milk, cereal grains, and eggs. Tuna, cod liver oil, and other fish oils supply vitamin D as well.
Nuts, sunflower seeds, and mangos are rich in Vitamin E, which reduces the risk of cataracts.
Antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin are naturally found in the retina and lens of our eyes and are responsible for combating free radicals, which break down tissue in the body. Adding leafy green vegetables and beet greens to the diet can replenish lutein and zeaxanthin in our system. Corn and eggs, especially the yolks, are good choices as well.
The minerals zinc and selenium can be thought of as ‘helpers’ since their main function is to assist the body in absorbing the vitamins (particularly A and E) needed to stave off eye disease. Turn to seafood, yeast, wheat, nuts, and hamburgers (!) for these.
Be aware that cooking reduces the content of some vitamins in food; in the case of lutein, cooking actually releases the antioxidant from cell wall of vegetables. Light destroys vitamin C, so any juices should be purchased or stored in non-transparent containers.
While foods can do a lot to provide needed vitamins and minerals, there are times when dietary supplements may be needed. These are readily available on the market, but should not become a part of your daily use until you consult with your doctor. Proper dosage is important to achieve the desired results. Excess vitamins in the body that cannot be naturally flushed out of the system will cause unwanted side effects. In fact, any major dietary changes, including addition of vitamin-rich foods mentioned above, should not commence without a physician’s approval.