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Antioxidants for eye health

Antioxidants for eye health

The link between an antioxidant-rich diet and good vision

The idea that nutrients in our diet can have a positive effect on our eye health isn’t a new one.  Carrots have long been associated with good night vision because of their high levels of betacarotene – an antioxidant nutrient our bodies convert to Vitamin A.  

Everyone knows the – admittedly apocryphal - story about British RAF pilots eating bilberry preserves to help them see better in the dark. Bilberry fruits – a close relative of blueberries – are extremely rich in antioxidant compounds called anthocyanicides.  These compounds help to protect the inner surfaces of our eyes.

More recently, researchers have discovered the benefits of a yellow antioxidant pigment called Lutein.  Lutein occurs naturally in dark-green leafy vegetables, peas, Brussels sprouts, egg yolks, and most yellow fruit and vegetables.  

How antioxidants help to maintain your eye health

Antioxidants work by helping to protect our cells against the damage that unstable molecules called free radicals can create.  Cells in certain structures of our bodies are particularly vulnerable to this kind of damage, and amongst those structures are the tiny, fragile capillaries throughout our circulatory system.

The inner surfaces of our eyes are densely packed with these capillaries, which provide oxygen and nutrients to our visual receptors.  By protecting the capillaries against free radical damage, antioxidant nutrients support circulation to these fragile areas, and help to maintain good vision.

Additionally, lutein occurs in very high concentrations in the macular region of the eye – the spot at the back of the retina responsible for our central visual field.  Low lutein levels seem to be associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – a leading cause of blindness in older people. Because a good dietary lutein intake helps maintain macular health, it may help to protect vision in later life.

Other important vision-supporting nutrients

In addition to including bilberries and lutein-rich foods in your diet, you can also look at eating foods that are rich in other vision-supporting vitamins.  Three vitamins to to focus on include:

  • Vitamin A: found in carrots, apricots, green leafy vegetables, egg yolk, asparagus, broccoli, cod liver oil, liver and animal protein.  Our bodies also convert betacarotene – found in orange and yellow vegetables – into Vitamin A.  The receptors in our eyes that allow low light vision depend on Vitamin A to function optimally.
  • Vitamin C: found in citrus, kiwifruit, broccoli, raw cabbage, peppers, pineapple, parsley, rosehips, strawberries and bilberries. Vitamin C is a key component of collagen, one of the proteins that provides structure to the connective tissue in our eyes.  It’s also an antioxidant nutrient that helps to protect the fragile retinal capillaries.
  • Vitamin E: found in almonds, beef, corn, egg yolk, nuts, sunflower and wheatgerm. Another antioxidant nutrient, Vitamin E protects the membranes in our eyes from free radical damage, and reduces macular degeneration risk.

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Antioxidants for eye health

What is the connection between an antioxidant-rich diet & good vision? Discover here what foods & vitamins should you focus on to maintain your eye health.

The link between an antioxidant-rich diet and good vision

The idea that nutrients in our diet can have a positive effect on our eye health isn’t a new one.  Carrots have long been associated with good night vision because of their high levels of betacarotene – an antioxidant nutrient our bodies convert to Vitamin A.  

Everyone knows the – admittedly apocryphal - story about British RAF pilots eating bilberry preserves to help them see better in the dark. Bilberry fruits – a close relative of blueberries – are extremely rich in antioxidant compounds called anthocyanicides.  These compounds help to protect the inner surfaces of our eyes.

More recently, researchers have discovered the benefits of a yellow antioxidant pigment called Lutein.  Lutein occurs naturally in dark-green leafy vegetables, peas, Brussels sprouts, egg yolks, and most yellow fruit and vegetables.  

How antioxidants help to maintain your eye health

Antioxidants work by helping to protect our cells against the damage that unstable molecules called free radicals can create.  Cells in certain structures of our bodies are particularly vulnerable to this kind of damage, and amongst those structures are the tiny, fragile capillaries throughout our circulatory system.

The inner surfaces of our eyes are densely packed with these capillaries, which provide oxygen and nutrients to our visual receptors.  By protecting the capillaries against free radical damage, antioxidant nutrients support circulation to these fragile areas, and help to maintain good vision.

Additionally, lutein occurs in very high concentrations in the macular region of the eye – the spot at the back of the retina responsible for our central visual field.  Low lutein levels seem to be associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – a leading cause of blindness in older people. Because a good dietary lutein intake helps maintain macular health, it may help to protect vision in later life.

Other important vision-supporting nutrients

In addition to including bilberries and lutein-rich foods in your diet, you can also look at eating foods that are rich in other vision-supporting vitamins.  Three vitamins to to focus on include:

  • Vitamin A: found in carrots, apricots, green leafy vegetables, egg yolk, asparagus, broccoli, cod liver oil, liver and animal protein.  Our bodies also convert betacarotene – found in orange and yellow vegetables – into Vitamin A.  The receptors in our eyes that allow low light vision depend on Vitamin A to function optimally.
  • Vitamin C: found in citrus, kiwifruit, broccoli, raw cabbage, peppers, pineapple, parsley, rosehips, strawberries and bilberries. Vitamin C is a key component of collagen, one of the proteins that provides structure to the connective tissue in our eyes.  It’s also an antioxidant nutrient that helps to protect the fragile retinal capillaries.
  • Vitamin E: found in almonds, beef, corn, egg yolk, nuts, sunflower and wheatgerm. Another antioxidant nutrient, Vitamin E protects the membranes in our eyes from free radical damage, and reduces macular degeneration risk.
Antioxidants for eye health
 

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