Eyes, like every other organ in the body, are susceptible to disease. Diet can play a big part in whether or not people contract chronic and debilitating conditions. Genetics and environment aside, what you put in your mouth can help preserve your eyesight for a long time.
Why Does Food Matter?
You might think that food is simply for calories and energy. While that's food's major function, people can suffer malnourishment even if they have plenty to eat. This is because many foods have low nutrient density-- low nutrient values per calorie. Healthy foods generally have high nutrient values; they have high levels of vitamins and minerals that the body uses to perform properly.
For example, you might have heard that eating carrots helps your eyes. This is not because carrots are magical. It's because carrots are high in vitamin A, which helps support the health of the cornea. Other foods that have high levels of vitamin A include sweet potatoes and leafy greens, like kale and chard.
Furthermore, vitamin A is type of antioxidant. It and other antioxidants protect against disease by helping to reduce the oxidation process in the body. Oxidation produces free radicals, which can kill healthy cells and alter DNA. They are one of the leading causes of degenerative disease and cancer.
Basically, if you eat foods that are high in vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants, you are giving your body the tools to fight diseases that come from aging. If you choose foods that are high in fats and sugars, the opposite occurs. The immune system becomes weak, and more free radicals roam the body.
So What Does This Have To Do With Eyes?
Your optometrist will perform an eye exam each year in order to make sure that you are not developing any diseases, such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, or eye cancer. These exams are meant to catch diseases early and prevent them from getting worse. However, eating healthy foods will also help stave off disease.
For example, one study showed that a diet high in antioxidants and plant-based foods (plants are highest in essential nutrients) could reduce cases of macular degeneration by 25%. This disease is irreversible and usually results in total vision loss.
Furthermore, some pigments from plants (carotenoids) help protect the retina from oxidation caused by UV exposure. Ultra-violet light is carcinogenic, which means it contributes to cancerous growth.
Those who eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, as well as healthy omega-3 fatty acids, are simply more likely to enjoy good, healthy vision throughout life. This is because the nutrients in these foods help support the function of the eye, and help prevent the development of degenerative diseases and cancers.
If you still have questions or concerns, click here for more info on how to use your diet to the advantage of your eye health.