Keen to hone your vision? Here are seven foods that just might help.
Fish, avocados and oysters are on a list of foods that keep your eyes bright and clear – and they contribute to your long-term eye health potentially preventing thieves of sight, macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma.
Your diet directly effects the quality of your tears – and good tears make for sparkly eyes. Did you know you have three different kinds of tears and your diet directly effects your teardrop quality?
Dr Anna Siu, senior optometrist with PersonalEYES, Australia’s leading network of eye clinics, says, “The food we eat impacts our tears and in turn, our broader eye health. It’s important to have a well-balanced diet filled with fresh fruit and vegetables and plenty of Omega 3 fats for top quality tears,” she says.
There are lipid or oil tears, which nourish our eyes, creating a barrier to reduce evaporation from the surface of the eye. Then there are aqueous tears, which form a liquid layer – these contain water, electrolytes and proteins and shield the eye from irritants. And, we have a mucour layer of tears which allow for the even distribution of tear film.
Here, Dr Anna gives her Top Seven Tips on what to eat to keep your eyes bright and sparkly, followed by three ways to keep your peepers in perfect condition in the long term.
Top seven foods for sparkly eyes
Incorporating tomatoes into your diet is one sure way to keep your eyes looking healthy because they are a wonderful source of vitamin C. Tomatoes are also high in carotenoids and lycopene, two nutrients that will help prevent excessive light exposure and damage to your eye.
“Avocados are filled with vitamins C, B6 and E and they’re rich in lutein, an antioxidant that helps your macula shield intensive and damaging light. They ward off macular degeneration and cataracts,” says Dr Anna.
A study launched in 1992 to evaluate a combination of vitamins E and C, beta-carotene, and zinc (AREDS) in relation to eye health. In 2001, the investigators reported that the AREDS formulation reduced the risk of advanced AMD by about 25 per cent over a five-year period.
3. Orange capsicum
Move over carrots, orange capsicums are the new eye health superfood. They are packed with zeaxanthin, a carotenoid that decreases your chance of macular degeneration and also high in vitamin A, which improves night vision.
“Try adding orange capsicum to a fresh summer salad to get your daily vitamin A kick and look after your eyes,” Dr Anna says.
4. Fishy friends and good oils
Cold water fish like mackerel, salmon and sardines play an important role in sustaining the quality of your lipid tears. These fish are high in DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid that may prevent the plaque that forms on the retina to cause macular degeneration.
“Just four serves of cold water fish per week is a great and worthwhile investment in your eye health,” says Dr Anna.
Eating too much fried food results in a thicker, lower quality lipid layer which leads to increased evaporation from the eye and ensuing dryness.
A clinical study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that of 32,470 women ages 45 to 84, 1,546 had a clinical diagnosis of dry eye syndrome. They also found that consuming oily fish 5-6 times per week decreased the risk of dry eye.
If you don’t like fish try a good fish oil supplement or adding a spoon of cold-pressed flaxseed oil or evening primrose oil supplements will have similar benefits. In a US study 76 contact lens wearers were given placebo versus evening primrose oil with the non-placebo group showing significant signs of improvement in dry eye at six months. A different study found that flaxseed oil did as much as good in preventing dry eye after Lasik as prescribed doxycycline drops.
Oysters are rich in zinc, which can help reduce the risk of macular degeneration. If you’re not a fan of oysters, nuts like cashews are another great alternative source of zinc.
6. Spinach, kale and dark leafy greens
Dr Anna says, “Green vegetables, especially spinach, are rich in lutein, a carotenoid compound that helps fight cell damage to your macula,” she says.
“Dark leafy greens also contain high levels of zeaxanthin an antioxidant that helps your macula shield intensive and damaging light. They also help improve your long term vision with their nutrient packed goodness.”
7. Fruits high in Vitamin C and A
Fruits high in Vitamin C such as oranges, strawberries and raspberries are a fab way to nurture your eyes and produce healthy, glowing skin – especially in the areas surrounding your cornea and lens.
Dr Anna says, “Berries lower your blood pressure, a key risk factor for macular degeneration, and decrease inflammation, helping you avoid blockages in the arteries that carry blood to your retina.”
Three extra steps to perfect peepers
1. Sleep well
When you sleep your eyes are lubricated and irritants collected throughout the day removed. Ensuring you give your eyes a break from the computer screen is another important way of keeping your eyes fresh and clear.
2. See your optometrist
Booking an eye test is an essential way to keep your eyes looking and feeling healthy. An eye test can pick up many different eye conditions, particularly dry eye. Anna says she picks up dry eye condition in around 40 per cent of patients at PersonalEYES and most have no idea they have the condition.
“Dry eye is very common and it can go undiagnosed. When dry eye is treated it can have a beneficial impact on the look of your eyes and your general eye health,” Dr Anna says.
Conditions such as type 2 diabetes, MS, high blood pressure and even tumours can be picked up at an eye test, so it’s well worth doing.
3. Stop smoking
Quitting cigarettes can do wonders for your eye health. Smoking increases your chance of developing cataracts and can also cause age-related macular degeneration.
References While beta carotene consumption is associated with better eye health, it also increases the incidence of lung cancer among smokers. There are some concerns about consuming high levels of zinc, also – the Australian standard is 40mg daily while the formulation tested is 80mg.  Kokke KH, Morris JA, Lawrenson JG  Chan and Boxer Wachler
PersonalEYES is Australia’s leading network of eye care clinics, with 12 surgery centres in NSW and ACT. Specialists in corrective eye surgery, PersonalEYES was established by internationally recognised refractive surgeon Dr Kerrie Meades, the first female ophthalmologist to perform LASIK eye surgery in Australia, and has remained at the forefront of eye care technology and procedures in Australia. In addition, PersonalEYES’ Donate Glasses program in the Solomon Islands has helped thousands of vision-impaired people through the donation of pre-loved glasses.