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How can a healthy diet benefit my eye health?

Trouble seeing at night? Maybe some apricots are in order. Apricots are rich in beta carotene, a carotenoid that the body converts to vitamin A. And research shows beta carotene may help with night vision—and possibly even play a part in preventing cataracts. Carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, and winter squash are other great sources of beta carotene.

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 2 million Americans over age 40 suffer with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of central blindness, and another 7 million boomers are at risk. Individuals with AMD are unable to see images directly in front of them, which affects their everyday functioning, such as the ability to read, drive, and even watch television.

While a comprehensive eye exam by an eye care professional is the best way to detect AMD and cataracts in their early stages, your diet may also provide some eye protection. A waist-friendly diet, chock full of carotenoid-rich green leafy vegetables and fruits such as oranges as well as omega-3 fatty acids-rich fish, may not only reduce your risk of developing AMD and cataracts but also heart disease and cancer. That's a lot of health coverage per bite.

The carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, which are abundant in the lens of your eyes appear to be super antioxidants. These carotenoids have been shown to help protect the eyes from both AMD and cataracts. Studies also suggest that omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in both your eye and brain, can help protect against the inflammation that can damage your eyes. Lastly, being obese appears to also increase the risk of both AMD and cataracts. 

Diet is the first line of defense to protect your eyes. However, a supplement may be in order depending upon your medical history. Check with your health care professional and a registered dietitian before taking supplements to make sure that they are appropriate for you.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.