No food is more synonymous with good vision than carrots. We've been told since childhood to liberally munch these orange vegetables if we want to protect our sight. The carrot-vision connection is not just a tale. Carrots are packed with vitamin A, which is essential for good eyesight. Yet no nutrient alone can ensure a future of crystal-clear vision.
If you want to protect your eyesight, look for foods containing all of the following nutrients when you go grocery shopping:
Beta carotene is an orange pigment that belongs to a class of nutrients called carotenoids. Our bodies use it to make vitamin A, which helps the retina convert light into signals to be processed by the brain. When taken together with vitamins C and E and the mineral zinc, beta carotene may slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
How much you need: 700 micrograms (mcg) daily for women 19 and older.
Where to find it: In the produce aisle: sweet potato (961 mcg of preformed vitamin A per 1/2 cup), canned pumpkin (953 mcg per 1/2 cup), raw carrots (538 mcg per 1/2 cup), cantaloupe (467 mcg per 1/2 medium melon).
2. Lutein and zeaxanthin
These antioxidants have been found to protect the macula, the part of the retina that's responsible for clear central vision. The macula is what deteriorates in people with AMD.
How much you need: Although there's no set RDA, research suggests a benefit from 6 to 12 milligrams (mg) of the two nutrients daily.
Where to find them: In the produce aisle: cooked kale (10.3 mg per 1/2 cup), cooked spinach (6.7 mg per 1/2 cup), cooked broccoli (1.7 mg per 1/2 cup), cooked Brussels sprouts (1 mg per 1/2 cup).
3. Omega-3 fatty acids
The omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA protect cells in the retina. They may reduce the risk of AMD and keep the eyes lubricated in people with dry eye syndrome.
How much you need: Eat oily fish twice a week or get 1.1 grams (1,100 mg) of omega-3 fatty acids a day from fish oil supplements.
Where to find it: In the seafood section: farmed salmon (4,504 mg per 6 ounces), anchovy (1,200 mg per 2 ounces), albacore tuna (733 mg per 3 ounces), oysters (585 mg per 3 ounces), sardines (556 mg per 2 ounces).
If you're a vegetarian, you can find ALA omega-3 fatty acids in non-fish sources such as chia seeds, walnuts, flax, and soybeans, or from algae supplements. The body converts ALA to EPA in small amounts.
4. Vitamin C
Vitamin C, another antioxidant, protects the eyes against damage from unstable molecules called free radicals. It may lower the risk of developing cataracts. When taken along with other nutrients (such as beta carotene, vitamin E, and zinc), vitamin C has also been shown to slow the progression of AMD.
How much you need: The RDA for women is 75 mg/day.
Where to find it: In the produce aisle: papaya (96 mg), strawberries (49 mg per 1/2 cup), cooked Brussels sprouts (48 mg per 1/2 cup), 1/2 medium pink grapefruit (44 mg), raw broccoli (39 mg per 1/2 cup).
5. Vitamin E
This powerful antioxidant also protects eyes against the damaging effects of free radicals. When combined with beta carotene and vitamin C, vitamin E may reduce AMD risk.
How much you need: 15 mg/day of the alpha-tocopherol form of vitamin E.
Where to find it: In nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils: sunflower seeds (12 mg per 1/4 cup), almonds (7 mg per 1/4 cup), safflower oil (5 mg per 1 tablespoon), peanuts (3 mg per 1/4 cup).
Zinc preserves retinal health. It also helps transport vitamin A to the retina to produce the protective pigment melanin.
How much you need: 8 mg/day for women.
Where to find it: In the seafood, cereal, poultry, and dairy aisles: cooked oysters (74 mg per 3 ounces), cooked crab (6.5 mg per 3 ounces), fortified breakfast cereal (3.8 mg per 3/4 cup serving), dark meat chicken (2.4 mg per 3 ounces), fruit yogurt (1.7 mg per 1 cup), milk (1.0 mg per 1 cup).
Source: Harvard Women's Health Watch
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Guard your eyesight with a diet rich in the protective nutrients
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