We’ve heard tomatoes help your skin …
And that Mediterranean foods are good for your heart, and a little agave nectar doesn’t hurt your libido. But what about your eyes? It so happens that tomatoes contain lycopene and lutein, which are good for the eyes.
Here’s a list of food and beverages that are good for eye health:
Kale and spinach
Just 1 cup of spinach or kale is packed with more than 20 milligrams of lutein and zeaxanthin — two nutrients that do wonders for your eyes. Both have been shown to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
Romaine lettuce, green beans, corn, broccoli, collards, peas and turnip greens
These foods are also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, says Dr. Howard R. Krauss, a surgical neuro-ophthalmologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. These plant-based foods also have other nutritional benefits. For example, romaine lettuce and broccoli provide healthy amounts of fiber.
Red peppers are a rich source of vitamins C, A and E, says Anna Kippen, a registered dietitian with the Cleveland Clinic. Mix them with eggs to make a veggie omelet for a heart-healthy breakfast, or eat them raw with hummus.
Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A and, specifically, beta-carotene, Kippen says. “This is important for night vision and also gives us a big dose of vitamin C,” she says. “Try swapping out your homemade fries for some delicious sweet potato fries, or roasted sweet potatoes with onions and peppers for a really eye-healthy snack”
Leafy greens are invaluable for our eyes and good health in general. If you’re not a fan of salads, don’t be afraid to cook leafy greens into your favorite foods. Adding spinach to a soup can be a delicious way to increase your green intake. You can even cook some into your ground turkey on taco night or eat baby spinach as a snack with some fresh squeezed lemon and basil sprinkled on top.
Oranges and eggs
Both are a decent source of lutein and zeaxanthin — so expect a thank you from your eyes after every time you eat either one.
Orange juice and grapefruit juice
Yes, vitamin C gets a lot of love as an immune system juggernaut, but did you know it’s also been shown to help minimize the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration? With one cup of orange juice, you can claim up to 124 milligrams of vitamin C. Grapefruit juice packs about 94 milligrams.
Essential fatty acids do your whole body good, including your eyes, by helping with visual development and retinal function, and possibly protecting against dry eye. Eating fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and anchovy are typically the best to load up on essential fatty acids.
Oysters and liver
Without enough zinc, our eyes can suffer from poor night vision and possibly cataracts. Oysters, liver, red meat, poultry, milk, shellfish, baked beans and whole grains are valuable sources of zinc.
Cantaloupe and apricots
Both fruits are excellent sources of vitamin A, Krauss says. Vitamin A is vital to maintain moisturization of the eyes and function of the retina.
Nuts and seeds
Vitamin E protects the cells in our eyes from free radicals and slows the progression of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Eat just one ounce of sunflower seeds or almonds, and you’ll earn more than a third of the daily value of vitamin E. Wheat germ, hazelnuts and peanut butter also pack plenty of the vitamin.
And carrots, of course
Whew, we mentioned carrots! Yes, these veggies help your eyes by supplying beta-carotene, which strengthens night vision. Beta carotene is also an important building block of vitamin A once it’s ingested, Krauss says. But as these slides have shown, you don’t need to have a bunny-like appetite to treat your eyes.
To recap, here are foods and beverages that are good for eyes:
— Kale and spinach.
— Romaine lettuce, green beans, corn, broccoli, collards, peas and turnip greens.
— Red peppers.
— Sweet potatoes.
— Leafy greens.
— Oranges and eggs.
— Orange juice and grapefruit juice.
— Oysters and liver.
— Cantaloupe and apricots.
— Nuts and seeds.
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Update 08/31/20: This piece has been updated.