You have heard it since you were a kid—“Eat your carrots, they’re good for your eyes!”—and whether or not you have adhered to this advice and adopted the Bugs Bunny diet, you have probably imagined at least once that the carrot thing is just an old wives’ tale.
In fact, recent research on nutrition and eye health has discovered that nutrition can have a big impact on degenerative eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration. More than 20 million Americans over the age of 40 have cataracts, and 50% of Americans over 80 suffer from the condition, resulting in 3 million surgeries every year. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is another leading cause of blindness, with over 2 million cases per year and no known cure.
While the old wives were definitely on to something, today’s science has proven that it’s not just about carrots. Specifically, carotenoids, organic pigments found in many plants, have a positive impact on the human retina. While plants use over 600 different carotenoids for photosynthesis, the human retina uses just two oxygenated types—lutein and zeaxanthin—to absorb otherwise harmful blue light waves and, to a degree, ultraviolet waves. Lutein and zeaxanthin greatly reduce the risk of AMD and are plentiful in leafy greens like:
- Brussels sprouts
- Collard greens
- And yes, a little in carrots
But it takes more than just lutein and zeaxanthin to protect your eyes; other vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants play a vital role in vision quality and preservation (as well as vital roles elsewhere in the body). Vitamin C is a common and effective antioxidant that slows the onset of both AMD and cataracts, and it is found in many fruits and vegetable. Zinc is another essential mineral for preventing both conditions. Vitamin A strengthens your immune system and helps prevent pathogens from entering your eye. Other important ones include Vitamins D and E, folic acid, selenium, riboflavin, and Omega-3 fatty acids like flaxseed or fish oils.
So what’s the verdict on carrots? Well, they contain zinc, folic acid, riboflavin, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, a little lutein, and tons of Vitamin A. They are good for your eyes in the way that maintaining your overall health is good for your eyes. But lutein is what your retinas really crave, and leafy vegetables are the best source. So eat your vitamins and talk to your doctor about eye care nutritional supplements. The physicians at Vision Care Specialists have researched numerous eye care supplements and recommend Doctor’sAdvantage™. Patients can come into any of our four centers and purchase supplements over the counter then order refills online. For more information on nutritionals visit our website.
How to use this Information
Improve your optical nutrition today! Whether you have perfect vision and want to keep it that way, or you already wear glasses or contacts and don’t want your vision to deteriorate any more, the expert Colorado eye doctors at Vision Care Specialists provide constructive advice on how diet, lifestyle, and eye care nutritionals can impact your vision over time. Do you have other eye health questions? Our Aurora, Lakewood, Highlands Ranch, and Denver eye doctors are here to help. Give us a call today at 303/991-9600 or schedule an appointment online.
Please share any great eye-healthy recipes you have using carotenoid-rich ingredients or any additional suggestions on eye health.