The Beginner’s Guide to Eye Health

by Melissa Chichester

The eyes are known as, ‘the windows to the soul.’ As one of the most complex parts of the human body, your eyes perform some amazing feats throughout the day. Consider these facts from the Discovery Eye Foundation:

  • Eyes start developing two weeks after conception
  • Your eyes are the same size from birth until death
  • Your eyes have more than two million working parts
  • Your eyes are the most active muscles in your body
  • More than one million nerve fibers connect your eyes and your brain

And those eye facts are just the tip of the iceberg!

Health factors that impact eye health

No matter what your age is, it is important to take care of your eyes. More than two million individuals of all races in the US have age-related concerns about their eye health. These numbers are projected to continue to grow over the next 20-30 years. 

Around age 40, eye health begins to decline. It is common to need reading glasses as your eye’s ability to focus begins to diminish. This is a normal change called presbyopia. 

Blue light is another issue affecting more people than ever before. Blue light from devices such as computers, televisions, phones, and tablets emit high amounts of the high energy blue light that leads to oxidative stress and even damage. Looking at your computer all day may also cause eye strain. The average American spends more than ten hours looking at a screen each day, which can lead to discomfort, strain, and dryness. 

Free radicals in the environment or from lifestyle factors lead to oxidative stress and the premature aging of cells.

Since our eyes are constantly hard at work sending signals to the brain, they naturally generate a lot of free radicals. Things like smoking and sun exposure can further exacerbate free radical production and make it more difficult for your body to fight free radicals.

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Foods that promote eye health

Eating a nutritious diet high in fruits and vegetables can help ensure you are getting adequate nutrients which may help nourish your eyes. Important nutrients to include in your diet to help maintain eye health include Vitamin A (and its precursor, beta-carotene), as well as lutein and zeaxanthin. Vitamin A is found in a variety of foods, but especially animal-based sources such as liver, egg yolks, whole milk, and fish oil. 

Beta-carotene is found in vibrant orange foods and leafy green veggies, including carrots and sweet potatoes. Leafy greens are also a source of lutein and zeaxanthin. Additionally, zeaxanthin can be found in orange-colored plant-based foods like orange peppers, corn, and mangoes. Other food sources of lutein include leafy green vegetables (are you seeing a trend here?) and egg yolks and avocados.

>>How to Improve Your Eye Health Habits in 2020

Top eye health supplements 

When food isn’t meeting all of your needs, dietary supplements are another easy way to ensure you are getting enough eye nourishing nutrients every day.**

Vitamin A is one of the nutrients that helps maintain healthy vision and support eye health.**

It is essential for new cell growth and healthy tissue.** That’s one reason you were told to “eat your carrots” by your parents! 

If you want to increase your dietary intake of Vitamin A, you can find it in foods such as fish oil, liver oil, whole milk, sweet potatoes, eggs, carrots, mangoes, and leafy green vegetables. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin A is 700 mcg for adult women and 900mcg for men. 

Lutein and zeaxanthin are types of pigments found in plants called carotenoids. Carotenoids are what give many fruits and vegetables their bright red, orange and yellow colors. Even though they cannot be produced in the body, lutein and zeaxanthin from the diet are stored in the eyes. Lutein and zeaxanthin both nutritionally support the health of your eyes to support healthy vision.**

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Lutein helps filter out high energy blue light from the sun and artificial light.**

Zeaxanthin is preferentially placed in the very center of the macula, the area responsible for sharp, central vision.

Due to this positioning, zeaxanthin may provide additional benefits to lutein supplements for eye health.** 

>>The Benefits of Bilberry for Eye Health

An herbal supplement for eye health is bilberry. Its popularity for eye health was established during World War II. Traditional use claims are based on historical or traditional practices. Bilberry was consumed by pilots for eye health support.** A standardized bilberry fruit helps support eye function by promoting healthy circulation and collagen formation.** Bilberries also contain over 15 different naturally-occurring anthocyanosides, which are flavonoids that contain beneficial properties.**