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Healthy Living

16 Best & Worst Foods for Eyes & Vision



Your vision is your connection to the rest of the world and priceless. Losing your ability to see clearly, despite wearing glasses is a terrifying concept. Most people do nothing to protect their eyes until something goes wrong. Then you panic. Next comes the research, ophthalmologist, opticians, and surgeon (if you’re lucky). You might be lucky and recover. But most likely, you might need more light to see clearly during the day and night, a magnifying glass to read, and get blinded by glare while driving at night.

It makes supreme sense to protect these treasures every day to ensure you retain your independence as you get older. There are 5 common pathways to vision loss, including free radical damage, reduced blood supply, nutrient deficiency, inflammation, and UV light damage.

For the UV pathway, wearing sunglasses that block UV rays and/or a brimmed hat helps cut down ultraviolet radiation that can damage the retina. The other four pathways can occur with poor nutrition. Healthy foods can supply the cellular building blocks to repair and even reverse some vision loss and keep your eyes vital.

SWAP the Bad Stuff

1. Bread & Pasta

The white stuff is a major driver of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, inflammation, and vision loss. Refined white flour is composed of simple carbohydrates. It's been directly linked to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of vision loss in older folks.1 These carbs break down easily and fast, spiking blood sugar levels, damaging blood vessels and arteries.

Swap: Choose (gluten-free) whole-grain bread and whole-grain, vegetable, or legume-based pasta.

2. Processed Foods & Meats

Burgers, hot dogs, and deli meats are loaded with sodium. So is canned soup, tomato sauce, and other ready-to-eat foods. As you know, excess salt raises your blood pressure, including in that of the delicate vessels in your retinas. This pressure can lead to hypertensive retinopathy, causing blurry vision and vision loss. It can also cause a buildup of fluid beneath the retina called Choroidopathy. And it could block blood flow, killing nerves, leading to vision loss.

Swap: Limit red meats to twice a week and use lean, grass-fed unprocessed choices. Limit your salt intake to 2300mg a day or less. That’s LESS than half a teaspoon.

3. Fried Foods & Cooking Oils

French fries, chicken nuggets, donuts, and the like, are deep-fried in trans fats and send your LDL “bad” cholesterol through the roof. And cooking oils like safflower, sunflower, corn, soybean, and sesame are loaded with Omega 6s. High blood fats are well known for causing heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. They flood your body with damaging free radicals. The fats can clog these thread-like vessels in the retina, and free radicals damage the vessel lining. Both can lead to vision loss through AMD and diabetic retinopathy.

Swap: Roast, broil, poach, steam, bake, grill, braise, stir-fry, slow cook (crockpot), pressure cook your foods. Add nutritious herbs and spices to add flavor and excite your tastebuds. Avoid hydrogenated cooking oils. Use broth for stir-fries, and choose avocado oil, olive oil, and occasionally coconut oil as your mainstays.

4. Sugar & Sodas

Sodas, sports drinks, lemonade, like most beverages out there, are crammed with refined sugar. Some can contain as much as 7-10 teaspoons in one serving! Sugar unleashes a tsunami of free radicals that can lead to heart disease and vision loss by harming your blood vessels. Packaged foods and baked goods are loaded with sugars that add flab around your belly and body. This excess fat leads to inflammation. These inflammatory markers can damage your eye structures and lead to vision loss, diabetic retinopathy, and AMD.

Swap: Drink water for healthy hydration. And drink your coffee black or use natural stevia. Other natural, healthy sweeteners that can substitute sugar in drinks and recipes include erythritol, xylitol, Yacon syrup, and Monk fruit.

5. Fish & Shellfish

We all know that eating fish provides essential Omega 3s for your health. But some fish and shellfish have high levels of methylmercury and other contaminants. Methylmercury attacks the central nervous system. It accumulates in the retina’s photoreceptors, the eye cells that respond to light. This constricts your field of vision and changes the color of what you see.2

Swap: Avoid farmed fish dosed with larvicides, antifungals, and antibiotics. These toxins could trigger inflammation and free radicals. Choose sustainably wild-caught fish. The rule of thumb is usually, the larger the fish, the more contaminants. The US Food & Drug Administration created the following chart to help you make healthier choices.


6. Alcohol

Not actually a food with a swap. However, it’s important to note that drinking too much alcohol can lead to cataracts at an earlier age. Cataracts are cloudy areas that form in your eye’s lens and blocks light from entering, causing vision loss. At alcohol levels of 0.08% and up (above legal driving limit), it can cause blurry and double vision. It can alter attention control, meaning the inability to locate visual targets. It can also decrease tear production that lubricates and nourishes your eyes, a condition known as dry eye.3

Limit: The Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggest limiting your alcohol to 2 drinks a day or less for men and 1 drink or less for women. Or abstain altogether.4

7. Caffeine

I know what you’re thinking. No way I’m giving up my cup of joe. But, studies show that drinking coffee in the morning can raise the blood pressure inside the eye, called intraocular pressure (IOP), in people with glaucoma or ocular hypertension (OHT). IOP can lead to vision loss and blindness. Unfortunately, even decaf coffee can raise your blood pressure by 12 Hg mm, according to Harvard Health.5

Say YES! I Want More, Please

When considering your meals, plan to add lots of bright orange and red color foods to your plate. These foods are packed with Vitamins C, E, and eye-healthy antioxidants, such as lutein, zeaxanthin, beta carotene, and zinc. Studies show these nutrients help protect your eyes from vision loss, cataracts, and AMD.6 If diet restrictions limit you to the following foods, you can choose quality supplements to give you a helping hand. Add these delicious eye-healthy foods to your grocery list:

  1. Orange & Red Bell Peppers are high in Vitamin C. But cooking destroys this precious antioxidant, so make sure you eat it raw or lightly stir-fried with low/no-sodium broth.
  2. Citrus Fruits, Carrots, & Sweet Potatoes are yummy eye-healthy delights.
  3. Squash is loaded with lutein and zeaxanthin. Summer squash also has Vitamin C, while winter squash also supplies Vitamins A and C and Omega 2 fatty acids.
  4. Dark Leafy Greens like spinach, kale, and collards are rich in Vitamins A, C, and E, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
  5. Broccoli & Brussels Sprouts are packed with antioxidants for healthy eyes. Including Vitamins C and E, lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene that fight free radicals that attack your retinas.
  6. Nuts & Seeds are terrific munchies instead of junk food that can help your eyes. One ounce supplies half your daily requirement of Vitamin E. Drizzle natural, unsweetened peanut, almond, or any nut butter on a banana as a healthy snack. Or spread nut butter on a lettuce leaf for a refreshing, healthy dessert. Chia seeds have more antioxidants than blueberries, but feel free to snack on both for a bonanza of free radical fighters.
  7. Fish for Omega 3 Fatty Acids provide essential DHA and EPA Omega 3 fatty acids. A deficiency in these can lead to dry eyes. Delicious sources include Salmon, Tuna, Mackerel, Sardines, Trout, Herring, and Anchovies.
  8. Eggs are excellent sources of lutein, zeaxanthin, Vitamin C and E, and zinc.
  9. Water is essential for health. One cause of dry eyes could be dehydration.

Protecting your connection to this beautiful world might mean ditching junk, processed, and refined foods and changing things up a bit. But the benefits are enormous and rest easy that you’re doing everything you can to safeguard your valuable “windows to the world.” Eating more whole foods, including the above list, can dramatically improve your overall health, energy, and vitality and help ensure clear vision. So, you can retain independence as you age and focus on the more important things in life… like having a blast!

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