Jan 12, 2021
Nutrition and Eye Health
A healthy diet is important for overall health. Your eyes, like the rest of your body, may also benefit if you eat well. Below, we discuss healthy eating and vitamins in relation to overall eye health.
How does nutrition affect eye health?
Maintaining a balanced diet and healthy body weight is important for general health. While there is no clear link between types of diets and particular eye conditions, research has shown that a poor diet can increase the risk of several other health problems, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers which can cause eye disease and vision loss.
For example, age-related eye diseases may be partly managed through what we eat in cases of diabetic eye disease, or vitamin supplementation in some cases of advanced dry age-related macular degeneration (dry AMD).
Overall, a regular healthy diet, exercise, and sufficient sleep all help manage diabetes, which may in turn help slow the progression of a diabetic eye disease like diabetic retinopathy or diabetic macular edema. For other forms of eye diseases, including inherited retinal diseases, maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle is important to prevent other health complications that could affect vision or impact the pre-existing eye disease.
What does a healthy diet look like?
Here are some tips for choosing foods that will benefit your health and may help manage disease[i]:
- Plan: Planning your meals ahead helps save time and money, and also helps prevent food waste. Meal planning also helps ensure you have a variety of healthy foods available that you enjoy.
- Time: Slow down, take time to enjoy and savour your meal. Chew your food well, not only will you taste more flavours but it will help your digestion too.
- Variety: Eat different foods to benefit from a variety of vitamins and minerals. If your diet includes several meat options, try switching things up every now and again with a vegetarian or vegan night, incorporating fish and/or plant based options.
- Choose: You have the power to choose healthy options. For example, water instead of sugary beverages, and wholesome foods over processed foods.
You do not need a chef’s coat or unlimited budget to eat healthy. Small changes like the ones listed above can make a big difference when practiced regularly. A common recommendation is to “eat the rainbow.”
Some diseases that affect vision, such as hypertension, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease, require specific diet recommendations. It’s important to speak with your doctor or a registered dietitian before making any significant dietary changes.
What vitamins are important for eye health?
For most eye diseases, there isn’t strong evidence of a specific diet or supplement that will protect or improve vision.
There is some research for some forms of dry AMD. The age-related eye disease study (AREDS) showed that consistent, daily intake of a specific multivitamin known as AREDS helped prevent progression in some individuals with dry AMD. This multivitamin includes[ii]:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Beta carotene (only in AREDS)
- Lutein and zeaxanthin (only in AREDS2)
There have also been some studies that suggest vitamin supplementation can slow progression of other eye diseases, such as IRDs. However, the data is not strong enough to provide a clear recommendation.[iii] If you have an IRD, speak with your specialist to find out if vitamin supplementation is right for you.
You should always speak with your doctor before starting any vitamin supplementation or a new diet. Some vitamin supplementation is not recommended for people on certain medications or who have pre-existing conditions.
Common foods that promote overall health
Many people can get all the vitamins they need through a balanced healthy diet. This diet includes some of the foods listed below which are rich in vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.
- Dark blue and purple fruits and vegetables
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Orange fruits and vegetables
- Fish, including salmon or herring
- Some herbal teas (black, green and oolong)
- Dark chocolate
A more thorough list of foods can be found in Canada’s Food Guide.
Incorporating healthy food options like the ones listed above into your diet helps add variety, nutrients, and more flavour. Check out these vitamin-rich recipes for some tasty and healthy options:
If you have eye health or vision related questions, connect with our Health Information Line at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll free at 1.888.626.2995.
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