This holiday season you can eat your way to better eye health by simply incorporating key foods to support your eyes. Good eye health starts with how you feed your body.
Colorado doctors of optometry agree that you should aim for eye health nutrition such as Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Lutein, Zeaxanthin, Zinc, Copper and Vitamins A, C, E & K.
If you’re nutritionally lacking in one area, it can create a snowball effect of health issues. Dr. Tom Cruse, Colorado Optometric Association Board President explains, “It’s not new information that we can use food and nutrition to improve our health or heal our bodies. We can use nutrition to improve our eye health by choosing optimal foods daily to support eye health. We can even incorporate these choices throughout the holiday season without skipping our holiday favorites. Remember moderation is key!”
2020 Eyes Colorado is speaking out throughout December about nutrition and eye health so that Coloradans are equipped with the information they need to keep their eyes healthy.
We’ve done the work for you and have listed the specific foods to choose if you want to improve eye health throughout the holiday season.
Reducing Inflammation with Cruciferous Vegetables
One study shows that participants who reported eating the most cruciferous vegetables (1.5 cups per day) had substantially less inflammation than those who ate the fewest. The women who consumed the most cruciferous vegetables had, on average, 13%-25% lower levels of three (3) important inflammatory markers in their blood.1 In addition to possibly lowering inflammation in the body these important veggies can do so much more as they are packed with additional eye health nutrients.
Cruciferous vegetables are a diverse group of nutrition packed veggies that are part of the mustard family. They can easily be found in most grocery stores.
Full list of cruciferous vegetables: arugula, bok choy, broccoli, broccoli rabe, broccoli romanesco, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chinese broccoli, chinese cabbage, collard greens, daikon, garden cress, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, komatsuna, land cress, mizuna mustard – seeds and leaves, radish, rutabaga, tatsoi, turnips – root and greens, wasabi, watercress
Cruciferous Vegetable Holiday Favorites and Benefits:
Bok Choy contains more vitamin A than broccoli and is high in beta-carotene.
Brussel Sprouts can help prevent dry eyes and consuming them can help your body protect your eyes from external damage including harmful UV rays. They’re full of Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Collard Greens are jam packed with eye health nutrient richness! Don’t skip these for your holiday dinner. In addition to boosting your eye health, they can boost your mood and help you sleep.
Kale We know there are strong opinions about kale, but one cup of raw kale is loaded with Lutein and Vitamin C. Kale can boost your immune system, it’s diabetes friendly, and weight-friendly with about 30 calories per raw cup!
Harnessing the Power of Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are famous for eye health protection because they are powerful antioxidants that defend against free radicals. These two carotenoids are pigments produced by plants that often give foods a green or orange color.
Foods with high sources of Lutein and Zeaxanthin: Kale, spinach, collard greens, sweet potatoes, egg yolks, pumpkins, turnip greens, corn, broccoli, kiwi, grapes, many squash varieties.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin Holiday Favorites and Benefits:
Broccoli contains lutein and zeaxanthin that work as protective pigments in the back of the eyes. It’s also loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
Egg yolks are the only non-plant source of Lutein (eat eggs in moderation and you may want to pass on them if you have high cholesterol).
Pumpkins are full of Lutein and Zeaxanthin. These two antioxidants help in preventing Age Related Macular Degeneration.
Sweet Potatoes are loaded with Lutein, beta carotene, and other vitamins and are also naturally sweet for the picky eater at your dinner table. A delightful side of mashed sweet potatoes can also reduce the risk of eye infections.
Carotenoids and Vitamin A: Allies for Eye Health
Vitamin A is so important for our eyes that deficiency in this vitamin is the most common cause of blindness globally due to malnutrition. Vitamin A is a group of antioxidant compounds that impact your vision, bone growth and health of the immune system. Vitamin A supports the surface of the eye and reduces the risk of eye infections and other infections throughout the body.3 Vitamin A is found in products like liver, fish, meat, and dairy products.
If you’re not a fan of the foods high in vitamin A then remember beta-carotene. It’s a carotenoid that reduces oxidative stress in the body. Beta-carotene is one of the most common and effective provitamin A carotenoids. Unlike vitamin A, Beta-carotene can be sourced from fruits and vegetables.
Great sources of beta-carotene include apricots, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, corn, guava, kale, mangoes, mustard and collard greens, nectarines, peaches, pink grapefruit, pumpkin, squash (yellow and winter), sweet potato, tangerines, tomatoes, and watermelon.
Vitamin A/Beta-carotene Holiday Favorites and Benefits:
Acorn and Butternut Squash is a great way to fill up on a variety of vitamins to prevent age related changes. Vitamin A in this squash can nurture your cornea.
Beef Liver most people will likely skip putting beef liver on the table, but this organ meat comes in first place for packing in the Vitamin A, also known as retinol.
Carrots whether it’s a baby, rainbow or standard orange carrots you’ll get both antioxidants beta carotene and lutein.
Goat Cheese is full of healthy fats, protein and Vitamin A.
Spinach offers so much to us for eye health and is considered to be the most nutrient dense food. It includes beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin,
Tuna offers the body vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids.
Red Bell Peppers hold the most nutrition out of all the bell pepper varieties and they’re easy to work into a meal. Red bell peppers hold over 10 times more beta-carotene than green bell peppers.
Don’t Forget the Omega-3 Fatty Acids!
Omega–3 fatty acids are essential for eye health. It’s commonly known that taking an omega-3 supplement can be beneficial for individuals with dry eye disease by increasing tear fluid. DHA and EPA (two components of omega-3 fatty acids) may also prevent diabetic retinopathy and a number of other eye challenges. But you don’t have to stick to supplements to load up. Let’s talk about the foods that include this eye health powerhouse.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Holiday Favorites and Benefits:
Mackerel is one of the highest sources of omega-3 fatty acids and is high in vitamin B-12 and selenium too!
Wild Salmon is recommended over farm-raised salmon. This popular fish is often eaten smoked, cooked, or raw (follow safe handling & consumption instructions). Salmon also contains magnesium, potassium, and B vitamins.
Shrimp is also rich in protein and potassium. It’s also a fancy addition to a holiday feast.
Trout is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and is also packed with protein, potassium and vitamin D. This fish is often smoked for breakfast, appetizers, soups or that special holiday dinner.
Seaweed & Algae are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids for individuals on a vegetarian or vegan diet. Nori is used for wrapping sushi, seaweed is often a crisp snack option, and chlorella and spirulina are showing up in deserts paired with mint or berry flavors.
Chia Seeds are another plant-based option that contain ALA omega-3 fatty acids. Chia pudding is a popular 2020 desert that can also improve your eye health.
Hemp Seeds are great for your eye health, heart, digestion and skin. These rich seeds also hold protein, magnesium, iron, and zinc and can be added to that holiday salad.
Walnuts are packed with ALA omega-fatty acids and are a versatile ingredient for appetizers, salads, side dishes, main courses, and deserts.