I never needed glasses until I got married. I jokingly chalked it up to the old adage, ‘Keep your eyes open before you get married, and half-closed after you get married.’ The truth was, though, I was a statistic. Around 164 million people in the United States wear glasses. Some sources indicate that around half the world’s population will need corrective lenses by 2050.
People who are serious about maintaining their vision might look into eye exercises or visit ophthalmologists to ask questions about building eye health. They could also look into nutrition as a preventive measure for several eye conditions. Many nutrients have protective benefits for the eyes.
If you’re interested in learning more, read through the following list of the 12 best foods for your eyes. In this list, I share 12 foods for eye health that contain vitamins, minerals, and other compounds that help with various eye-related issues. At the end of the article, I’ll share a few food combinations that you can try immediately.
Table of Contents
- 12 Fabulous Foods For Eye Health
12 Fabulous Foods For Eye Health
- Citrus Fruits
- Fatty Fish
- Sweet Potatoes
- Chia Seeds
- Brown Rice
Citrus fruits are known for their high vitamin C content. Vitamin C could help prevent several eye diseases, including macular degeneration. Macular degeneration occurs because of a lack of a carotenoid antioxidant known as lutein. Vitamin C helps prevent this by increasing the amount of lutein that the body absorbs.
Vitamin C is also involved in keeping connective tissue healthy, so it could help prevent detachment issues in the eyes. It could help lower pressure in the eyes, too, which might help prevent or ease glaucoma.
Of all the citrus fruits, oranges contain the most vitamin C per gram. Lemons, limes, and grapefruits are other good choices.
Beyond vitamin C, many citrus fruits contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that could help improve the health of the entire body, including the eyes.
Fatty fish includes a wide variety of fish that are generally caught in cold water. These fish include salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, and sardines. They contain omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients that promote eye health.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon and other cold-water fish could be best known for their impact on heart health. However, omega-3 fatty acids are also associated with healthy eyes. That’s partly because DHA, one type of omega-3 fatty acid found in cold-water fish, is one component of a healthy retina. Some people supplement with fish oil to get omega-3 fatty acids to help treat dry eyes, too.
Vitamin D is another essential nutrient for protecting the eyes, and it’s found in significant levels in some fatty fish, no doubt it's one of the vitamin D-rich ones. For example, a small salmon fillet contains around 116% of the daily recommendation for vitamin D.
Sweet potatoes are a bright orange root vegetable with a number of health benefits. They are a good source of fiber, which helps create a healthy gut microbiome. They’re also a good source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that build health in a number of ways.
When it comes to eye health, sweet potatoes are a star because of their high vitamin A content. Vitamin A, which gives orange and yellow veggies their color, helps with night vision, and it could help keep the cornea clear, as well. One cup of raw, cubed sweet potatoes contains around 105% of the daily recommendation of vitamin A.
Sweet potatoes are also a good source of pantothenic acid, or vitamin B5. This vitamin is sometimes used in eye drops to help reduce inflammation and provide relief for dry eyes, and to help heal eye wounds.
Kale is a green leafy vegetable in the cabbage family. It’s often thought of as a superfood because it contains so many helpful vitamins and minerals, while being low in calories.
A cup of raw kale contains around 7.4 calories. It also provides 6% of the daily recommendation for vitamin A, 22% for vitamin C, 2% for pantothenic acid, and 68% for vitamin K. Vitamin K is interesting for eye health, not because it impacts the eyes directly, but because it could help eliminate dark circles under the eyes.
Kale is also a good source of several minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and zinc. Zinc is important for eye health because it helps with the absorption of vitamin A and could help prevent both night blindness and macular degeneration.
When it comes to eyes, strawberries shine because of their high vitamin C content. A cup of fresh strawberries provides 99% of the daily recommendation for vitamin C—more than the vitamin C found in one orange.
A cup of strawberries also provides around 9% of the daily recommendation for folate and 4% for pantothenic acid, and it’s a good source for several other B vitamins, as well. Folate and other B vitamins are important for eye health because they help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration.
A cup-sized serving of strawberries also provides 2% of the daily recommendation for zinc, 1% for selenium (which helps protect against glaucoma and cataracts), and 3% for vitamin K. It also contains 2% of the daily recommendation for vitamin E, which could prevent oxidative damage in the eyes.
Chia seeds are the small, black seeds of a mint that is native to northern Mexico. These seeds are touted as a superfood because they’re loaded with minerals and other nutrients that provide several health benefits.
One reason that chia seeds are so exciting for eye health is that they contain omega-3 fatty acids. One ounce of chia seeds provides around 5.1 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. This serving size also contains 28% of the daily recommendation for selenium and 12% for zinc.
Chia seeds are also one of the foods that are rich in the B vitamin thiamin, too. Blurry vision is sometimes associated with a thiamin deficiency, so getting enough in your diet could help clear up your vision. An ounce of dried chia seeds provides 15% of the daily recommendation for thiamin.
Pumpkin is a bright orange winter squash that’s loaded with vitamin A. A cup of raw pumpkin cubes provides 55% of the daily recommendation for vitamin A. It also contains 5% of the daily recommendation for vitamin B6.
Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, plays a preventive role in eye health. It lowers the risk of age-related macular degeneration and other eye diseases that could lead to a loss of vision.
A cup of pumpkin also provides 7% of the daily recommendation for pantothenic acid, 5% for folate, thiamin, and vitamin E, and 3% for zinc.
Like kale, spinach is a dark green, leafy veggie that’s packed with nutrients. This vegetable provides a nice balance of vitamins and minerals that protect eye health.
A one-cup serving of raw spinach contains 16% of the daily recommendation for vitamin A, including 3659.4 mcg of lutein. It also provides 15% for folate, 9% for vitamin C, 3% for vitamin E, and 121% for vitamin K, along with several B vitamins, selenium, and zinc.
Spinach is also rich in antioxidants that could help protect the eyes. Some sources indicate that eating dark green, leafy vegetables like spinach and kale could protect eyes from sun damage.
Like kale, broccoli is a member of the cabbage family, and it’s dark green in color. It’s also loaded with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that could impact eye health.
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and bok choy) contain a substance called sulforaphane. Among its many health benefits, sulforaphane helps protect against some types of cancer, reduces viral load and inflammation in the body, and aids in the detoxification of the liver. When it comes to eye health, the sulforaphane in broccoli protects eyes against ultraviolet radiation.
Broccoli is also a good source of vitamin A, thiamin, pantothenic acid, folate, vitamin K, selenium, zinc, and vitamin C. A cup of raw, chopped broccoli contains 90% of the daily recommendation for vitamin C, which is just a little less than the amount of vitamin C in an orange.
Like chia seeds, avocados contain omega-3 fatty acids. A one-cup serving of avocado provides 253 mg of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linoleic acid. Avocados are also rich in potassium. Sometimes, people who have twitching muscles around their eyes take potassium to help calm the eye muscles. One cup of mashed avocado provides around 24% of the daily recommendation for potassium.
Avocados are also rich in thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, and the minerals selenium and zinc.
Peaches are an orange fruit rich in vitamins A, C, K, and E, as well as several B vitamins. One peach provides 4% of the daily recommendation for vitamin A, as well as 3% for thiamin and vitamin B6, 2% for folate, 7% for vitamin C, 5% for vitamin E, and 4% for vitamin K.
Peaches also contain powerful antioxidants that protect the lens and retina, and they’re rich in selenium and zinc.
Peaches are relatively high in fiber, too. One peach provides around 8% of the daily recommendation for fiber, which helps build gut health. This is exciting news for the eyes, because gut health is linked to the health of the retina and eye lubrication.
Like peaches, brown rice is rich in fiber that impacts eye health by improving the gut microbiome. A 100-gram serving of rice provides 13% of the daily recommendation for fiber, as well as 31% for selenium and 19% for zinc.
Brown rice doesn’t provide vitamins A, K, or C, but it’s rich in several B vitamins that promote eye health. A serving of brown rice contains 45% of the daily recommendation for thiamin, 21% for pantothenic acid, 37% for vitamin B6, and 6% for folate.
Three Food Combinations To Help You See Your Way To Better Health
Now that you’ve read through this list of the 12 best foods for your eyes, let’s talk about some food combinations that could protect your eyes and boost your eye health. These foods are packed with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. When they’re combined, they create a balanced but potent approach to developing better eye health.
Combination #1: Salmon With Brown Rice
Salmon brings both omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D to the table, while brown rice provides B vitamins and fiber to help build eye health. You can make this combination even more potent by adding a side of green, leafy veggies and a side of orange or yellow fruits or vegetables.
Combination #1: Fresh Fruit Salad
A fresh fruit salad is fun to make and allows you to combine the colorful fruits you love best. Start with orange sections, peach slices, and strawberries to provide vitamins A and C. You could also add in a handful of fresh blueberries or blackberries for their strong antioxidant effects.
Combination #1: Spinach Salad
Try topping fresh spinach with strawberries, fresh peach slices, slivered almonds or chopped pecans, and a small amount of grated cheese. Top it with a vinaigrette salad dressing or eat it plain to get the full flavor—and health benefits—of these fabulous foods.