In the United States, there are around 12 million people over the age of 40 who have vision impairment. Around the world, there are around 2.2 billion people who experience impaired vision, often in the form of near-sightedness.
It’s a common problem. Glasses, contacts, and even laser surgery have become the norm. Most people accept that as they age, their eyesight will fade—but what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if you could prevent eyesight deterioration just by the foods you eat?
There’s some evidence that foods high in vitamins A, E, and C, along with other nutrients, could help prevent age-related vision problems. If you’re interested, read through this list of the 15 best foods for the eyes. At the end of this article, I’ll share three quick dishes to help you begin to support your eyes immediately.
15 Best Foods For Eye Health
- Chia Seeds
- Sweet potatoes
- Red Peppers
- Sunflower Seeds
- Brussels Sprouts
Carrots are root vegetables that are typically orange in color. Carrots contain beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A. Vitamin A is responsible for keeping eyes healthy as we age and helping us see in the dark. Beta carotene could also help lower cholesterol levels. One cup of chopped carrots contains 119% of the daily recommendation for vitamin A.
Carrots also contain lutein, an antioxidant that also helps protect the eyes. It’s particularly useful for helping prevent macular degeneration, and it has anti-inflammatory properties, too.
Carrots have several other health benefits, too. One cup of chopped carrots contains 13% of the daily recommendation for fiber. It’s also a great source of several minerals, including calcium and potassium, as well as several B vitamins and vitamins C, E, and K.
Nuts and other legumes are absolutely one of those foods high in vitamin E. Vitamin E helps to protect from macular degeneration, as well as helping to prevent cataracts.
The nutrition profile varies between the different nuts and legumes. One ounce of almonds provides around 49% of the daily recommendation for vitamin E. An ounce of hazelnuts provides 48%, and raw peanuts contain 16%.
Many nuts are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which also have strong antioxidant effects that could protect the eyes. Walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, and peanuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Nuts also contain protein, fiber, and other nutrients that support overall health.
Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart health as well as protecting the eyes. One ounce of chia seeds provides 5,060 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. Ounce for ounce, this is more than the omega-3 fatty acid content of fatty fish such as mackerel and salmon.
An ounce of chia seeds provides 28% of the daily recommendation for fiber. This is important because fiber promotes a healthy microbiome, and poor gut health could contribute to inflammatory eye diseases.
Chia seeds are also rich in other vitamins and minerals that promote overall health. These include folate, thiamin, vitamin B6, magnesium, selenium, and zinc.
Like carrots, sweet potatoes are rich in carotenoids that the body manufactures vitamin A from. One cup of cubed, raw sweet potatoes provides 105% of the daily recommendation for vitamin A. It also contains 21% of the daily recommendation for pantothenic acid, a B vitamin that helps protect the eyes.
Sweet potatoes are a good source of other vitamins and minerals, too, including folate, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin E, vitamin K, potassium, and manganese. A cup of sweet potato cubes also provides 14% of the daily recommendation for fiber.
Kale is a dark, green leafy vegetable in the cabbage family. It’s often considered a superfood because it’s rich in so many vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. The nutrient profile includes vitamins A, C, K, and folate, as well as minerals like potassium, magnesium, and manganese.
Where eye health is concerned, kale is unusually rich in both lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids that protect the eyes.
A cup of kale provides 68% of the daily recommendation for vitamin K. This is an interesting vitamin for eye health because its benefits center on the blood vessels going to and from the eyes. Vitamin A helps keep these blood vessels supple, maintaining a healthy blood supply to the eyes.
Like kale, broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, which means it’s a member of the cabbage family. Cruciferous vegetables are known for their high levels of a compound called sulforaphane. Among several health benefits, sulforaphane is known to help prevent blindness by protecting eyes from ultraviolet light.
The vitamin C found in broccoli could help prevent cataracts and macular disease, and it helps form collagen, which provides support for the eye structure. One cup of chopped, raw broccoli supplies consumers with 90% of the daily recommendation for vitamin C. it also provides 77% of the daily recommendation for vitamin K.
Other helpful substances found in broccoli include fiber, folate, pantothenic acid, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, and manganese.
Spinach is another dark, leafy green vegetable with a stellar nutritional profile that could support the eyes. A cup of raw spinach provides 15% of the daily recommendation for folate, which could help reduce age-related vision loss.
Like kale, spinach contains both lutein and zeaxanthin. Overall, it contains 16% of the daily recommendation for carotenoid precursors to vitamin A, as well as 121% of the daily recommendation for vitamin K. Spinach is also a good source of vitamin C and E and the minerals potassium, magnesium, iron, and manganese.
One of the avocado’s claims to fame is its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. One avocado provides around 14% of the adequate intake recommendation for omega-3 fatty acids. Avocados are also rich in fiber, potassium, vitamin K, folate, and vitamin E. It also contains around 30% of the daily recommendation for vitamin B6, which could help prevent eye diseases.
One interesting thing about avocados is that they can help increase the nutrient absorption of other foods, so they can help protect the eyes by bringing other nutrients into the equation.
Beef and chicken livers are surprisingly good for eyesight. That could be because they’re both relatively high in vitamin A. One cup of cooked, diced beef liver provides 1075% of the daily recommendation for vitamin A, while a cup of cooked, diced chicken liver provides 437%.
A cup of chicken liver also provides 879% of the daily recommendation for vitamin B12, while a cup of beef liver provides 4328%. Vitamin B12 is important because a vitamin B12 deficiency is linked to blurred vision due to damage caused to the optic nerve.
Pumpkin is rich in both vitamin A and vitamin C. One cup of cooked pumpkin provides 120% of the daily recommendation for vitamin A, including significant amounts of the carotenoids, lutein, and zeaxanthin, and 22% for vitamin C.
Pumpkin is also a great source of potassium, iron, vitamin E, vitamin K, iron, fiber, and zinc. Zinc is an interesting nutrient because it helps move vitamin A from the liver to the retina of the eyes. One cup of cooked pumpkin provides 7% of the daily recommendation for zinc.
Pumpkin can be cooked and served in a variety of ways, including delicious harvest desserts and even hearty winter soups.
Red peppers are packed with vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and could help prevent cataracts. One cup of raw, red sweet peppers provides 213% of the daily recommendation for vitamin C.
Red peppers are a great source of vitamin A, with both lutein and zeaxanthin. They also contain vitamin B6, Vitamin K, and folate.
Sunflower seeds protect from cataracts and macular degeneration with a high level of vitamin E. A one-ounce serving of shelled, plain sunflower seeds provides 33% of the daily recommendation for vitamin E. Some sources rank sunflower seeds as the food most rich in this vitamin.
Sunflower seeds contain other eye-supporting nutrients, too. A one-ounce serving provides significant amounts of vitamin B6, folate, and niacin, as well as the minerals zinc and selenium. Selenium is important because it could help protect the lens of the eye. One ounce of sunflower seeds supplies 41% of the daily recommendation for selenium.
Salmon and other fatty fish like mackerel, herring, and sardines are known for their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Many sources rank salmon near the top of the list for these healthy fats, which act as antioxidants to protect the eyes.
Omega-3 fatty acids also have a positive impact on depression, heart disease, and cognitive abilities.
Besides omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is rich in several other helpful nutrients. One of these is vitamin D. Like other vitamins, vitamin D helps prevent macular degeneration and cataracts, as well as glaucoma. It also helps promote cell communication within the eye. One small cooked salmon fillet provides 116% of the daily recommendation for vitamin D.
Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable containing both lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as sulforaphane, fiber, and several vitamins and minerals.
This vegetable is also a great source of vitamin A, B6, C, K, and E. One cup of raw brussels sprouts provides 130% of the daily recommendation for vitamin K and 83% for vitamin C. Besides supporting the eyes, the nutrients in brussels sprouts are good for the heart.
Brussels sprouts are a surprisingly versatile food that can be served steamed or boiled. It's actually one of those vegetables that are particularly great when roasted.
Apricots are a sweet, tangy fruit with many of the same nutrients and health benefits as carrots and sweet potatoes. The orange flesh of the apricot indicates it’s packed with the precursors to vitamin A, as well as vitamins A, C, and E. Eating foods rich in these nutrients helps protect the retina by creating a yellow filter that cancels out blue light to keep the eye healthy.
Apricots are also a good source of folate, several B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and fiber.
Three Quick Dishes For Supporting Healthy Eyes Immediately
Now that you’ve read through this list of the 15 best foods for the eyes, let’s talk about some quick meal and dessert possibilities that could allow you to start supporting your eye health right away. These dishes are easy to prepare and are packed with the nutrients that could help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts.
Dish #1: Salmon And Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Lightly brush Brussels sprouts with olive oil, top with sea salt, and roast them in an oven until they begin to get tender. Add the salmon and bake the dish for around 20 more minutes. Serve this dish with a sweet kale salad for an extra punch of sulforaphane.
Dish #2: Freestyle Spinach Salad
Top baby spinach leaves with sunflower seeds, chopped dried apricots, fresh broccoli florets, avocado cubes, and slivered almonds. Mix in an easy salad dressing made from olive oil and organic apple cider vinegar with a hint of salt, pepper, and crushed sweet onions. Serve with fresh red pepper strips.
Dish #3: Kale Shake
Blend around 3 cups of fresh kale with one cup of frozen berries, a banana, a cup of Greek yogurt, and around half a cup of orange juice. If you want a bigger dose of vitamins A and C, add a few fresh apricots to the mix. Once you taste this one, you'll definitely crave more, so make sure you don't run out of kale at home! You can simply buy fresh kale online if you don't have the time to go out grocery shopping.