The connection between good nutrition and good vision is sometimes underestimated or underappreciated, but there is little question of the fact that key foods and nutrients have significant potential to contribute positively to your eye health in both the short and long -term.
The eye’s are an extremely sensitive organ and two of the nutrients most likely to support their flourishing are lutein and zeaxanthin which are carotenoid antioxidants with strong support from a wide range of human studies.
These compounds are concentrated within the human retina and protect it against blue light and oxidative damage while generally contributing to improved vision and a lower risk of eye-related conditions like cataracts and AMD.
The goal of today’s content is to seamlessly introduce you to the relatively few foods that contain these beneficial compounds.
Let’s get to the good stuff.
The Best Foods For Eye Health & Vision
Lutein and zeaxanthin are compounds regularly found in popular eye health supplements including those that stem from the renowned AREDS 2 supplement formulation.
On the whole it appears that a total combined intake of these compounds of > 5 mg is required to achieve the desired benefit with intakes of +10mg per day associated with a 26% risk of age-related cataract with a cumulative protective benefit with each additional 10mg of intake based on recent work out of the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition.
With that said, let’s look at which foods contain lutein and zeaxanthin and how much of it they contain.
#1 – Leafy Greens
Another day, another reason to eat your leafy greens.
Spinach and swiss chard are the real powerhouse sources of lutein and zeaxanthin – with one cup cooked of either containing ~20mg combined.
For reference, one cup of my beloved kale has about 6.5 mg – nothing to be ashamed of.
As you can see, the daily inclusion of leafy greens automatically puts you in a very advantageous position regarding long-term eye health.
#2 – Other Green Veggies
Don’t love leafy greens?
Not to worry because other green vegetables like broccoli, brussel sprouts, asparagus, green peppers and peas contain between 1-4 mg of lutein and zeaxanthin per cup.
#3 – Orange Veggies
Yet another reason to eat the rainbow.
Quintessential orange vegetables like carrots, pumpkin and squash contain between 1-2.5 mg of lutein and zeaxanthin per cup.
#4 – Pistachios
I consider nuts an essential food for good long-term health and the fact that 1/3 cup of pistachios contains ~ 1 mg of lutein/zeaxanthin is another reason why.
#5 – Honourable Mentions
Corn, egg yolks and herbs (basil, parsley in this case) are underrated.
They contain small but meaningful amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin so why not make a whole egg omelet with basil and parsley and add some corn for the starch?
Sounds like an eye-health super meal to me.
Bonus – Fatty Fish
My clients and regular content consumers will know how I feel about the uniquely important role of fatty fish for those who enjoy it.
I’ll reiterate here that salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel are the only foods that contain very large amounts of the long-chain omega 3 fatty acids EPA/DHA.
They are also found in small to moderate amounts in other types of fish and seafood.
These omega-3 fatty acids are more often associated with unique health benefits, but that’s not to discount the plant-form of omega 3 (ALA) which is found in flax, chia, walnuts and soy.
Recently published data suggests that frequent fish consumers have the lowest risk of AMD and cataracts, which adds on to the growing body of evidence that long-chain omega 3 fatty acids likely have a unique role to play in maintaining vision and eye health.
Putting It All Together
With the knowledge provided in today’s post in tow, it is absolutely within your grasp to work towards the daily of consumption of 5-10+ mg of lutein and zeaxanthin from food sources.
Given the foods containing these nutrients are otherwise extremely healthy and under consumed, it won’t just be your eyes that thank you for doing so.
But the story isn’t over just yet…
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