Out of our five senses, vision is arguably the most important. Almost all of the vital information we receive throughout the day comes to us via our eyes, and though there are ways in which we can deal with diminished or no vision, we should be doing everything we can to ensure that it remains as strong as possible throughout our lives.
The obvious things we can do to preserve our vision include not looking directly at the sun, refraining from smoking (which can cause cataracts and macular degeneration) and taking regular breaks from looking at computer screens. However, our diet can also have a positive effect on our vision.
Beta-carotene, a hydrocarbon found in orange and yellow coloured fruits and vegetables such as carrots, melons, pumpkins (in addition to spinach and kale, where chlorophyll masks beta-carotene’s distinctive hue), has long been thought to slow the progress of cataracts and other forms of age-related macular degeneration. While studies have thus far failed to find any convincing link between beta-carotene supplementation, lutein and zeaxanthin, two naturally occurring carotenoids, have been proven to positively affect eyesight.
Lutein and zeaxanthin
These two nutrients are found predominantly in leafy green vegetables, which can be either cooked or raw, such as the aforementioned spinach and kale. Other good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin include:
• turnip greens
• collard greens
• Brussels sprouts
Consuming more than 2.4mg of lutein and zeaxanthin on a daily basis has been shown to reduce the likelihood of opacities developing across an optical lens, according to a 15-year study by the Nutrition and Vision Project. Several other studies have corroborated this point-of-view.
In addition, a study published in the Journal of Food Science asserts that those taking lutein and zeaxanthin (10mg of lutein and 2mg of zeaxanthin) will experience a decrease in light sensitivity and a general improvement in visual performance, but there is less evidence available to support this.
If you don’t consume foods containing lutein and zeaxanthin on a regular basis, supplements formulated for supporting eye health may be something you want to consider.
The World Health Organisation estimates that, as of 2010, around 20 million people worldwide were either completely blind or living with impaired vision due to cataracts. Age catches up with us all eventually and, despite taking precautions in areas like your diet, cataracts that require surgery may develop anyway. If you do undergo surgery, make sure you maintain a diet rich in the foods listed above as part of your aftercare programme in order to reduce the likelihood of complications.