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Feeding your eyes


September 2015

Your stomach growls when you are hungry. But your eyes are asking to be fed, too.

Proper nutrition is essential for eye health. Structures including the tear film, cornea, lens and retina all benefit from a healthy diet.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are what your eyes need, according to the American Optometric Association. Spinach, kale and chard are loaded with these important nutrients, and so are many yellow and orange fruits and vegetables.

These days, nutrient levels in the eyes can be measured during an eye exam. "That test is a game-changer in how we look at overall eye health," says Dr. Kyle Ross, an optometrist with North Shore Eye Health and Wellness.

According to Ross, good nutrition can assist in several areas of eye function. Eating right can prevent dry eye, slow the development of cataracts, keep the retina healthy, and reduce sensitivity to glare and light. One study also links higher levels of lutein and zeaxanthin to reduced risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.

But donít expect a steady diet of carrots to improve your eyesight. "You could eat as much of all these nutrients as you want," says Ross, "but if you are nearsighted, youíre nearsighted. Much more important is the health of the tissues of the eye."

Many Americansí diets are lacking in not only lutein and zeaxanthin, but also vitamins A, D and E and Omega-3 fatty acids that are important for eye health and overall wellness. Plus, people process and absorb vitamins differently.

"Some people could eat buckets and buckets and buckets of spinach and not get up to protective levels of lutein and zeaxanthin," says Ross. "The key is, no matter how we get it, we need to build those levels up."

Depending on a personís age and other health factors, a basic multivitamin might take care of the shortfall. Other people need supplements or eye-specific vitamins.


This story ran in the September 2015 issue of: