Our eyes need nutrition - like any other organ in our body. Each component of our ocular system responds to certain vitamins and minerals that improve its functionality. If you are a health minded individual who prioritizes their physical well being above many of life's other day to day demands - chances are that your vision is healthy and your eyes are getting the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants they need.
To be on the safe side, however, it's always a good idea to "keep an eye" on your eating habits and periodically review the balance between the food groups you eat. This isn't always possible, of course, so discussing a vitamin regimen - and supplements with your eye doctor during your checkups is a good idea. We provide these consultations at both our Newport Beach, CA and our Laguna Hills, CA eye clinics.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are classified as "carotenoids (the natural plant pigment) that act as antioxidants to protect your eyes from damaging "free radicals" that may cause cataracts and adult macular degeneration. Although a proper adult dose of each carotenoid has not yet been determined, most Lutein vitamins, out of the bottle, come in 6mg and 20mg sizes. If you like to get your vitamins naturally, Spinach, Peas, and many yellow or orange fruits and vegetables provide the Lutein naturally. For instance, one cup of cooked spinach provides over 13mg of Lutein. One cup of cooked Kale or Collard greens provide over .2mg and .5mg of Zeaxanthin, respectively. Orange peppers (whole) have up to 1.5mg of Zeaxanthin.
Beta-carotene is also a carotenoid that causes the deep orange pigment in fruits and vegetables. Unlike Lutein and Zeaxanthin, beta-carotene can be converted to vitamin A by the body as needed. But Beta-carotene also functions as an antioxidant - protecting the eyes from such diseases as cataracts and adult macular degeneration. One medium size raw carrot provides over 12mg of beta-carotene while a mango, half cup of mashed sweet potato, and half cup of spinach provide between 4mg and 5mg.
It seems like vitamin C is good for almost everything in our body. Your eyes are no exception. The recommended daily allotment is 90mg per day for men and 75mg for women. One medium papaya or 6 ounces of orange juice will provide the Vitamin C allotment with room to spare. A papaya equals 188mg of vitamin C and the Orange Juice - 93mg of vitamin C. Normal servings of strawberries, grapefruit juice, and cantaloupe also contain large amounts of vitamin C. Vitamin C is an essential vitamin that is water soluble and functions as an antioxidant to fight certain eye diseases.
Vitamin E is another big performing antioxidant that attacks free radicals thought to cause cataracts and age related macular degeneration. Vegetable oils and nuts are primary natural food sources for Vitamin E. One ounce of almonds contains 5mg of vitamin E… but who can stop after eating only one ounce. The RDA for vitamin E is 22mg per day - so that's 4 to 5 ounces of Almonds. Watch out, though. These food types also carry significant fats and a disproportionate share of calories. You might want to consider getting your primary source of regular vitamin E intake from vitamin supplements. Your eye doctor can advise you on this.
Zinc is one of those essential minerals that is found in almost every cell of the body. The general consensus is that zinc supplements in conjunction with other nutrients significantly slows the progression of adult macular degeneration. The RDA for zinc is 8mg - 11mg per day. If you can eat just one oyster, you've hit your zinc target for the day. You may also find that you're picking up your zinc in certain of your breakfast cereals by just reading the label. Since zinc is so critical to all of your organs - it may be best to include zinc in your list of vitamins, minerals, and anti oxidants that you take a daily vitamin supplement for.
Essential fatty acids (EFA) are also found to be beneficial to vision health if they are of the right type. Alpha-linolenic acid (LNA) if also called an omega-3 fatty acid and is considered the most beneficial to protect against dry eye and offset those categories of disease that impair our vision - IF it is not consumed with omega-6 linoleic acid (LA).
Most people eat too much omega-6 type fatty acids and not enough omega-3 type fatty acids. EFA can be found in sardine oil, cod liver oil, herring oil… in fact, just about every major fish oil. That probably means you'll want to consider getting your EFA in vitamin supplements.
Most eye clinics, and certainly the Astorino and Associates Eye Center, carry several categories of vitamin supplements specifically designed to promote good vision health. These products are not expensive and have been exhaustively tested by a variety of vision care organizations as being of high quality and proper manufacture.