The health of our eyes is dependent upon many different components of our lifestyle and genetics. Some fall outside our control; others we have the opportunity to regulate and improve on our own.
One of the best things you can do for your vision and long-term eye health is to eat a balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats and sugar, says Christine Joy, OD, a VSP Network doctor. Specifically, vitamins A, C, E, and zinc are especially beneficial to your eyes.
As it turns out, a lot of the produce and ingredients that are in season in the fall are especially high in these key vitamins. Of course, the best way to maintain your eye health is by getting an annual eye exam with an eye doctor to check for vision issues (and other serious diseases like diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and certain types of cancers that can be detected from an eye exam), but it’s easy to add a few of these ingredients into your diet to take better care of your eyes and overall health long-term. Here are Joy’s recommendations for what foods we should be eating for better vision this season.
Dark leafy greens like kale are in season now through November, and contain key nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin. Both of these antioxidants are found in high concentrations in your macula, the center of your retina that’s responsible for what you see directly in front of you. The body doesn’t naturally make all of these nutrients it needs, so it’s important our diet contains them. Eating lots of leafy greens like kale and spinach will help protect your vision and reduce your risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, too.
Eating carrots won’t instantly make you see better, but there is a lot of truth to the idea that they can help protect vision. Why? Because carrots contain a lot of vitamin A, which helps protect the surface of the eye and is essential for combating dryness in the eyes and maintaining good vision. Vitamin A also plays a role in decreasing the risk of vision loss from macular degeneration and cataracts.
Although bell peppers are available year-round, their peak season is September through October. These brightly colored peppers help to keep the surface of the eyes healthy and reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration. Just one cup of bell peppers provides 100 percent (!) of the recommended daily value of vitamins A and C. Plus, bell peppers are fat-free, low-calorie, and contain three grams of fiber per cup.
Harvested in September through November, pumpkins are a fall staple that contain eye-healthy nutrients, including vitamins A, C and E, zinc, fiber, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These micronutrients help combat age-related macular degeneration, dry eye syndrome, and cataracts.
With Thanksgiving fast approaching, it can be reassuring to know that turkey is good for your eyes. This protein is loaded with zinc and B-vitamin niacin, which can help prevent cataracts.
With peak season lasting from early fall through winter, butternut squash is especially rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and omega-3s. Foods rich in omega-3s can help protect tiny blood vessels in the eyes and improve dry eye symptoms, and foods loaded with zinc can help prevent cataracts.