"Sun's out guns out."
...or more like, "Sun's out, protect your eyes!"
Aside from hats, sunglasses, and staying in the shade, there are supplements and vitamins that can help protect your eyes from the inside out.
As the old wives would say, a handful of carrots a day should take care of it, but you and I both know there's more to it than that.
In this article, we'll review key nutrients and vitamins that you can take this summer to protect and support your eye health.
THE BEST VITAMINS FOR EYES
Your eyes are incredible organs, and although various factors influence their health, nutrition plays a significant role.
Researchers have found that specific vitamins play more of a role than others in eye health. So if you cannot meet the recommended intake of those nutrients, it is important to consume them through vitamin supplements.
The National Eye Institute has completed many studies over the years to determine the best way to nourish your eyes safely.
Most recently, these studies focused on high doses of zinc, beta-carotene, and vitamins A and C and found that these important vitamins help support healthy eyes.
Healthcare professionals commonly recommend these high dosages and other vitamins to help people in the early stages of eye disease prevent their disease from progressing quickly.
Your eye doctor might even recommend them if you’re in the advanced stages of poor eye health conditions.
SUMMER EYE HEALTH
Eye health is important year-round, but summer’s harsh elements make it even more important to take care of your eyes and meet your nutrition needs.
During the summer months, people spend more time outside under the sun’s harmful rays. The long days of summer and all the outdoor fun of the season expose your eyes to more UV damage than in the cold months.
It’s important to keep wearing your sunglasses, but maintaining a balanced nutrition intake is key to eye health.
Eye vitamins stand to help your vision even more during the summer months. There are many foods rich in the required vitamins, but eating sufficient amounts of those foods can be tricky or near impossible.
Taking vitamin supplements can be an extremely efficient and helpful way to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to operate.
6 BEST NUTRIENTS AND VITAMINS FOR EYES
- Vitamin A
- B Vitamins
- Vitamin C
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Zinc is essential to your eye health as it supports the eye's retina, cell membrane, and protein structure.
Zinc is found naturally in the eyes, but it can also be found in a variety of whole foods.
This nifty nutrient allows for vitamin A to travel from the liver to the retina, where it produces melanin. Melanin is a critical pigment that helps protect the eyes from UV light, which is instrumental during the summer months.
Furthermore, zinc may also help people who have or are at risk for developing macular degeneration. According to the American Optometric Association, zinc, paired with vitamins E and C, can slow the progression of AMD by approximately 25%.
SOURCES OF ZINC:
- Red Meat
- Whole Grains
2. VITAMIN A
Vitamin A also plays a key role in maintaining healthy vision. The primary source of vitamin A is beta carotene, a plant pigment found in many fruits and vegetables. Once ingested, your body converts beta carotene to vitamin A.
Vitamin A helps you see in low-light settings by producing the pigments needed for the retina to function properly.
A vitamin A deficiency can stop the production of those necessary pigments and ultimately lead to vision issues, especially night vision issues.
Some studies suggest that a diet rich in vitamin A may reduce the risk of cataracts and AMD.
Vitamin A is also known to nourish the cornea, which helps keep healthy eyes lubricated and prevent dry eye syndrome.
SOURCES OF VITAMIN A:
- Leafy Green Vegetables
- Red Bell Peppers
3. B VITAMINS
B vitamins, especially vitamins B6, B9, and B12, have been studied for their influence on eye health.
One systematic review looked at this combination of B vitamins and found that they can actually lower levels of homocysteine, a protein in your body that can contribute to inflammation and an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.
B vitamins also help protect the eyes against glaucoma, an eye condition in which a buildup of fluid puts pressure on the optic nerve. This pressure affects your eyesight and quality of life.
Many foods rich in B vitamins originate from animal products. Therefore, if you are vegan, it is important to obtain the necessary vitamins from alternative sources or nutritional supplements.
SOURCES OF B VITAMINS:
- Organ Meat
- Leafy Green Vegetables
4. VITAMIN C
Vitamin C is a powerhouse when it comes to eye health. According to the National Institutes of Health, the antioxidants found in vitamin C are responsible for limiting the damage caused by free radicals and unstable molecules.
In the eyes, scientific research says vitamin C might even have the ability to regenerate other vitamins such as vitamin E. Vitamin E is also influential in eye health as it has antioxidant properties. It protects your cells and can prevent your eyes from developing cataracts.
Furthermore, vitamin C plays an essential role in the production of collagen, which gives structure to the eye, among many other functions.
Research has shown that vitamin C can help reduce retinal damage from UVB light. Although there is room for more research regarding the extent of its benefits, studies have shown vitamin C supplementation may help prevent cataracts in those with low vitamin C levels.
SOURCES OF VITAMIN C:
- Citrus Fruits
- Bell Peppers
- Cruciferous Vegetables (broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage)
5. OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
Recent research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids can provide several long-term benefits to your eye health, specifically for conditions such as dry eye disease and age-related macular degeneration.
The retina’s cell membranes contain a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. Since omega-3 fatty acids are commonly associated with reduced inflammation in the body, researchers believe they can help reduce the inflammation associated with dry eyes. Specifically, eicosapentaenoic acid can help alleviate dryness.
Krill oil is an excellent source of docosahexeanoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid, both of which have been linked to several health benefits in the body.
SOURCES OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS:
- Oily Fish
- Chia seeds
6. LUTEIN AND ZEAXANTHIN
Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids or pigments found in plant compounds.
Low levels of the carotenoids in the body have been associated with the presence of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. In fact, recent research suggests that higher blood levels of the carotenoids have shown a reduced risk of developing AMD by up to 57%.
The average dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin tends to be low and even declining in some populations, so they are commonly recommended as nutritional supplements, especially for older adults hopeful to prevent age-related vision loss and eye disease.
Supplements containing lutein and zeaxanthin are a great way to promote eye health and prevent age-related cataracts and eye strain.
SOURCES OF LUTEIN AND ZEAXANTHIN:
- Green Leaf Vegetables
- Egg Yolks
- Orange Juice
- Honeydew Melon
Eye health issues such as developing cataracts, advanced AMD, and vision loss affect millions worldwide each year. While all the best vitamins for healthy eyes can be found in whole food sources, it can be difficult to actually meet your needs through whole foods alone.
For this reason, many wellness professionals recommend taking vitamin supplements in addition to eating a well-balanced diet to ensure your body is getting the important vitamins it needs.
Key nutrients and vitamins for your eyes during the summer include:
- Vitamin A
- B Vitamins
- Vitamin C
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Eye vitamins provide an invaluable service to your eye health. Their role in preventing eye disease reduces your risk of long-term health concerns, many of which would either promptly or eventually require other medications and medical treatment.
It is especially key to nourish your eyes during the summer when you are exposed to more sunlight and harmful UV rays. Enjoying the summer doesn’t have to come at the cost of your healthy eyesight.
It is important to remember that this article does not take the place of medical advice from your eye doctor. In some cases, taking supplements can cause adverse side effects or interact with other medications, so it’s important to speak with your doctor before starting a new supplement or making any significant dietary changes.