Fergus Falls Optometric Center
"Family Eyecare from the Eyecare Family."
Dr. Mark D. Olmsted and Dr. Christine A. Olmsted
117 E. Lincoln Ave.
Fergus Falls, MN 56537
Appointments: 218-736-7555

Natural Foods and the Eye - 14 Feb 2005

Natural Foods and the Eye
14 Feb 2005

Natural Foods and the EyeI've written in the past about nutritional supplements and eye health, especially in regard to age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) and cataracts. For the purposes of this article I will stick to food sources for the nutrients important to the eye. I will not mention capsules or even cooking oils high in vitamins. Only relatively non-processed foods that you actually have to chew will be talked about.

ARMD tends to be the most studied eye problem when it comes to nutrition. Vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene as antioxidants, along with the minerals zinc, tend to slow down this problem according to numerous studies. The antioxidant caratenoid lutein and its cousin zeaxanthin have also been looked at closely in regard to macular function and their protection of the macula from the damage caused by blue and ultraviolet light. Vitamin A, from beta-carotene, is very important not only to macular function, but also to overall retinal function.

Selenium is a mineral important for the body’s production of glutathione peroxide, which is an antioxidant, protective enzyme. Glutathione in the eye’s natural lens slows down the production of cataracts. Lutein/zeaxanthin, zinc, vitamins C, and E, are also helpful.

Fruits, vegetables, nuts and sometimes meats are excellent sources for all of these nutrients. I'm going to discuss which foods are the best sources for each. The top foods will be listed in order of their highest concentration to the best of my ability. You will notice that some foods are great sources for numerous nutrients that we are discussing.

Vitamin C's highest natural concentrations come from camu camu (bayberry fruit), acerola (Barbados cherry or West Indian cherry), jujube (Chinese date) and baobob (an African fibrous fruit). Less exotic foods such as black currents, guava, kiwifruit, kei apples (generally used in salads or desserts), and papaya are also C-rich. The more common citrus fruits oranges and grapefruit follow behind, but supply excellent amounts of the vitamin.

Vitamin E can be obtained from sunflower seeds, almonds, turnip greens, mangoes, peanuts, mixed nuts, broccoli, dandelion greens, and pistachios. Top fruit origins of vitamin E are avocados, kiwifruits, nectarines, grapes and peaches.

Beta-carotene is rich in the orange fleshed foods and dark greens. The best foods for it are sweet potatoes, collard greens, carrots, cantaloupe, winter squash, apricots, pumpkin, kale, spinach, and mangoes.

Natural sources of zinc include oysters, red meat, poultry, wheat germ, seeds, whole grains, nuts, mushrooms, onions, peas, soybeans, sprouted spinach, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.

Being closely related, lutein and zeaxanthin come from the same foods. The dark green leafy vegetables, kale, turnip greens, collard greens, and spinach, have the most concentrated amounts. Avocados are the top fruit wellspring for lutein. Other top fruit supplies for it are plums, kiwifruit, pears, and grapes.

Selenium is well concentrated in Brazil nuts. Other excellent choices include tuna, beef liver, cod, chicken, whole grains, wheat germ, garlic, onions, mushrooms, cabbage, broccoli, eggs, tomatoes, and turnips.

Glutathione is highly available in avocados, lemons, grapefruit, nectarines, and peaches.

With this many choices it is easier to be creative. Eat a well balanced diet. When going for seconds hit the veggies. Make better snack choices with fruits and nuts. While I still recommend a well-absorbed, well-rounded multiple vitamin supplement to fill in the blanks, one can see that certain foods can really be beneficial for better eye and general health.

Dr. Mark D. Olmsted