Our holistic approach to eye care is unique in the field and we’ve been at the forefront of bridging integrative medicine and core eye care.  

A large part of integrative nutrition in our approach is through the diet and how we advise our patients on some of the best ways they can integrate eye nutrients into their diets.

There are many antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that are important to eye health. Ingredients like Vitamins A, C, D, and E and Omega-3s are all imperative to keeping the eyes healthy and happy. Perhaps the two most important nutrients are zeaxanthin (zee-uh-zan-thin) and lutein (loo-teen). These antioxidants are found in the brain and blood serum, but they are most heavily concentrated in a small yellow spot located in the back of the eye at the center of the retina, called macula. It supports:

  • Visual acuity – the ability to see clearly and identify details
  • Contrast sensitivity – the ability to see objects on a similar colored background (a dark car on a dark street)
  • Light sensitivity – the ability to see in bright light situations without squinting or wincing too much
  • Photo-stress recovery – the eye’s ability to quickly adjust from dark to light (walking out of a dark movie theater on a sunny day)
  • Glare recovery – the ability to naturally dim bright reflections (oncoming headlights at night)

Learn more below about how to integrate these 6 foods into your daily diet regimen — it’s easier than you think!

Omega 3 — Fish & Fish Oil

When you eat fish regularly (at least 3-4 times per week) then you’re likely getting the required  Omega-3 fatty acids.  By consuming roughly 1000-1200mg of EPA/DHA omega through food or supplements have the following benefits:

  • Fish oil aids in reducing the shrinking of the brain
  • Helps improve memory
  • Cell membranes are preserved, which helps with the communication between brain cells
  • Improves mental challenges such as anxiety, depression, and ADD/ADHD
  • Reduces the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s later in life
  • Increases the ability to learn and grasp new information

It is also now thought that Omega-3s play an important role in eye health. DHA is naturally concentrated in the retina of the eye (the layer of tissue that lines the inside of the eye and receives the image formed by the lens) and is thought to promote healthy retinal function. In fact, results of several studies, including one published in the February 2001 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) indicate that eating larger amounts of fish or Omega-3s may help promote macular health.

Studies also show that Omega-3s can help reduce dry eye syndrome, a chronic eye disease caused by a decrease in tear production or increase in tear evaporation.

Lutein & Zeaxanthin — Leafy Greens

Also known as the eye nutrients, lutein & zeaxanthin are truly essential when it comes to overall eye health.  

Zeaxanthin can be found in orange bell peppers, paprika peppers, corn, and leafy greens like kale, spinach, and broccoli. Lutein can also be found in leafy greens like swiss chard and turnip greens. In the macula, zeaxanthin and lutein are found in a 2 to 1 ratio, meaning that the eye chooses zeaxanthin to be the highest concentrated protectant for its precious cells. 

Though zeaxanthin is more heavily focused, it’s actually more difficult to get in the diet, with lutein being 5 times more common in food than zeaxanthin.

Vitamin A — Carrots, Oats & Organ Meats

According to The Institute of Functional Medicine — of which we are a member — Vitamin A is the term used to describe a group of fat-soluble compounds which are available in the diet in two different forms: preformed vitamin A (retinol) and provitamin A carotenoids, such as beta-carotene.  

The richest sources of preformed vitamin A include organ meats and fish oils, with smaller amounts found in dairy products and fortified cereals. Provitamin A carotenoids are found predominantly in orange, yellow, and green colored fruits and vegetables.

Vitamin A is an Essential Eye Nutrient

Vitamin A is essential to support cell growth, immune function, and healthy vision. Deficiency of vitamin A is a major, preventable cause of blindness, chronic infection, low thyroid function, and disorders of the skin. 

Preformed Vitamin A is more easily absorbed and used by the body. Provitamin A carotenoids must be converted to retinol. Food sources are ranked by micrograms of retinol activity equivalents (mcg RAE) to reflect this difference in bioavailability.

One of the most important benefits vitamin A has for our eyes is reducing the risk of macular degeneration and vision loss. It also boosts the immune system, helping soothe eye inflammation and decreasing our chance of developing eye infections.

Zinc to Vitamin A — Egg Yolks

Eggs are a great food to incorporate into your eye care health regimen. The yolks contain vitamin A, lutein, zeaxanthin, and zinc, which are all vital to eye health.  Vitamin A safeguards the cornea.

The cornea is the surface of the eye. Lutein and zeaxanthin lower the chance of getting serious eye conditions like age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Zinc contributes to the health of the retina. The retina is the back of the eye. Zinc also helps eyes see at night.

Vitamin D3 — From Dairy, Supplements and the Sun

Vitamin D3 is essential for healthy brains and bone development, as well as protecting us from cancer.  Although exposure to the sun can help make some Vitamin D3, it is most likely not enough.  Below are some benefits of taking Vitamin D3.

 

Recent studies show that vitamin D can protect vision as well, preventing age-related degenerative eye conditions like cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma. Having too little vitamin D can delay the healing of the cornea in the event of injury or disease. Vitamin D also improves cell communication in the eyes. There are tunnel-like proteins between all corneal cells where they can exchange sugars, amino acids, proteins and vitamins and maintain homeostasis. Sufficient amounts of vitamin D strengthens these pathways of communication.

Vitamin E — Almonds

Almonds, like other nuts and seeds, are generally good for eye health. Almonds contain vitamin E. This vitamin guards against unstable molecules that target healthy tissue. Consuming regular amounts of vitamin E can help prevent age-related macular degeneration as well as cataracts.

You should aim for about 22 international units (IU), or 15 mg of vitamin E a day. One serving of almonds is about 23 nuts, or ¼ cup, and has 11 IU. Other nuts and seeds that contain vitamin E include sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and peanuts. 

You can enjoy almonds as a snack at any time. They are also tasty in your breakfast cereal, yogurt, or in salads. Just remember to keep an eye on serving size. Almonds are high in calories, so try to limit your intake to one to two servings a day.


Dr. Neda Gioia, O.D. FOWNS, founder of Integrative Vision in Shrewsbury, New Jersey, one of the first combined functional medicine and optometry offices nationally.  She has 22 years of experience in eye care that spans the country. She discovered the importance of whole-body health and the power of the body to heal itself with proper nutrition and lifestyle.  

While she was always passionate about delivering exceptional eye care as an optometrist, she realized that there was a better way. She believes this whole-body approach is the best way to protect and preserve your eye health life.