The health of your eyes mainly has to do with your eyes’ ability to receive and process energy from light in the environment, produce action in their nerve cells, and pass information through the optic nerve to the brain. But that’s a technical explanation. You know very well how your eye health connects to your overall well-being. Good vision can help you see your surroundings and make sense of what’s happening around you.
There are a number of vitamins and minerals involved in the healthy functioning of your eyes. If your diet is deficient in any of these vitamins, it can potentially lead to eye health problems. Read on to learn about the vitamins and supplements that promote healthy eyes.
When people talk about vitamins that are good for eye health, vitamin A typically tops the list – and for good reason. Vitamin A helps maintain a clean cornea, which is the transparent layer that covers your eye. It’s also a key element in the protein rhodopsin, which helps you be able to see in conditions of limited light. Studies have shown that vitamin A deficiency can lead to eye problems, including, most notably, issues with night time vision.
Side note: The pigment beta-carotene – found in plants, including carrots – is converted by the body into vitamin A. That’s why carrots are rightly celebrated for their eye-supporting properties!
Just by living our daily lives, we expose our eyes to UV light from the sun. Too much of this exposure can lead to oxidative stress, which is when there’s an imbalance between the antioxidants and harmful free radicals in the body. Needless to say, this can contribute to some eye issues.
Fortunately, taking antioxidant vitamins can help protect your eyes from these harmful free radicals. Vitamin C has been shown to prevent oxidative damage in the lens of our eyes. Moreover, studies suggest that vitamin C can help protect against age-related eye issues. Another study found that daily supplementation with vitamin C lowered eye pressure.
Vitamin C is also necessary for the body’s production of collagen, which helps provide structure to your eyes.
Like vitamin C, vitamin E is an antioxidant, which means that it can help protect your body from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is linked to several eye issues.
One study, conducted over the course of seven years, examined the effects of a daily supplement containing vitamin E on people with age-related vision issues. Compared to the placebo group, the group that took the supplement showed statistically significant odds of reducing the likelihood that their vision issues would progress. A review of other existing studies found that a diet rich in vitamin E could reduce the risk of age-related eye issues.
Vitamin E also supports the regeneration of vitamin C, another powerful antioxidant that supports eye health in a number of ways.
Your retinas have cell membranes that contain a lot of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is a type of omega-3. Omega-3s, therefore, can help support the health of your eyes’ cell membranes. Studies have also shown omega-3 fats can support eye care for people with dry eyes. Moreover, a review of existing studies found that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help support eye health; however, more specific research is needed to corroborate these findings.
Homocysteine is an amino acid in your body, and high levels of it are associated with a number of health issues – including, quite possibly, eye issues. Some studies have shown that increased homocysteine levels can create higher risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Studies also show that B-complex vitamins can manage homocysteine levels in the body, thereby supporting your body’s health more generally. One study of women found that supplementing with vitamins B12, B6, and B9 led to a 34% reduction in risk of developing AMD. Still, more research is needed on this subject.
Zinc is important for eye health. There are high levels of zinc in your macula, which is part of the retina. Moreover, zinc works with vitamin A to create melanin, which is important for protecting your eye. Zinc deficiency has also been linked to reduced night vision, among other eye functions. Zinc is essential for the health of the retina, choroid, cornea, and lens. Studies show conflicting results about the effect of zinc supplementation on eye health, but such supplementation very well may be supportive.
It’s important to remember that vitamin supplementation is meant to address dietary gaps. Eating a balanced, nutrient-rich diet is still a great way to take care of your eye health. You’ll especially benefit from eating foods rich in antioxidants. You should also eat foods rich in beta-carotene, such as carrots and sweet potatoes (hint: foods rich in beta-carotene will typically be orange). Fish, nuts, seeds, and legumes are also great for eye health.
Here are two more words to keep in mind: lutein and zeaxanthin. These are members of the carotenoid family. Both lutein and zeaxanthin are found in your eyes’ macula and retina, and they are known to protect your eyes from the harms of blue light. Cooked spinach, kale, and collard greens are all high in these beneficial compounds. (Side note: For a highly effective supplement form of a carotenoid, you can check out Care/of’s astaxanthin, which supports brain, heart, skin, and eye health.)
And, of course, proper hydration is essential.
There are some other ways you can improve your eye health. If your life circumstances are such that you’re spending a lot of time staring at a screen, you can buy glasses and/or filters to block harmful blue light. You can also try out a technique commonly recommended by eye doctors, known as the 20-20-20 rule. Here’s what it is: After every 20 minutes you spend looking at a screen, you should look away at something that’s 20 feet away for 20 total seconds. 20 seconds is the rule because that’s how long it takes to relax.
Some other strategies for improving eye health include: staying in fit physical condition, quitting smoking, wearing sunglasses, and managing underlying health conditions. It’s also important to regularly participate in eye exams.
There’s a lot of scientific research that suggests that the vitamins listed above can help support eye health, including protecting against age-related eye issues. Supplements can help if you have any gaps in your diet. A nutrient-rich diet can go a long way toward supporting eye health. Some other lifestyle adjustments can also help, including exercising, quitting smoking, adopting the 20-20-20 rule, wearing sunglasses, and more.