How good nutrition can help protect your eyesight

During the COVID-19 pandemic more of us have spent time indoors glued to screens. Phones, tablets, TV’s and computers have all grabbed our attention and led to increasing numbers of people complaining of “Screen eyes” or ‘eye fatigue’. While the solution to eye fatigue is to spend less time staring at a screen there are some very important components in our.

How can poor nutrition affect the health of the eyes?

Recent research from Southampton University has shown that high fat diets, that are low in fruit and vegetables can contribute to developing eye disease. The research found that poor diet contributes to changes in the cells of the retina, which are crucial for good eyesight. Untreated these changes can lead to a common eye condition known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) which can have a serious impact on vision. 

Which nutrients can help keep eyes healthy?

Diet is thought to be important in eye health because certain nutrients protect the body from damaging substances called oxidants. These nutrients are called antioxidants. Vitamins A, C and E are antioxidants. In addition to these vitamins, carotenoids present in colourful fruit and vegetables play an important role in keeping eyes healthy.

Why are carotenoids important to eye health?

There are lots of different carotenoids. However, lutein and zeaxanthin are particularly important in eye health and can be found in high concentrations inside the eye. They are thought to play an important role in absorbing damaging light that enters the eyes acting as a natural sunblock.

Foods that contain foods antioxidants that help keep eyes healthy?

One of the best sources of lutein is kale and it has good bioavailability which means the body can easily use it. Zeaxanthin is found in orange and yellow vegetables such as red and yellow peppers and green vegetables including spinach, lettuce, leek, broccoli and peas. Many of these foods also contain vitamins C and E. Eggs also contain lutein and zeaxanthin.

Does cooking affect these antioxidants in foods?

Some studies suggest very light cooking may increase the bioavailability of lutein. Cooking at high temperatures reduces the amount of vitamin C in foods.

Carotenoids are fat soluble so eating foods such as orange and yellow peppers with a little oil increases how easily they are absorbed by the body.

What about vitamin A and eye health?

Vitamin A plays a crucial role in vision by maintaining a clear cornea, which is the outside covering of your eye. This vitamin is also a component of rhodopsin, a protein in your eyes that allows you to see in low light conditions.

Two forms of vitamin A are available in the human diet: preformed vitamin A found in foods from animal sources, including dairy products, fish, and meat, and beta-carotene, found in fruit and vegetables, which the body converts into vitamin A.

Is there anything else that can help keep eyes healthy?

Watch your weight

Damage to blood vessels in the eye caused by excess body weight has been linked to the onset of glaucoma. Glaucoma is a common eye condition where the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, becomes damaged and causes loss of vision.

Be screen smart

Be screen smart. Avoid eye strain by using the 20-20-20 rule, especially if you’re using a computer for long periods of time. Look 20 feet in front of you every 20 minutes for 20 seconds.

Please note, if you are taking the blood thinning medication Warfarin, it is important to talk with your medical team before changing your intake of dark green leafy vegetables, like kale, which contain vitamin K.

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