An old adage says that eyes are the windows of the soul, but we also rely on them for just about everything we do in life. It’s important to take good care of our eyes and vision through a largely or entirely plant-based diet.
While there are many vitamins and minerals needed for healthy eyes and vision, it’s also important to get enough of the lesser-known nutrients that help in this area.
Here are some of critical vision nutrients and the foods in which they are found:
Alpha carotene—This type of carotenoid, which is in the group of about 700 different yellow-orange-red pigments found in many fruits and vegetables, tends to take a back seat to beta carotene, but is equally important to eye health. This nutrient is found inapricots, broccoli, carrots, collards, leafy greens, kale, mangoes, papayas, peaches, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, squash and tomatoes.
Beta carotene—Okay, most people have heard of beta carotene, but no article on nutrients for better vision would be complete without mentioning this essential eyesight-protecting nutrient. It’s found in many of the same foods as alpha carotene, including: apricots, broccoli, carrots, collards, leafy greens, kale, mangoes, papayas, peaches, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, squash and tomatoes.
Lutein—This fat-soluble nutrient is normally present in healthy eyes, but can become depleted over time. It acts as an antioxidant within the eyes to protect them from free radical damage. Lutein is a yellow-colored pigment found in many foods, including: apricots, avocados, broccoli, carrots, collards, eggs, leafy greens, kale, leeks, mangoes, papayas, peaches, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, squash and tomatoes.
Naringin—If you’ve ever bit into a grapefruit and tasted their signature bitter-sour flavor, you’ve tasted naringin. This bitter-tasting plant nutrient is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect the retina in the eyes. It is mainly found in grapefruit.
Rutin—Without rutin, your body cannot properly absorb vitamin C. Rutin is a powerful nutrient that improves overall eye health and strengthens blood vessels, especially the small capillaries. Because it also improves circulation and acts as an antioxidant against free radical damage, it’s especially helpful for diabetic retinopathy. It is found in citrus fruits, red apples, apricots, bilberry fruit, blackberries, broccoli, buckwheat, cherries, black currants, grapes, nuts, onions, peppers, plums, prunes, rose hips and tea.
Zeaxanthin—This nutrient shares some of the same effects of lutein. It helps prevent against age-related macular degeneration of the eyes, which is a cause of blindness in the elderly. This important eye-protecting agent is found in apricots, broccoli, carrots, collards, eggs, leafy greens, kale, leeks, mangoes, papayas, peaches, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, squash and tomatoes.
When it comes to nutrients for eye health, seeing is believing. The best way to see well for life is to see a wide range of yellow, orange, red, and green foods on your plate every day.