Most people have heard the old adage “carrots are good for your eyes.” Well, it’s true that carrots are great for your whole body’s health, including your eyes, but it turns out so are any of the other brightly colored fruits and vegetables that have orange, yellow, and red pigments.

The secret to why these brightly colored foods are good for your eyes lies in the beautiful pigments you see with them. Compounds called carotenoids, which lend these vibrant hues, are believed to reduce the risk of many eye diseases. Carotenoids are anti-oxidants, which prevent (or slow down) damage to the cells. Since eye diseases, like macular degeneration and cataracts, can be caused by oxidation and inflammation of the eyes, antioxidants help protect your eyes by slowing the natural damage that occurs when cells use oxygen.

One of the power-pairs of antioxidants found together, and especially beneficial for eye health, are lutein and zeaxanthin. Broccoli, peas, avocados, kale, corn, spinach, and collard greens are all filled with this magical combo.

Vitamins A, C, E, beta-carotene, and bioflavonoids are all also anti-oxidants; so any foods rich in these will be great protection for the cells in your eyes.

Other essential ingredients for health, at the cellular level, are omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3’s are already part of cell membranes and help regulate hormones and control inflammation. Foods like cold water fish, eggs, and nuts are rich sources.

So, the bottom line is that any food that is good at protecting and/or repairing your cells will be great at preventing eye disease. Here’s a handy guide to the top recommended foods for eye health and the reasons why they’re great.

Cold Water Fish
Salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. If you don’t eat seafood, you can get a good supply of omega-3s by using fish oil supplements or taking vegetarian supplements that contain black currant seed oil or flaxseed oil.

Leafy Greens
Spinach, kale and collard greens contain lutein and zeaxanthin

Eggs
Include lutein, vitamin A, omega-3, and vitamin E

Citrus Fruits and Berries
Oranges, grapefruits, lemons and berries are high in vitamin C. Bilberries, blueberries, cranberries, cherries, plums, acai fruit and raspberries are rich in bioflavonoids.

Nuts
Pistachios, walnuts, almonds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E

Colorful Fruits and Vegetables
Carrots, pumpkin, corn, tomatoes, bell peppers, and strawberries are excellent sources of vitamins A and C.

Legumes
Kidney beans, lentils, and black-eyed peas  are good sources of bioflavonoids and zinc

Sources:

AllAboutVision.com (2014, June) Vitamin C and Bioflavonoids: Powerful Eye Antioxidants, Retrieved September, 30, 2015, from http://www.allaboutvision.com/nutrition/vitamin_c.htm

Greatist.com (2013, December) What Are Antioxidants (and How Do They Work)?, Retrieved September, 30, 2015, from http://greatist.com/health/what-are-antioxidants

GlobalHealingCenter.com (2014, June) What are Carotenoids? – 5 Health Benefits, Retrieved September, 30, 2015, from http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/what-are-carotenoids/

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