Can some vitamins really help your eyes? And if yes, how exactly do they work?
In this post, we will take a closer look at the essential vitamins your eyes need to stay healthy. We’ll also talk about two key dietary nutrients that support clear vision—lutein and zeaxanthin.
Essential Eye Health Vitamins
Your eyes need a variety of vitamins and other nutrients to function well and stay healthy. Among these, researchers have identified a few vitamins that play an especially important role in eye health.
What’s more, a high intake of some of these vitamins and nutrients has been associated with a lower risk of eye diseases such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and glaucoma.
So, what vitamins should you probably be eating more of?
1. Vitamin A
Vitamin A is one of the building blocks of healthy vision. It supports the function of eye structures such as the eye’s outermost lens, the cornea. Domed-shaped and transparent, the cornea covers the iris and the pupil.
A component of the pigment rhodopsin found in the rods of the retina, vitamin A enables low-light vision.
People with vitamin A deficiency who take this vitamin may see their night vision improve. Vitamin A benefits also include a potentially lower risk of cataracts.
Not getting enough vitamin A through your diet can increase your risk of developing dry eyes. That’s because your body needs this vitamin to produce a healthy and balanced tear film to lubricate the eyes.
Vitamin A comes in two forms. Preformed vitamin A occurs in fish, dairy, meat, and other animal products. Vitamin A precursors, such as beta-carotene, occur in plant-based foods.
When you eat beta-carotene, your body converts it into vitamin A. Supplements can contain either form of the vitamin, or both.
Good to know: According to several studies, taking vitamin A through food is safer than taking large doses of beta-carotene supplements for long periods if you smoke or have been exposed to asbestos.
2. Vitamin C
A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C protects your eyes against oxidative damage that occurs as part of both natural cellular processes and because of environmental factors.
For example, ultraviolet radiation from the sun can damage eye structures through oxidative stress, which is why it’s good to wear sunglasses on bright days.
The inside of the eye is filled with a fluid that contains vitamin C. This vitamin helps prevent the oxidative process that leads to cataracts. Your body also needs vitamin C to create the protein collagen that gives structure to the eyeball.
What’s more, vitamin C plays a crucial role in reducing the risk of AMD, a leading cause of blindness worldwide.
Foods rich in vitamin C include Citrus fruits, rose hips, goji berries, blackberries, and blackcurrants.
3. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant that can protect the cells in your eyes just as it does cells in other parts of the body. It can help counter the effects of free radicals, unstable molecules that occur during the normal metabolism of cells, and which can damage proteins in the eyes.
Free radicals cause oxidative stress that has been associated with eye inflammation, cataracts, glaucoma, and the degeneration of the retina.
The Age-Related Eye Disease Studies found that vitamin E, alongside vitamin C, beta-carotene, copper, and zinc reduced the risk of AMD in high-risk groups.
Foods rich in vitamin E include peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, asparagus, spinach, collard greens, avocado, soybean oil, and safflower oil.
4. B Vitamins
B vitamins associated with better eye health include B2, B6, B9, and B12. By keeping in check the levels of the acid homocysteine, B vitamins can help support the health of blood vessels in the retina.
Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, plays a key role in cell growth, development, and function. Your eyes need this vitamin to work properly. Not getting enough riboflavin has been linked to the formation of blood vessels in the cornea. Benefits of riboflavin include a lower risk of cataracts and protection for the antioxidants in the eye.
Also, a daily supplement of vitamins B6, B9, and B12 may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration in women, according to this study.
Foods rich in B vitamins include lentils, beans, peas, oats, chickpeas, dark leafy greens, fish, and seafood.
5. Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that occur in the macula, a part of the retina responsible for the clearest vision.
While not considered vitamins per se, lutein and the related compound zeaxanthin are carotenoids, a type of antioxidant that protects your eyes from oxidative damage resulting from cellular processes as well as light sources.
A 2018 study found that smartphone use can make the tear film that lubricates and protects the surface of the eye unstable, possibly increasing the risk for dry eyes. Lutein and zeaxanthin help buffer some of that excess light.
A wide body of research confirms the benefits of these two nutrients on eye health. Lutein and zeaxanthin may reduce inflammation in the eye, slow the development of cataracts, and help stop AMD progress to vision impairment.
Alongside the vitamins above, taking zeaxanthin and lutein for eye health is one of the best ways to preserve your vision.
Foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin include dark leafy greens, goji berries, blueberries, corn, eggs, zucchini, Brussel sprouts, peas, and broccoli.
Choosing an Eye Health Supplement
Eating a healthy and varied diet can help you feed your eyes the essential vitamins and nutrients we’ve been talking about. But having an eye health supplement in handy is a good idea to make up for any nutrients you may be missing.
On busy and stressful days especially, eating foods with enough eye vitamins can be a challenge. All the more so if you’re hard-pressed for time and don’t have the chance to cook your own meals.
Supplementing your eye health nutrients is often one of the best things you can do for your eyes, especially if you work on a computer or have an eye condition that increases your risk of developing a serious eye disease later.
The best supplements for vision are easy to take and don’t have any added sugars or artificial flavors. They help you supplement your dietary intake of the vitamins and nutrients essential for eye health without exposing you to unhealthy doses.
SightC from Sightsage brings you a suite of key nutrients for eye health as easy-to-take veggie capsules. Packed with superfoods like Goji berries, turmeric, and Cherokee rose, SightC is rich in antioxidants including zeaxanthin and lutein.
In the end, by keeping an eye on your daily intake of essential vitamins and nutrients, you can help your eyes work at their best for years to come.