Food For Eye Health


Focusing on one’s food for eye health may seem like a new trend, but it hasn’t been that way for long. In fact, food for eye health dates back years to when our first ancestors started eating their greens. Today’s online resources are not much different from those early days; they just have more of a “scientific slant” to them. As the human body is made up of over 70% water and most nutrients need water to be absorbed by the body, what we eat directly affects our eyes. A diet rich in leafy vegetables and fruits, healthy oils and ample amounts of water can bring us many benefits, including reducing the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma.

Food For Eye Health

Organizations such as the American Optometric Association (AOA) and the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) continue to recommend nutrients for eye health based on the AREDS reports.

The AREDS reports support the following 10 nutrient-rich foods:

1. Fish

close up of females brown eyes
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help to lower the risk of eye problems.

Many fish are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

Oily fish are fish that have oil in their gut and body tissue, so eating them offers higher levels of omega-3-rich fish oil. The fish that contains the most beneficial levels of omega-3s include:

  • tuna
  • salmon
  • trout
  • mackerel
  • sardines
  • anchovies
  • herring

Some studies have found that fish oil can reverse dry eye, including dry eye caused by spending too much time on a computer.

2. Nuts and legumes

Nuts are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts also contain a high level of vitamin E, which can protect the eye from age-related damage.

Nuts are available for purchase in most grocery stores and online. Nuts and legumes that are good for eye health include:

  • walnuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • cashews
  • peanuts
  • lentils

3. Seeds

Like nuts and legumes, seeds are high in omega-3s and are a rich source of vitamin E.

Seeds are available for purchase in most grocery stores and online. Seeds high in omega-3 include:

  • chia seeds
  • flax seeds
  • hemp seeds

4. Citrus fruits

Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C. Just like vitamin E, vitamin C is an antioxidant that is recommended by the AOA to fight age-related eye damage.

Vitamin C-rich citrus fruits include:

  • lemons
  • oranges
  • grapefruits

5. Leafy green vegetables

Leafy green vegetables are rich in both lutein and zeaxanthin and are also a good source of eye-friendly vitamin C.

Well-known leafy greens include:

  • spinach
  • kale
  • collards

6. Carrots

Carrots are rich in both Vitamin A and beta carotene. Beta carotene gives carrots their orange color.

Vitamin A plays an essential role in vision. It is a component of a protein called rhodopsin, which helps the retina to absorb light.

Research on beta carotene’s role in vision is mixed, though the body needs this nutrient to make vitamin A.

7. Sweet potatoes

Like carrots, sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotene. They are also a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E.

8. Beef

Beef is rich in zinc, which has been linked to better long-term eye health. Zinc can help delay age-related sight loss and macular degeneration.

The eye itself contains high levels of zinc, particularly in the retina, and the vascular tissue surrounding the retina.

Meats such as chicken breast and pork loin also contain zinc, but at lower levels than beef.

9. Eggs

Eggs are an excellent source of lutein and zeaxanthin, which can reduce the risk of age-related sight loss. Eggs are also good sources of vitamins C and E, and zinc.

10. Water

It may come as no surprise that a fluid essential to life is also vital to eye health.

Drinking plenty of water can prevent dehydration, which may reduce the symptoms of dry eyes.

Foods That Are Good for Your Eyes

Raw Red Peppers


Bell peppers give you the most vitamin C per calorie. That’s good for the blood vessels in your eyes, and science suggests it could lower your risk of getting cataracts. It’s found in many vegetables and fruits, including bok choy, cauliflower, papayas, and strawberries. Heat will break down vitamin C, so go raw when you can. Brightly colored peppers also pack eye-friendly vitamins A and E.

Sunflower Seeds and Nuts


An ounce of these seeds or almonds has half the amount of vitamin E the USDA recommends for adults each day. A large study found that vitamin E, together with other nutrients, can help slow age-related macular degeneration (AMD) from getting worse. It may also help prevent cataracts. Hazelnuts, peanuts (technically legumes), and peanut butter are also good sources of vitamin E.

Dark, Leafy Greens


Kale, spinach, and collard greens, for example, are rich in both vitamins C and E. They also have the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. These plant-based forms of vitamin A lower your risk of long-term eye diseases, including AMD and cataracts. Most people who eat Western diets don’t get enough of them.



Your retinas need two types of omega-3 fatty acids to work right: DHA and EPA. You can find both in fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and trout, as well as other seafood. Omega-3s also seem to protect your eyes from AMD and glaucoma. Low levels of these fatty acids have been linked to dry eyes.

Sweet Potatoes


Orange-colored fruits and vegetables — like sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, mangos, and apricots — are high in beta-carotene, a form of vitamin A that helps with night vision, your eyes’ ability to adjust to darkness. One sweet potato also has more than half the vitamin C you need in a day and a little vitamin E.

Lean Meat and Poultry


Zinc brings vitamin A from your liver to your retina, where it’s used to make the protective pigment melanin. Oysters have more zinc per serving than any other food, but you don’t have to be a shellfish lover to get enough: Beef, pork, and chicken (both dark and breast meat) are all good sources.

Beans and Legumes


Prefer a vegetarian, low-fat, high-fiber option to help keep your vision sharp at night and slow AMD? Chickpeas are also high in zinc, as are black-eyed peas, kidney beans, and lentils. A can of baked beans will do the job, too.



It’s a great package deal: The zinc in an egg will help your body use the lutein and zeaxanthin from its yolk. The yellow-orange color of these compounds blocks harmful blue light from damaging your retina. They help boost the amount of protective pigment in the macula, the part of your eye that controls central vision.



Your body can’t make lutein and zeaxanthin, but you can get them from squash all year long. Summer squash also has vitamin C and zinc. The winter kind will give you vitamins A and C as well as omega-3 fatty acids, too.

Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts


These related veggies come with another winning combination of nutrients: vitamin A (as lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene), vitamin C, and vitamin E. They’re all antioxidants that protect the cells in your eyes from free radicals, a type of unstable molecule that breaks down healthy tissue. Your retinas are especially vulnerable.

8 Best Foods for Eye Health, According to a Dietitian

Carrots are usually what comes to mind when we think of food and eye health, partly because this is one of the first food-health connections many of us learn about in childhood. But even if this wasn’t the case, eating carrots has become synonymous with having good eyesight and healthy eyes.

The reality is that carrots aren’t the only foods to eat to optimize your eye health. Sure, they’re a great source of vitamin A, a key nutrient for eye health, but carrots aren’t the only (or necessarily the best) source. There are several other foods for eye health, thanks to other nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, selenium and omega-3s, that are worth adding to your eating pattern.

Here are eight of the best foods to eat for eye health.

1. Sweet Potatoes

Vitamin A maintains the health of the cornea and is part of the pigment rhodopsin, which enables light to be converted into electrical signals that get interpreted as vision. While carrots are the ones you often hear touted for their vitamin A content, sweet potatoes have three times as much vitamin A activity (one medium baked sweet potato provides 150% of the Daily Value). This is due to provitamin A carotenoids (one of which is beta carotene) which are inactive forms of the vitamin that give deep orange and deep green produce their color and act as antioxidants.

2. Spinach & Kale

Dark leafy greens like kale and spinach are top sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that protect the retina. Acting as antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin absorb a substantial amount of blue light rays, preventing them from entering the interior eye to keep light-induced free radicals from damaging eye cells. Higher intakes of spinach, kale and other dark greens (such as turnip and collard) increase circulating levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, which appears to slow age-related macular degeneration (vision changes associated with the aging process) and may even halt the progression of cataracts.

3. Eggs

Eggs are another great source of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, particularly when they’re from chickens fed a nutrient-enriched diet. Eggs naturally contain both lutein and zeaxanthin, but fortified eggs have significantly higher levels that also appear to be more readily absorbed and used by the body. This means regular consumption of those eggs can increase lutein and zeaxanthin levels to optimize and maintain eyesight. One study published in Clinical Nutrition in 2020 found that those who consumed four to six eggs per week over a 15-year period had a 46% reduced risk of developing severe vision loss compared to subjects who consumed one egg or less per week.

4. Oysters

Zinc is required for the activation of over 300 enzymes in the body (some of which involve the eyes), maintains the structure and stability of proteins in the retina and protects retina cells to prevent and slow vision loss, along with other antioxidants like selenium. Even though clinical deficiency is rare, research suggests that most people consume inadequate amounts of zinc. This means it’s beneficial to incorporate foods rich in zinc like oysters. Oysters are one of the most concentrated zinc food sources, and they provide other nutrients for eye health like as selenium, copper and omega-3 fatty acids. Not a fan? Animal protein sources (such as meat, seafood and poultry), fortified cereal, beans, nuts and seeds are also good sources.

5. Almonds

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects cells throughout the body, including those in the eyes. Oxidative damage caused by environmental exposures to pollution, smoke and harmful rays can slowly take a toll on the cells in the eye and others involved in eyesight, but vitamin E works to halt this damage by neutralizing free radicals. Incorporating more vitamin E-rich foods like almonds is important for eye health, as well as overall health, and almonds are a top source. One ounce of dry-roasted almonds (about 23) provides 45% of daily needs. Other good sources include sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, peanut butter and avocado.

6. Oily Fish

Are your eyes always dry and irritated? Eating oily fish like tuna, trout, mackerel, sardines and salmon, which contain omega-3s, two to three times a week may provide some relief. Dry eye syndrome is caused by inadequate tear production and a lack of tear film over the eyes. While they may seem solely water-based, tears also contain a mucus and oil component, so a lack of essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA may contribute to dry eye symptoms. Research suggests that increasing intake can significantly improve symptoms, thanks to increased tear production and the anti-inflammatory effects generated by omega-3s.

7. Papaya

Papaya gets its pink-orange flesh from lycopene, a carotenoid that appears to slow cataract formation. However, the fruit’s real power player is vitamin C (one small papaya provides over 150% of the recommended daily intake). The eyes have a high metabolic rate (which results in quicker free radical formation) which means cells in the eye have an increased need for antioxidant protection from nutrients like vitamin C. Research also suggests that the vitamin may be able to regenerate vitamin E and other antioxidants in the eye, making vitamin C-rich foods like papaya, citrus, red bell pepper and berries even more beneficial.

8. Beans

Did you know that carbohydrate choices can impact eye health? In the Age-Related Eye Disease Study, individuals who consumed diets comprised of higher-glycemic carbohydrate choices were significantly more likely to have vision loss stemming from age-related macular degeneration. This means swapping higher-glycemic foods (like refined grains, snack foods and beverages with added sugars) for lower-glycemic, higher-fiber choices like beans and whole grains is important. On top of promoting healthy blood sugar regulation, beans (canned and dried) are also a good sources of other important eye nutrients like zinc and B vitamins.

Carolyn Williams, Ph.D., RD, is a culinary nutrition expert known for her ability to simplify food and nutrition information and the author of two cookbooks, Meals That Heal: 100 Everyday Anti-Inflammatory Recipes in 30 Minutes or Less and One-Pot Meals That Heal (June 2022). She is also co-host of the Happy Eating podcast, which explores the influence that diet and lifestyle have on mental wellness.

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