Nutrition for the Eyes

Vitamin A – We all remember our mothers telling us to eat our carrots so we could have eyes like an eagle. Why did our mothers tell us this? What do carrots really do for us?

Carrots contain a carotenoid called beta-carotene. Carotenoids are pigments in plants and animals that provide red and yellow color. Your body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A which is an anti-oxidant. Anti-oxidants are essential for good eye health. An antioxidant is any substance that prevents or impedes cell oxidation (destruction) by free radicals. A deficiency in vitamin A can lead to many problems, but this is not an issue typically in the US.


These are the following benefits Vitamin A provides the eyes

. Helps your eyes adjust to light changes

. Helps to prevent the forming of cataracts

. Helps to prevent Macular Degeneration (leading causes of blindness)


The recommended daily allowance for those over 11 years of age is 1000 retinol equivalents (RE) for men and 800 for women. An average carrot contains almost 2000 RE, a sweet potato contains around 2600 RE, a mango has about 400 and a dose of liver has 11,000 RE.


Lutein – Lutien is another carotenoid that your body turns into an anti-oxidant. Lutein is the primary carotenoid located in the center of the retina called the macula.

Six mg. of lutein has been shown to reduce the risk of macular degeneration by nearly 57%. A similar study showed that a diet low in lutein greatly increased the chance of developing cataracts. It benefits the overall health of the eye and has even been liked to reducing the hardening and narrowing of the arteries.


There is currently no recommended daily allowance (RDA) for lutein, but the preventative effects stated above resulted from 6 mg. of luetin per day. Lutein is found in food sources such as spinach, broccoli, and peas. One cup of raw spinach contains about 1.8 mg of lutein, compared to 13.3 mg. if it is cooked. One cup of broccoli contains about 3 mg. and one cup of sliced green pepper contains around 1 mg. It is pretty hard to get 6 mg. per day from a food source, which is where a good supplement can come in.


Bilberry – Bilberries (a cousin to blueberries) grow in the forest meadows of Europe, western Asia, and the northern Rocky Mountains. Bilberry is an herbal remedy that appears to have a very positive impact on vision. Its original uses stems back to World War II when the British pilots found that eating jam made from bilberries improved their night vision.

Researchers found that bilberry appears to fortify blood vessels walls, improving blood flow to the tiny blood vessels that keep eyes healthy and functioning properly, as well as to larger blood vessels that help maintain good circulation throughout the body. It also has been shown to help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts.


Vitamin C – It seems vitamin C is an important anti-oxidant for just about anything these days and deserves mention in the benefits it has in protecting your eyesight. Vitamin C has been liked to the prevention of cataracts, the delay of macular degeneration, and eye pressure reduction in glaucoma patients. Add all these benefits that vitamin C has been linked to for our overall health it makes it a vitamin you cannot be without.

The U.S. RDA for vitamin C is 60mg. for both men and women. It does not stay in the body very long (approximately 4 hrs.) so it needs to be constantly replenished to obtain the benefits. One orange contains about 70mg. one cup of strawberries about 80mg. and one cup of sweet red pepper contains a whopping 283mg.


I would recommend looking for these four nutrients in a good daily supplement. If you take a daily supplement, you may be covering A and C requirements, but it is not likely to include luetin or bilberry. Any health food store will have many daily supplements designed to enhance and protect eyesight.


Studies have shown that the more you take a supplement in small doses, the more effective. That means it is better to take three 20mg. does of vitamin C than one 60mg. dose. Your body absorbs and excretes many nutrients quickly, so smaller does ensure a steady flow. 06/02/08


This information is courtesy of Allentown Optical 610-433-5269 / allentownoptical.com