Eating for healthy eyes & heart
Have you heard of the saying, “You are what you eat?” Well, it’s more than a saying. It’s a reality that your diet can significantly impact not only your overall health—but, more specifically, the health of your heart and eyes. This might sound like a lot to manage, but what if you could hit two birds with one stone? Many heart-healthy foods also support your eye health!
This 2-for-1 benefit has been endorsed by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, which curated a list of 36 nutrient-dense foods that contribute to clear vision. Whether you’re based in Raleigh, NC, or anywhere else, making these dietary changes can have a large impact on your health. So, let’s dive into the world of these superfoods and understand how their consumption can pave the way for a healthier heart and sharper vision.
The Heart-Eye Connection
The heart-eye connection is more than just a fascinating biological phenomenon. It demonstrates the intricacies of our body’s interconnected systems.
Our heart, the powerhouse organ responsible for pumping life-sustaining blood throughout our system, and our eyes, the windows to the world, may seem unrelated in function, but their health is deeply intertwined. The arteries in both the heart and eyes require similar nutrients to maintain proper health. They both depend on an unobstructed, healthy blood flow to function well. Any damage to these arteries can lead to complications in both organs.
6 Vital Nutrients for Eye and Heart Health
Just like every machine needs fuel to function, our bodies need certain nutrients to maintain eye and heart health. These nutrients not only protect us from developing diseases but also keep our systems strong.
- Vitamin A: Known for preserving vision, Vitamin A helps form rhodopsin, which allows vision in dim light. Foods rich in Vitamin A include carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, and apricots.
- Vitamin C: This powerful antioxidant protects our bodies from damage by free radicals, reducing the risk of heart disease. It also helps form collagen, a protein required to heal wounds. Foods high in Vitamin C include oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, lemons, peaches, red bell peppers, tomatoes, and strawberries.
- Vitamin E: This nutrient also helps regulate cell health by protecting cells from free radicals. Foods high in Vitamin E include avocados, almonds, and sunflower seeds.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: These fats reduce inflammation, lower heart disease risks, and protect your eyes from macular degeneration and dry eye syndrome. You can find Omega-3 fatty acids in fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, halibut, and trout.
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin: These carotenoids act like sunglasses for your eye, protecting the eye’s macula (the part of the eye responsible for sharp, central vision) from damage by blue light. Foods high in these nutrients include kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, collards, turnip greens, broccoli, peas, and eggs.
- Zinc: This essential trace maintains retina health and helps heart function because it keeps the health of cardiovascular cells and the endothelium, the inner lining of blood vessels. You can find Zinc in abundance in beans and other legumes.
Why a Balanced Diet over Supplements is Important
You may wonder, ‘Why not just take supplements?’ While supplements can serve a purpose, getting these nutrients from a balanced diet is more beneficial. The synergy of nutrients in whole foods enhances their absorption and effectiveness. This is why dietitians and doctors, including your local eye doctor in Raleigh, NC, will always recommend food first.
That being said, there may be exceptions. Certain individuals, especially those with macular degeneration or other eye problems, may require dietary supplements to meet their nutritional needs. The best action for your eye health is to book a medical eye health exam.
As Rebecca J. Taylor, MD, an ophthalmologist in Nashville, Tennessee, said, “Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is the best way to promote eye health.” So, embrace the power of nutrient-dense foods and know that each bite you take is a step towards a healthier heart and sharper vision.
**Please note that the suggestions provided in this blog are for general informational purposes only and may not be suitable for your specific insurance plan and vision needs. It is important to consult a qualified healthcare professional for personalized advice and treatment.