As a child, you've probably been told to eat carrots because they are good for your eyes. Is this even true?
The quick answer is yes. There are eye health benefits of eating carrots. However, with today's science, we have found that there are other foods that are even better for your eyes.
Carrots contain beta-carotene, which is a type of pigment found in nature called a carotenoid. A carotenoid is a yellow to red pigment that is found mostly in green leafy vegetables and fruits. In your eye, there are two types of carotenoids that are found in abundance, much more than beta carotene. These are called lutein and zeaxanthin. These pigments are found in the part of your eye called the macula (or fovea), the part of your eye where the light goes to focus. The macula is the part in the eye that gives you the detail and colour in your vision. For example, the a healthy macula allows you to read and drive. Therefore, it is a very important part of your eye.
In nature, lutein and zeaxanthin absorb light from the sun, to prevent sun damage to plants. In your eye, it helps to prevent sun damage to the macula. A common form of sun damage to the macula is called macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of age related blindness in Canada.
Lutein is found in green leafy vegetables. Good examples are spinach, kale, and collard greens. Zeaxanthin is less common in nature, but is found in peppers (especially orange bell peppers) and corn. Fruits and vegetables that are deep in colour contain various nutrients and vitamins that are important to your eye and overall health.
Another way to prevent sun damage to your eyes and protect your macula and other parts in your eyes is to wear good sun protection. Click here to read an article about what to look for in a good pair of sunglasses.
One thing to always remember, is that your eyes are a part of your body. What you do with your overall health will affect your eyes as well. Also, there are many cases where findings that are seen on a dilated eye exam can affect your overall health too. It is important to maintain a healthy and balanced diet, as well as an active lifestyle in order to keep your body, eyes, and vision healthy.