6 essential vitamins for eye health6 essential vitamins for eye health
Dr. Edward Kondrot, ophthalmologist and founder of Healing the Eye & Wellness Center, believes strongly in a diet-first approach to eye health, sharing his top vitamins and minerals—and best sources of each—to safeguard your shoppers' peepers... all the better to see your amazing selection with.
August 14, 2013
Dr. Edward Kondrot, ophthalmologist and founder of Healing the Eye & Wellness Center, sells supplements to support eye health, but believes strongly in a diet-first approach to eye health. Here, this visionary shares the top vitamins and minerals—and best sources of each—to safeguard your shoppers' soul windows... all the better to see your amazing selection with.
1. See with vitamin C
Dr. Edward Kondrot: This is one of our most important vitamins and is often put on the back burner because of new and exotic nutrients. It helps prevent the progress of certain eye diseases like cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. A total lack of vitamin C will cause scurvy and can lead to blindness. Vitamin C helps the body form and maintain connective tissue, including collagen found in the cornea of the eye.
Sources: Around 90 percent of vitamin C in the human diet is from fruit and vegetables. Cooking fruit and vegetables reduces their vitamin C content by around 30-40 percent.
2. Vitamin A + beta-carotene, your mother was right about carrots
Dr. Edward Kondrot: Deficiency of vitamin A can cause night blindness and xerophthalmia or severe dryness of the eye, which can lead to blindness. Vitamin A and beta-carotene are widely known to improve night vision and help keep the eyes hydrated. Beta-carotene is a substance that is converted to vitamin A in the human body. This vitamin helps transfer fat to energy. In order to convert beta-carotene into vitamin A, the body also needs some fat and sufficient levels of zinc, which we will talk about next.
Sources: Vitamin A is naturally found only in animal sources, such as liver, cod liver oil, fish, dairy products and eggs. Don’t forget about all the darkly-colored fruits and vegetables that are a good source of beta-carotene. These include carrots, peas, tomatoes, papaya, turnip greens, kale, spinach, broccoli, apricots, mango, cantaloupe, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and lettuce.
3. Zinc, one mineral does a lot
Dr. Edward Kondrot: I have found that 80 percent of patients I see with eye problems are deficient in this very important mineral for most enzymatic reactions in the body and for eye function. Several studies have linked a deficiency of zinc to macular degeneration. We are deficient in zinc because of mineral deficiencies in our soil and levels of heavy metals in our bodies. It can be very difficult to achieve a functioning level of zinc.
Sources: Good sources of zinc are dairy products, peanuts, beans, wholegrain cereals, brown rice and pumpkin seeds.
4. Omega oils are good, but fish oils need to be avoided
Dr. Edward Kondrot: Essential fatty acids (EFAs), particularly omega-3 are critical for the development of vision and in the health of the retina. Recent studies have shown that people who ingest the highest levels of omega-3 have a much lower risk of developing ARMD (Age-Related Macular Degeneration).
There is evidence, however, that fish oils are not the best source of omega oils! Fish oils are longer chain fatty acids that are not absorbed into the cell. All fish oils become rancid at room temperature and there is evidence that high levels of mercury are in all fish oils, no matter what the ads tell you. I am not saying to avoid eating fish, but one should avoid high doses of potentially toxic fish oils.
Sources: Seeds, especially flaxseed and sunflower seeds, walnuts, spinach, winter squash and olive oil.
5. Lutein + Zeaxanthin, yellow is good for the eye
Dr. Edward Kondrot: These two help protect the central retina from harmful ultraviolet rays and other free radicals. Lutein and zeaxanthin appear to have important antioxidant functions in the body. In fact, an eye doctor can look inside the eye and evaluate the effective level of this nutrient.
There is an area in the eye called the macula lutea, which means “yellow spot.” A prominent macula lutea indicates a good level of lutein and zeaxanthin to protect the eye. Along with other natural antioxidants, including vitamin C, beta-carotene and vitamin E, these xanthophylls guard the body from damaging effects of free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can destroy cells and play a role in many diseases.
Sources: Green leafy vegetables and other green or yellow vegetables, spinach, kale, collards, green peas, corn, broccoli, romaine, carrots, eggs.
6. Vitamin E, the tough guy to fight radicals
Dr. Edward Kondrot: Vitamin E protects your eyes from environmental stresses that cause eye damage, including cataracts and eye dryness. It’s a powerful antioxidant that helps protect membranes of cells throughout the body against damage caused by metabolic by-products called free radicals.
Sources: Wheat germ oil, nuts and nut oils, green leafy veggies like spinach and collard, tomato, pumpkin, sweet potato, mangoes, broccoli, avocados, olives.
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