Food that's good for the eyes
Foods to improve eyesight
Free radicals, tiny molecules harmful to the body, can collect in the retina and macula within the eye. Antioxidants found in some foods target and neutralise these free radicals, helping to improve general eye health.
Vitamins and minerals can also support the natural function of the eye and help prevent some eye conditions. Studies show that two specific carotenoid nutrients, lutein and zeaxanthin, are vital for eye health and linked to a lower risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) (Source: Nutrients). Bell peppers, spinach and other colourful vegetables are excellent sources of lutein and zeaxanthin.
Five foods for good eye health
Many foods contain the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants needed to maintain optimal eye health, so you have plenty of choices. You can combine these superfoods as part of your overall healthcare plan.
A spinach and red pepper omelette and a glass of orange juice provide vitamins A, C and E and antioxidants including lutein and zeaxanthin in one sitting. Whole grains and legumes, including lentils and kidney beans, are high in zinc, which helps maintain optimal eye health (Source: AOA).
Eggs, particularly egg yolks, contain several nutrients that support eye health, including vitamin A, zinc, and the powerful antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. These nutrients help keep the cornea, retina and macula healthy and lower the risk of developing some serious eye conditions. Eggs are versatile so that they're easy to incorporate into a healthy diet.
Spinach is one of the best foods for protecting the eyes from serious diseases. This dark leafy green contains high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as vitamins A, C and E. If you don’t like spinach, try other collard greens, such as kale chips baked in the oven or a rocket salad.
Fatty or oily fish, like salmon and sardines, contain DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and other omega-3 fatty acids that protect your eyes from sunlight damage, prevent night blindness and help your eyes stay moist. They also contain vitamin D, which helps maintain healthy blood vessels in the back of the eyes.
Oranges and other citrus fruits contain high levels of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant shown to reduce the risk of glaucoma (Source: Nutrients). Vitamin C is also known to support the immune system and maintain healthy skin. A freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice is a great way to start the day with a boost of vitamins.
5. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are good sources of Vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, which both improve eye health. Try snacking on sunflower seeds or almonds or sprinkling chia seeds onto your porridge in the morning.
Are carrots good for your eyes?
How accurate is the saying that carrots can help you see in the dark? The association with night vision and carrots does, in fact, have some truth.
Carrots contain high levels of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that helps keep your eyes healthy.
Your body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which it then uses to form the pigments in your eyes that sense light and aid night vision.
The beta-carotene pigment gives carrots and other colourful foods, such as oranges, tomatoes, apricots, sweet potatoes, and red and yellow peppers, their bright colour.
Which vitamins are good for the eyes?
The vitamins found in food and drink can affect our bodies in different ways, including the function of our eyes. Increasing your intake of specific vitamins can be particularly beneficial for eye health and eyesight, and low levels of these same vitamins can contribute to failing eyesight.
Taking vitamin supplements is an option, but getting your vitamins from a varied, nutritious diet is more effective.
Vitamin A for eyes
Vitamin A helps protect the cornea and prevent dry eyes. Sources of vitamin A include:
- Red meat
Vitamin B for eyesight
Vitamin B, particularly B6, B9 and B12, can reduce inflammation and promote healthy eye tissues. Sources of vitamin B include:
- Dairy products
Vitamin C for eye health
Vitamin C has multiple benefits for the eyes: it neutralises harmful oxidants, supports healthy tissues, and helps maintain blood vessels. Sources of vitamin C include:
Vitamin E for eyes
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that neutralises free radicals in the eye. Sources of vitamin E include:
- Sunflower seeds
Lutein for eyesight
Lutein, often accompanied by zeaxanthin, is an antioxidant that protects the eyes from serious conditions, including cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Lutein is in:
- Green peas
Anthocyanin for eye health
Anthocyanin is a powerful antioxidant that protects your eyes from UV damage. Anthocyanin is in:
Omega-3 for eyes
Omega-3 fatty acids help your eyes stay lubricated and protect the retina from sunlight damage. Omega-3 is in:
- Seeds and nuts
- Flaxseed and other plant oils
Worst foods for eye health
Just as some foods can improve our eye health, other foods can be harmful to our eyes. Foods high in fat are known to block arteries and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. The tiny blood vessels in the eye can also suffer, reducing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to your retina.
Frequently asked questions
Medically reviewed by: The Royal College of Ophthalmologists on 19/09/2022
Edited by: Nick Astbury FRCS FRCOphth FRCP
Clinical Associate Professor
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists champions excellence in the practice of ophthalmology and is the only professional membership body for medically qualified ophthalmologists. The RCOphth is unable to offer direct advice to patients. If you’re concerned about the health of your eyes, you should seek medical advice from your GP, optometrist or ophthalmologist.