Most men rank healthy vision as the sense that they most value. For good reason! We all want to be able to see so that we can walk, drive, read, and enjoy the richness that sight adds to life. Sight allows us to enjoy the colors of changing seasons and the faces of those we love. Yet very few of us know the proven ways in which we can help to protect our vision for life.
Age-related eye degeneration is one of the most common problems among men over 55. Even if you haven’t given any thought to your eye health, now’s the time to do it. Whether you currently suffer from some problems with your eyes or not, by acting now, you stand the greatest chance of protecting eye health and even potentially reversing existing conditions.
The really good news is that the ways to protect yourself are simple. Read on and I’ll share with you the simple and proven ways you can protect your eyes starting today.
Research has found that vitamin C can offer some of the greatest protection against eye disease. Vitamin C is known as an antioxidant. Oxygen is necessary for life, but it is a double-edged sword. It can also cause damage called oxidation in our bodies. Vitamin C protects against oxidation in the body. Levels of oxidation in the eyes are higher than in other parts of the body. So vitamin C is especially important for the eyes.
Many people are in the habit of taking supplemental vitamin C. That is fine and may be beneficial. However, eating more vitamin C from food offers the greatest protection. When you eat foods containing vitamin C, you also get the other nutrients that work together with vitamin C such as bioflavonoids. These other nutrients multiply the effectiveness of vitamin C.
To ensure that you eat enough vitamin C, eat some of these foods every day: berries, citrus, leafy green vegetables, brassicas, tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes. Men over 55 should eat at least 90 mg of vitamin C per day. One cup of orange juice provide 124 mg, a half cup of strawberries provides 50 mg, a half cup of broccoli provides 40 mg, and a cup of tomato juice provides 22 mg. So you can see that by eating a few servings of these foods each day, you’ll consume enough vitamin C to protect your eyes for life.
Studies have found that men who have the highest levels of beta-carotene have the healthiest eyes. Beta-carotene is a natural substance found in some foods. It is an orange pigment and so it shouldn’t be surprising that many of the foods highest in beta-carotene are orange.
In studies the men with the healthiest eyes eat 17 mg of beta-carotene daily. In order to eat that much beta-carotene you should include some high beta-carotene foods in your diet on a daily basis. The common foods that are highest in beta-carotene include sweet potatoes, carrots, winter squash, red peppers, spinach, and kale.
Of those foods, sweet potatoes are the very highest in beta-carotene with a whopping 15 mg per half cup. Pumpkin comes in second with 9 mg per half cup. Carrots have 6 mg per half cup. And cooked spinach has 5 mg per half cup.
By the way, beta-carotene from food is thought to be completely non-toxic. You can eat as many sweet potatoes and carrots as you want and you’ll experience only benefits. But steer clear of beta-carotene supplements which have been shown to be problematic in large doses.
One of the leading causes of preventable blindness worldwide is vitamin A deficiency. Due to food fortification and the availability of food in the United States, a frank vitamin A deficiency is rare. However, many men may still be marginally low in vitamin A. By eating enough vitamin A, you can help to protect your eyes.
Beta-carotene may also help to protect eyes by converting to vitamin A. However, many people do not convert beta-carotene to vitamin A well. Therefore, the more reliable way to maintain healthy vitamin A levels is to eat foods that contain preformed vitamin A. Preformed vitamin A is not found in fruits, vegetables, beans, or grains. It is only found in animal foods.
The richest source of vitamin A is liver. Liver offers many health benefits, and so if you enjoy the taste, it is good to eat liver once every week or two. Liver is by far the best source of vitamin A, but not everybody likes the taste. Other sources of vitamin A include butter, whole milk, and egg yolks. These foods are not only good sources of vitamin A, but most men enjoy the taste. So include some of these foods in your diet regularly to benefit your eyes.
I highly recommend that you get vitamin A only from food and not from supplements. A small amount of supplemental vitamin A is unlikely to be a problem. But supplements make it too easy to take too much vitamin A, which can be problematic. So stick with food as much as possible.
Zinc is a mineral that is an important male nutrient for many reasons. So as a man it is important for your overall health that you eat enough zinc. But among the benefits, zinc also helps to protect the eyes. Research shows that zinc is an antioxidant in the eyes. But more importantly, zinc is essential to maintain the structure and immunity of the eyes.
Men should eat at least 11 mg of zinc per day. And as long as you are eating zinc from food, you can eat as much as you want. If you take supplemental zinc then you should be careful because too much supplemental zinc can interfere with copper absorption, and copper is also needed in small amounts for eye health.
The best food sources of zinc are meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, and dairy. Although nuts and seeds contain a lot of zinc, it is not available to the human body. So include some animal foods in your diet on a daily basis.
Oysters are by far the richest source of zinc. If you enjoy oysters and have access to them, eating oysters regularly can easily provide an abundance of zinc. For example, 3 average oysters provide 24 mg of zinc. Crab is another excellent source, with 3 ounces supplying 5 mg of zinc. Otherwise, red meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy all supply modest amounts of zinc.
There are some other nutrients found in plants that have also been shown to improve eye health. Substances called lutein and zeaxanthin are found in plant foods and they concentrate in human eyes where they are important for health. Higher intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin are associated with lower risk of macular degeneration and other eye diseases.
The best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin are leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale. Other good sources include brassicas like broccoli, green peas, romaine lettuce, and sweet corn.
Another type of nutrient found in plants that is important for eye health is called anthocyanin (or related compounds). Anthocyanins are blue, red, and purple pigments found in many fruits and vegetables, and they can improve overall eye health and particularly night vision. Anthocyanins are so powerful for improving vision, in fact, that during World War II the British air force fed its pilots jam made with anthocyanin-rich berries.
The best sources of anthocyanins are blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, eggplant (found in the skin), red onions, and red cabbage. Eat these colorful fruits and vegetables regularly to protect your eyes.
Although most of us were never taught how to protect our eyes through nutrition, we can take some simple (and delicious) steps to provide natural insurance for our vision. In this article we’ve covered a lot of detail. But don’t let the detail overwhelm you. The real message is simple. Eat more colorful fruits and vegetables along with adequate meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. When you do so, you’ll be providing your body with all the nutrients that it needs to keep your eyes healthy for life.
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