“Good nutrition is essential in keeping current and future generations of Americans healthy across the lifespan,” according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Studies have shown plant pigments found in many common foods positively impact eye health and functional vision.
Lead author Jacob Harth said new research examines the ability of lutein and zeaxanthin to improve how well a person can see a target clearly over distance.
“A lot of the research into macular lutein and zeaxanthin has focused on health benefits, but from a functional perspective, higher concentrations of these plant pigments improve many aspects of visual and cognitive ability,” Harth told Medical Xpress. Harth is a doctoral candidate in the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health.
Benefits of lutein- and zeaxanthin-rich foods
The study focused on how an athletes’ visual range may improve by eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. The paper was published in Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews.
Lutein and zeaxanthin add yellow or orange color to various common foods. These foods include cantaloupe, pasta, corn, carrots, orange or yellow peppers, fish, salmon and eggs. Other excellent sources of these carotenoids include broccoli, peaches, mangoes, berries, pumpkin, spinach and Swiss chard.
Eating foods with these antioxidants protect the retina from blue light damage. They act like sunglasses for the eye and protect the macula in the retina’s center. These pigments also help prevent age-related macular degeneration.
“Many athletes already take measures to reduce the impact of blue light through eye black or blue blocker sunglasses, but eating more foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin can improve the eye’s natural ability to handle blue light exposure,” Harth said in Medical Xpress.
The way individual bodies absorb and use lutein and zeaxanthin varies, but the overall health benefits are evident, according to the study authors.
“We have data from modeling and empirical studies showing that higher macular pigment in your retina will improve your ability to see over distance.” Harth told Medical Xpress. “The application for athletes is clear.”
Eat healthy, schedule eye exam
According to the Centers for Disease Control, healthy eating may help people live longer, as well as provide the following benefits:
- Keeping skin, teeth and eyes healthy
- Supporting muscles
- Boosting immunity
- Strengthening bones
- Lowering risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers
- Supporting healthy pregnancies and breastfeeding
- Helping the digestive system function
- Helping achieve and maintain a healthy weight
In addition to eating nutritious foods, getting a comprehensive eye exam is also important for your overall health. Many diseases show early signs in the eyes, including cardiovascular health and diabetes.
During the exam, your doctor will check for the following:
- Refractive error: nearsighted, farsighted or astigmatism
- Focusing problems, including presbyopia
- Other vision problems, such as strabismus, amblyopia or binocular vision
- Eye diseases, such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy
Eye doctors recommend regular screenings beginning at age 40 or earlier if you have eye disease risk factors, including family history, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Protect your vision by eating a healthy, balanced diet, and schedule your comprehensive eye exam with your ophthalmologist.