The subject of diet isn’t always a natural conversation topic with patients. We’re much more likely to focus on other lifestyle questions—smoking, occupation and even time spent in the sun. However, diet plays an important role in vision health—and one rich in the correct nutrients and vitamins can help promote a lifetime of healthy vision.
Diet often comes up when discussing diabetes risk and its impact on vision. Uncontrolled diabetes can damage the retina of the eye, possibly leading to permanent vision loss.
Patients with diabetes need to think about diet as one of the most important preventive measures in their lives, not only for their eyes but their overall health. They should be educated to maintain a plant-based diet that is low in sugars and limited in refined carbohydrates.
I tell my patients that they should always shop around the perimeter of a grocery store. That’s where the fresh fruits, vegetables and proteins are. When they go into the center of the store they are exposed to all the processed foods that should not be a part of their diets.
Beyond being part of an overall healthy diet, certain foods may contribute to eye health. These foods are rich in such nutrients as vitamins C and E, lutein and zeaxanthin—all of which have been shown to prevent or slow the progression of some eye diseases.
While carrots are hyped as beneficial for eyes and beta carotene does aid in night vision, dark, leafy greens, such as kale, collards and spinach are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, making them the best foods for vision health. Additionally, citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit and papaya are high in vitamin C.
Ocular health goes beyond being able to see 20/20. We can play an important role in educating our patients about ways to protect their vision, which can mean addressing overall lifestyle choices.
An annual eye exam is the best opportunity to have this ongoing conversation with patients. I’m proud to support Think About Your Eyes and its mission to promote annual eye exams to the greater public. Our vision is a gift, and we should do everything we can to protect it. OO