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Eye Nutrition

By Sebastian J. Troia, M.D.

Girl holding a bowl of veggies

They say you are what you eat. Though the meaning may not be literal, it’s something to keep in mind. If the foods you eat are unhealthy, then you will be unhealthy; but if the foods you eat are healthy, then you will be too.

This concept applies to your eyes as well. Recently, researchers have taken special interest in the effects certain nutrients have on eye health and have put together a regimen that can help protect against retinal conditions, dry eye, cataracts and glaucoma. These nutrients can be obtained through vitamins, however, the most beneficial way to get the nutritional value that your body needs is to consume them through foods.

Copper

Benefits: Copper helps maintain pigmentation and neutralizes free radicals, molecules that cause oxidative stress, which damages body cells.

Where you can find it: Almonds, seafood, liver, beets, avocados, whole grains, soy flour and lentils. Copper is especially rich in oysters.

How much you should consume: 900 micrograms (mcg) per day

Lutein

Benefits: Lutein is a carotenoid, a substance that filters out damaging high-energy blue light waves. It also acts as an antioxidant, protecting and maintaining healthy cells by neutralizing free radicals.

Where you can find it: Kale, spinach, collards, turnip greens, corn, green peas, broccoli, romaine lettuce, green beans, eggs and oranges.

How much you should consume: 6 milligrams (mg) per day

Omega-3

Benefits: Omega-3 is a healthy fatty acid linked to preventing dry eye.

Where you can find it: Salmon, tuna, mackerel, anchovy, halibut, trout, scallops, snapper, flaxseed and flaxseed oil, walnuts, canola oil, pumpkin seeds, chai seeds and omega-3-enriched foods.

How much you should consume: 1.5 - 3 grams (g) per day

Vitamin A

Benefits: Vitamin A produces pigment, protects the surface of the eye and neutralizes free radicals.

Where you can find it: Liver, spinach, broccoli, peppers and tomato juice. Beto-carotenes are turned into vitamin A by the body and can be found in carrots, mangos, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and cantaloupe.

How much you should consume: 700 - 900 mcg per day

Vitamin C

Benefits: Vitamin C promotes the health of the ocular blood vessels and reduces the risk of cataracts.

Where you can find it: Orange juice, grapefruit juice, spinach, tomatoes, oranges, bananas, apples and peaches.

How much you should consume: minimum of 300 mg daily to reap the benefit of cataract prevention

Vitamin E

Benefits: Vitamin E helps delay the formation of cataracts.

Where you can find it: Almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, peanuts, peanut butter, sweet potatoes and vitamin E-fortified cereals and wheat germ.

How much you should consume: 15 mg per day. Vitamin E is a necessary part of your diet, but keep in mind that too much can interfere with vitamin A absorption.

Zeaxanthin

Benefits: Like lutein, zeaxanthin is a carotenoid that filters out harmful blue light waves and acts as an antioxidant to neutralize free radicals.

Where you can find it: It is also found in many of the same foods as lutein including: kale, spinach, collards, turnip greens, corn, green peas, broccoli, romaine lettuce, green beans, eggs and oranges.

How much you should consume: minimum of 300 mg daily to reap the benefit of cataract prevention

Zinc

Benefits: Zinc transports vitamin A from the liver to the eye to form melanin, the eye’s protective pigment. It also aids with night vision and preventing cloudy cataracts.

Where you can find it: Oysters, beef, lobster, pork, bran flakes, yogurt, salmon, milk and eggs.

How much you should consume: 8-11 mg per day. While you need zinc, be aware that consuming too much can interfere with copper absorption.