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Help keep your eyes healthy with these 6 nutrients

A healthy diet can support your eyes in many ways. Add more of these nutrients to your plate to help keep your vision sharp.

Vision is one of your most important senses. You need it for everything from checking your email to watching a beautiful sunset. But there’s a good chance that you might experience vision problems, especially as you age.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 93 million American adults are at high risk of a serious vision problem. Regular eye exams are key to catching eye problems early. That way, they can be treated before they cause serious vision loss.

Another way to help protect your vision? Watch what you eat. A healthy diet is important for keeping your whole body healthy, including your eyes.

“Your eyes are connected to your body,” says Tiffany Gates, O.D., F.A.A.O., F.S.L.S. “So, overall health plays a role in your eye health.” Dr. Gates is an optometrist and co-owner of Visionary Eye Care in Broomfield, Colorado.

Looking for routine eye exams? Need prescription eyewear? A vision insurance plan may help you afford coverage for these services. Call a licensed insurance agent at 1-844-211-7730 to discuss a supplemental vision plan, or learn more today.

How diet can affect your eye health and vision

A poor diet can lead to bigger health problems that can affect your eyes. For example, high blood sugar (from diabetes), high blood pressure and high cholesterol can all lead to eye problems, explains Dr. Gates.

But good nutrition can also have a direct impact on your eye health. Research shows that certain nutrients can help prevent common eye problems. Here’s a look at some of those problems:

  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is caused by changes in a certain area of your retina (the macula) that is important for seeing objects clearly. The retina is the back of the eyeball where what you see is relayed to your brain.
  • Cataracts happen when your eye’s lens gets cloudy. Cataracts are a leading cause of vision loss in the United States, and the CDC estimates that about 17% of Americans over 40 have a cataract in one or both eyes.
  • Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes. High blood sugar can damage the small blood vessels of the retina, causing vision problems and, if left untreated, blindness. Per the CDC, diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in U.S. adults.
  • Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve. About 3 million Americans have glaucoma, and it’s the second-leading cause of blindness worldwide.

These eye problems are more common in people over 40. Early diagnosis and treatment can help slow their progression and prevent permanent vision loss. Regular eye exams (at least once a year) are the best way to catch eye problems early.

Good nutrition can also help prevent or delay these problems and slow their progression. Here are 6 nutrients (and the foods they’re in) that can keep your eyes healthy and your vision sharp.

Need health insurance? Contact a licensed insurance agent at 1-844-211-7730 or explore your options here.

1. & 2. Lutein and zeaxanthin

These 2 nutrients are types of antioxidants. Antioxidants are important for the health of the macula, says Dr. Gates. They help protect cells in your eyes (and all over your body) from damage.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in the lens and retina of the eye. Researchers believe that these nutrients work together to protect those parts of your eyes from damage that can lead to AMD, cataracts and other eye-related issues.

In a large study of people with early AMD, those people who ate the most lutein and zeaxanthin were about 25% less likely to progress to late AMD over 10 years, compared with people who ate the least.

Kale and spinach are the best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin. Other great sources include:

  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Green peas
  • Corn

3. Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are building blocks for the cells in your retina. Those fatty acids are “essential,” meaning your body can’t make them, so you must get them from food. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Chia seeds and flax seeds
  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna or sardines
  • Seed oils, such as soybean, canola and flaxseed oil
  • Walnuts

A higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to a lower risk of AMD. Omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent and relieve dry eye symptoms, too, because they are anti-inflammatory and can enhance tear production.

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4. Vitamin A

Vitamin A is essential for your vision. Your eyes need it to convert light to the electrical signals that are sent to your brain through the optic nerve. Vitamin A deficiency can lead to night blindness. That’s when you have trouble seeing in dim light.

You can get vitamin A from food in 2 forms: (1) preformed vitamin A and (2) beta-carotene. Preformed vitamin A is found in animal foods such as:

  • Beef liver
  • Dairy foods, such as milk and cheese
  • Egg yolks
  • Salmon

Your body can also convert beta-carotene from plant foods into vitamin A. Beta-carotene is found in orange-colored fruits and vegetables such as:

  • Cantaloupes
  • Carrots
  • Mangoes
  • Pumpkins
  • Sweet potatoes

5. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is another powerful antioxidant nutrient that may help protect your eyes from damage. Vitamin C is found in the lens of the eye, where light enters. It acts like “sunscreen,” protecting your eyes from damage from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light.

Getting more vitamin C in your diet may help prevent or slow the progression of cataracts, especially as you age. That’s because the amount of vitamin C in your eyes tends to drop with age. Vitamin C is found in lots of fruits and vegetables. Top sources include:

  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons and grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Strawberries

6. Zinc

Zinc helps transport vitamin A from the liver, where it’s stored, to the retina. There, it helps make melanin, a pigment that helps protect your eyes from UV light. Zinc deficiency has been linked to cataracts and poor night vision. Some research has also linked higher zinc intake to a lower risk of AMD.

Top food sources of zinc include:

  • Beef and pork
  • Fortified cereals
  • Lentils
  • Milk
  • Oysters and other shellfish
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Turkey

Bottom line: You can start supporting your eye health in your kitchen today. Get the nutrients your eyes need to stay healthy by eating foods such as fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, seafood and lean meats. A Mediterranean diet is a great place to get started. This diet includes all of these nutrients and has been linked to a lower risk of eye diseases such as AMD.

Another way to take care of your eyes? With vision insurance. Call a licensed insurance agent at 1-844-211-7730 or enter your zip code to search available plans.


This advertisement contains information compiled by UnitedHealthcare. UnitedHealthcare does not represent that these are statements of fact. Please consult directly with your primary care physician if you need medical advice.


American Optometric Association. “Diet and Nutrition.” Retrieved from Accessed April 26, 2023

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Common Eye Disorders and Diseases.” December 19, 2022. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Don’t Let Glaucoma Steal Your Sight!” November 24, 2020. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Fast Facts About Vision Loss.” December 19, 2022. Retrieved from

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. “Omega-3 Fatty Acids.” February 15, 2023. Retrieved from

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. “Vitamin A and Carotenoids.” June 15, 2022. Retrieved from

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. “Vitamin C.” March 26, 2021. Retrieved from

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. “Zinc.” September 28, 2022. Retrieved from

Nutrients. “Adherence to the Mediterranean-Style Eating Pattern and Macular Degeneration: A Systematic Review of Observational Studies.” May 2022. Retrieved from

Nutrients. “Lutein and Zeaxanthin and Their Roles in Age-Related Macular Degeneration—Neurodegenerative Disease.” February 2022. Retrieved from

Nutrients. “Vitamin C and the Lens: New Insights into Delaying the Onset of Cataract.” October 2020. Retrieved from

Ophthalmology. “Dietary nutrient intake and progression to late age-related macular degeneration in the Age-Related Eye Disease Studies 1 and 2.” March 2021. Retrieved from



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