Eye Health:

Nutrition for the Eyes - What Do You Really Need?

by Orlin Sorensen

Eyes are a hot topic right now ... From Lasik to Lutein it seems everywhere you look there is a new product or procedure touting vision enhancement.

Why? Partly because people are finally discovering that they can improve and preserve their eyesight naturally through good diet, supplements, preventative habits, and a disciplined eye exercise program such as Rebuild Your Vision. More and more people are learning how to restore their vision naturally everyday.

As a natural health enthusiast, you already know the tremendous benefit that eye exercises and good vision techniques and habits can have.

But, with so many new supplements on the market claiming to enhance and improve vision, it can be downright confusing choosing which one is right for you.

Before I present this information, I want you to know that I will make no references to a particular product or manufacturer. I will present an unbiased analysis of the research that each nutrient has undergone. Choosing the supplement manufacturer is your decision.

1) Vitamin A

We all remember our mothers telling us to eat our carrots so we could have eyes like an eagle? But what do carrots really do for us?

Carrots contain a carotenoid called beta-carotene. Your body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A which is an anti-oxidant. Anti-oxidants such as vitamin A are essential to eye health.

Did you catch all that? Here it is again in slow motion ...

Carotenoids are pigments in plants and animals that provide red and yellow color.

Beta-carotene is a carotenoid. It is contained in carrots and other various food sources. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A.

Vitamin A is an anti-oxidant that is very important to the health of the eyes.

An antioxidant is any substance that prevents or impedes cell oxidation (destruction) by free radicals. A deficiency in vitamin A can lead to many problems, but this typically is not an issue in the U.S., more so in developing countries.

Vitamin A:

  • helps your eyes adjust to light changes
  • moistens the eyes, which can enhance visual acuity
  • has been shown to prevent the forming of cataracts
  • has been shown to help prevent blindness from macular
  • degeneration - the leading cause of blindness in the world.

The recommended daily allowance for those over 11 years old is 1,000 retinol equivalents (RE) for men, and 800 RE for women. An average-sized carrot contains almost 2,000 RE, a sweet potato contains around 2,600, a mango has about 400, and for those iron-stomachs who can handle a dose of liver - 11,000 RE!

2) Lutein

Lutein is another carotenoid that your body turns into an anti-oxidant. Lutein is the primary carotenoid located in the center of the retina, called the macula.

Six mg. of lutein has been shown to reduce the risk of macular degeneration by nearly 57%. A similar study showed that a diet low in lutein greatly increased the chance of developing cataracts. It benefits the overall health of the eye and has even been linked to reducing the hardening and narrowing of arteries.

There is currently no recommended daily allowance (RDA) for lutein, but the preventative effects stated above resulted from 6 mg. of lutein per day.

Lutein is found in food sources such as spinach, broccoli, and peas. One cup of raw spinach contains about 1.8 mg. of lutein, compared to 13.3 mg. contained in the same amount if it is cooked. One cup of cooked broccoli contains about 3 mg., and one cup of sliced green pepper contains around 1 mg.

With the busy lives we lead today, it is pretty hard to get 6 mg. per day from food sources, which is where a good supplement can come in.

3) Bilberry

Bilberries grow in the forest meadows of Europe, western Asia, and the northern Rocky Mountains. Bilberry is an herbal remedy that appears to have a very positive impact on vision. Its original use stems back to World War II when British pilots found that eating jam made from bilberries (a cousin to blueberries) helped to improve their night vision.

Researchers found that bilberry appear to fortify blood vessel walls, improving blood flow to the tiny blood vessels that keep eyes healthy and functioning properly, as well as to larger blood vessels that help maintain good circulation throughout the body. It also has been shown to help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts.

There is no RDA for this herb, but studies suggest that 80-160 mg. of the standardized extract is the amount needed to obtain the above-mentioned benefits.

4) Vitamin C

It seems vitamin C is an important anti-oxidant for just about everything these days - and it deserves mention in the benefits it has in protecting your eyesight.

Vitamin C has been linked to the prevention of cataracts, the delay of macular degeneration, and eye pressure reduction in glaucoma patients. Add all these benefits to the seemingly endless other benefits that vitamin C has been linked to for our overall health: it is a Vitamin you do not want to be without.

The U.S. RDA for vitamin C is 60 mg. for both men and women. It does not stay in the body very long so it needs to be constantly replenished to obtain the benefits. One orange contains about 70 mg. of vitamin C, one cup of strawberries about 80 mg., and one cup of sweet red pepper contains a whopping 283 mg.!

Unfortunately, Americans tend to be more reactive than proactive. We typically don't start doing things that are helpful to our body until something goes wrong, at which time it is usually too late.

These four nutrients not only have preventative abilities, but I personally have found that there is a definite increase in my overall visual acuity when I am taking a good vision supplement that contains these four nutrients. Combined with the Rebuild Your Vision program, my vision becomes much sharper - especially at night, and my eyes tend to have more endurance, not becoming tired at the end of a long day.

Again, I promised not to endorse any particular product, but I would recommend looking for these four nutrients in a good daily supplement. If you take a daily supplement already, you may be covering the vitamins A and C requirements, but it is not likely to include lutein or bilberry. Any health food store will have many daily supplements designed to enhance and protect eyesight. As well, there are many choices online. Search "vision supplements" or "eye vitamins" and your choices will be endless.

Studies have shown that the more often you take a supplement in small doses, the more effective. That means it is better to take three 20 mg. doses of vitamin C than one 60 mg. dose. Your body absorbs and excretes many nutrients quickly, so smaller doses ensure a steady flow.

As always, consult your doctor or a qualified medical professional before taking any supplement!

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Disclaimer: Throughout this entire website, statements are made pertaining to the properties and/or functions of food and/or nutritional products. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and these materials and products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.