“Which food should I eat to benefit my eyes ? ” is one of the most common questions I get asked from the old and young alike. Once, I discharged an 8-year-old patient from clinic and he asked if I would tell his mum that he could reduce his carrots daily consumption as he was sick of it.
We all know carrots contain some orange/yellow pigment that are good for our eyes. This pigment is called beta-caroteine and it is converted into vitamin A by the body. Vitamin A helps produce rhodopsin, a purple pigment that helps us see in low light. A lack of vitamin A could cause inflammation of the cornea, the transparent layer forming at the front of the eye, as well as dry eyes.
So where else does beta-caroteine come from? You are right to think that they come from yellow colourful fruits, vegetables or spices such as peppers, mango, sweetcorn, saffron…, etc. However, green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach are also sources of beta-caroteine. As a bonus, the curly kale is abundant in lutein, an antioxidant with many benefits for eye health. Lutein and related compounds, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin, are known as the macular pigment. The macular, a small area of the retina, is responsible for our central vision, colour vision and the fine detail of what we see. After being digested, these antioxidants migrate to the macular, hence their name. Macular pigment helps protect the back of our eyes by filtering out damaging UV light from the sun. Unfortunately, our body is unable to produce lutein therefore, it’s important to ensure that our diet includes green, leafy vegetables. So next time you are heading out for food shopping, don’t forget the mighty vegetables which are not only readily available and affordable but also contain many health benefits for our eyes.