What you eat can make a difference in how your eyes feel and possibly prevent eye problems like age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and dry eye disease.
Foods that Can Cause Eye Damage
Researchers have linked simple carbohydrates, like those found in white bread and pasta, with a higher chance of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of vision loss for older adults. The reason: Your body digests this type of carb quickly. This causes a spike in blood sugar.
Hot dogs, bacon, and deli meats are loaded with sodium. This salt spike can eventually lead to high blood pressure (hypertension). In your eyes, this may cause Hypertensive retinopathy, Choroidopathy, and Neuropathy. Try to limit your sodium to 2,300 milligrams or less a day.
Deep-fried foods cooked in trans fats raise your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. They also create molecules called free radicals that can damage and kill cells. This all connects to eye disease — AMD and diabetic retinopathy. Fight back against free radicals by eating fruits and veggies full of vitamin C like citrus fruits, tomatoes, and red bell peppers.
A study linked the consumption of trans fats, particularly polyunsaturated fats, as a contributing factor to the development of AMD in a group of participants (women ages 50-79) over multiple years.
A landmark study 30 years ago linked too much linoleic acid, a type of unsaturated fat, with a higher chance of AMD. You can find it in these cooking oils e.g. in Safflower, Sunflower, Corn, Soybean,
Sesame oil. Stay away from ones with hydrogenated oils and trans fats.
Prepackaged foods — things like soup, tomato sauce, and canned goods — often have high amounts of sodium, up to 75% of the suggested amount. The traditional junk foods (chips, cookies, and candy) and even foods that you may not deem “unhealthy” like salad dressings and protein bars, often contain preservatives, unhealthy fats, and inflammatory ingredients.
Eating less of these foods can lower your chance of high blood pressure and related eye problems. When you shop, look for “low sodium” or “no salt added” versions of your favorite foods. Add your own spices and herbs for a natural flavor boost.
Soda, sports and energy drinks, lemonade, and other sweetened drinks are full of sugar — sometimes 7 to 10 teaspoons. They’re also the number one source of calories and added sugar in the U.S. diet. All that sugar ups your odds of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. This can lead to related eye conditions like diabetic retinopathy and AMD.
Fish and Shellfish
High levels of mercury in fish and shellfish can cause serious health problems, including eye damage. Health experts say, pregnant women, those who are nursing or may become pregnant, and children should stick with 8-12 ounces of fish and shellfish each week.
The caffeine in your morning cup of coffee or tea may raise the pressure inside your eye, or intraocular pressure (IOP). Studies show this pressure goes up in people with glaucoma or ocular hypertension (OHT) who’ve had caffeine. IOP that’s too high can cause vision loss and blindness.
While not food, alcohol is something you put into your body that experts link to eye disease. Drinking too much alcohol can lead to cataracts at an earlier age, a common condition that causes a cloudy area in your eye lens.
By making simple nutritional swaps you can improve the health of your eyes and your physical health overall.