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10 Best Foods for Eye Health and Improved Vision

Written by Andrew Le, MD

UpdatedFebruary 28, 2024

Our eyes are responsible for our sense of sight, making it very important to care for them, like how we care for the rest of our body. Unfortunately, eye health is one of the things many people take for granted. According to the CDC, 93 million adults in the US are at high risk for serious vision loss. Yet, only half have visited an eye doctor in the past year.

Taking steps to better care for vision doesn’t need to be complicated. Making simple diet changes can go a long way in supporting eye health. Modifying our diet and eating foods for eye health are among the essential steps we should take.

This article will explore the best foods for eye health, including how they benefit the eyes. We will also discuss the difference between taking supplements and eating nutritious foods, the importance of drinking water for eye health, eye-related health problems due to improper diet, and lifestyle modifications you can do to better care for your eyes.

🔑 Key Takeaways

  • Vitamins A, C, E, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, and zeaxanthin are crucial for maintaining eye health and preventing conditions like AMD and dry eyes.
  • Prioritize consuming natural foods rich in nutrients needed for eye health over supplements.
  • Leafy greens like spinach and kale are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin. Leafy greens not only support eye health but also slow cognitive decline.
  • Vitamin C lowers the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). One orange a day can significantly reduce AMD risk.
  • Regularly consuming omega-3-rich fish like salmon and mackerel reduces the risk of AMD and dry eye diseases.
  • Incorporating various foods like berries, nuts, seeds, legumes, and lean meats into the diet provides the nutrients needed for eye health.
  • Before making dietary changes or taking supplements, consulting healthcare professionals to receive proper advice based on individual health needs and conditions is recommended.
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Beneficial Nutrients for the Eyes

There are many nutrients needed by the body to keep our eyes healthy. Both can be acquired by eating natural food and taking eye supplements. However, consuming natural foods is more highly recommended than supplements for adequate nutrients. Supplements are mostly needed by those with dietary restrictions, nutrient deficiencies, and other health conditions to receive adequate nutrients.

The nutrients needed to maintain eye health include:

1. Vitamin A

Vitamin A is crucial for vision as it helps the eyes produce specific pigments that allow us to see the full spectrum of light. It's also essential for keeping the photoreceptors in the eyes, which are the light-sensing cells healthy. The American Academy of Ophthalmology stated that a quarter to half a million children become blind yearly due to vitamin A deficiency. With enough Vitamin A, individuals can avoid conditions like night blindness, dry eyes, or even more serious eye issues.

The recommended daily intake of Vitamin A is about 700-900 mcg for adults.

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2. Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Lutein and Zeaxanthin are types of carotenoids; they are pigments in plants and the retina of your eyes. They are essential in absorbing blue and ultraviolet light, which can damage the eyes. Numerous research studies indicate that these nutrients are linked to a lower risk of chronic eye conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The recommended daily intake is around 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin.

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3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

These essential fats are abundant in the photoreceptor cells of the retina. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a form of omega-3, is believed to aid in developing retinal cells. It's also considered helpful in reducing inflammation and assisting the healing and regeneration of retinal and corneal cells after damage caused by light exposure and the aging process.

The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids to the eyes are proven by research, with studies finding that they help prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and dry eye diseases. Those who consume adequate amounts of omega-3 have a 17% lower risk of getting dry eye disease and a 38% lower risk of AMD

As the National Institute of Health recommends, omega-3 fatty acids consumption should be 1.1 - 1.6 grams daily.

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4. Zinc

Zinc, a natural antioxidant in the eyes, helps prevent cell damage. This important mineral is found in high amounts in the choroid (the vascular layer beneath the retina), and retina. Zinc mainly transports vitamin A from the liver to the retina, which is important to enable melanin production.

Zinc is believed to help with vitamin A metabolism, support photoreceptor function in the eye, and serve as an antioxidant, potentially reducing the risk and progression of age-related macular degeneration and other chronic eye diseases.

It is recommended to take 80mg of Zinc daily.

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5. Vitamin C

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is an antioxidant found in high amounts in the eye fluid. This vitamin is linked to reducing the risk of developing cataracts. Additionally, when taken with other nutrients, Vitamin C helps slow down the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and prevent vision loss.

The recommended daily intake of vitamin C is 500 mg.

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6. Vitamin E

Studies suggest that vitamin E plays a significant role in preventing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), particularly for individuals exhibiting early symptoms of the condition. In the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), where almost 5,000 participants were included, those with early stages of AMD experienced a 25% reduced risk of progressing to more advanced stages when they consumed a daily vitamin E supplement.

The recommended daily intake of vitamin E is 400 IU.

Eating foods high in these nutrients and minerals will help keep your eyes healthy. Now, let’s discuss the best foods to get these nutrients and keep your eyes healthy.

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10 Best Foods for Eye Health

There are many foods to choose from that are best for the eyes. Certain nutrients in these foods can improve your overall eye health and even help prevent vision problems. You can find the best food below if you are trying to modify your diet for your eye health.

1. Carrots

We often see carrots advertised as good for the eyes in movies and films, which is very accurate. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene. The body converts it into vitamin A, vital for eye health. Eating carrots regularly can help maintain the health of your eyes.

A study conducted in 2019 revealed that organic carrots contain significantly higher amounts of calcium, beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, and phosphorus than non-organic ones. Try to buy organic carrots as much as possible to get most of their health benefits.

Here are ways to incorporate carrots into your diet:

  • Carrot sticks: One of the simplest ways to enjoy carrots is to cut them into sticks and eat them as a healthy snack. They're perfect for dipping in hummus, ranch, or yogurt dips.
  • Salads: Grate or chop your carrots depending on your desired size, and add them to your salads. Carrots' sweet and mild taste can easily be partnered with other leafy greens and nuts.
  • Smoothies: Making carrot smoothies is very good in the morning. You can add other fruits, such as oranges and apples, or you can enjoy carrots alone.
  • Cooked Dishes: Carrots can also be cooked and included in soups, stews, stir-fries, and casseroles.
  • Baking: Grated carrots can be incorporated into baked goods like muffins, cakes, and bread. This is also a great way to sneak in carrots for children.

2. Leafy Green Vegetables

Leafy green vegetables are incredibly beneficial for eye health because they contain essential nutrients, particularly lutein and zeaxanthin. Aside from its nutritional benefits to the eyes, a study found that consuming leafy green vegetables is strongly associated with a slower cognitive decline.

Examples of leafy green vegetables include:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Green leaf lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Chard

Here are ways to incorporate leafy greens into your diet:

  • Salad: One of the simplest ways to enjoy leafy greens is in a salad. Mix different types like spinach, kale, and romaine for varied textures and flavors. Add nuts, seeds, and your favorite dressing to make it more appetizing.
  • Cooking Asian Dishes: Asian cuisine has a variety of ways to incorporate leafy greens into meals. Try making dishes like stir-fried bok choy, spinach in miso soup, or kale in a Thai green curry.
  • Wraps and Sandwiches: Another easy method to incorporate leafy greens into your diet is adding them to your wraps and sandwiches. This way, you get to eat leafy greens with carbs like bread and different kinds of meat.
  • Smoothies: Adding greens like spinach or kale to your morning smoothie is an easy way to increase your intake. They blend well with fruits like bananas, berries, and mangoes, masking the taste of the greens while adding nutrients.


Consume fibrous foods like leafy greens in moderation, as dietary guidelines recommend, to avoid digestive issues like bloating and constipation.

3. Fish

Several fish varieties are abundant in omega-3 fatty acids. Oily fish, which contain oil both in their gut and body tissue, provide greater amounts of omega-3-rich fish oil when consumed.

In a large study following female health professionals, those who regularly ate fish and consumed DHA and EPA (types of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish) had a 35% to 45% lesser risk of developing a major form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) over a 10 year period.

Some examples of fish rich in omega-3 include:

  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Anchovies
  • Halibut
  • Cod
  • Herring
  • Sardines

Aim to consume fish 2-3 times weekly for the best benefits.

Here are ways to incorporate fish into your diet:

  • Grilled or baked: Try grilling or baking fish, adding lemon, olive oil, and other herbs to enjoy a nutritious and delicious meal. These two methods also preserve the flavor and nutrients of the fish.
  • Stir-Fries: Incorporate fish into stir-fries with a mix of vegetables for a balanced meal. Fish cooks quickly and absorbs flavors well, making it perfect for stir-fry dishes.
  • Fish Soups and Stews: During the winter or cold season, you can try cooking fish in stews and soups with vegetables and other spices.
  • Fish Sandwiches and Wraps: Create sandwiches or wraps with leftover grilled or baked fish. Add lettuce, tomato, and a light dressing for a healthy lunch.
  • Sushi and Sashimi: If you enjoy Japanese cuisine, sushi and sashimi are great ways to consume raw fish. Just make sure that the fish is fresh and eat them in moderation.

4. Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits contain vitamin C, which is critical to eye health. Research indicates that consuming just one orange daily may lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by as much as 60%.

Vitamin C-rich fruits include:

  • Grapefruit
  • Oranges
  • Lemons
  • Limes

The recommended daily consumption of citrus fruits is one to two servings.

Below are ways to incorporate citrus fruits into your diet:

  • Fresh Fruit Juice: Creating fresh fruit juices from citrus fruits is one of the easiest ways to consume them while taking most of the nutrients they give. You can drink them during the start of your day or in the middle of the day for snacks. It is best to create the juice yourself or buy products with pure fruit juices and less preservatives.
  • Snacking: Simply peeling and eating oranges or clementines can be a quick and healthy snack. They’re easy to carry and can be enjoyed anywhere.
  • Smoothies: You can also blend citrus fruits into your smoothies. They pair well with berries, bananas, and leafy greens.
  • Citrus-Infused Water: Add slices of lemons, limes, oranges to your water. It’s a great way to stay hydrated while enjoying the subtle flavors of citrus.

5. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are food sources containing good amounts of vitamin E and omega 3, which can help slow down age-related eye damage. One to two handful servings of nuts and seeds a day can be a healthy addition to your diet. You can eat them as snacks in between meals.

However, it is essential to be aware that eating more than two handful servings of nuts per day can add extra calories to your diet.

Some examples of nuts and seeds include:

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almond
  • Flaxseeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pistachios
  • Pumpkin seeds

Here are ways to incorporate nuts and seeds into your diet:

  • As a Snack: One of the simplest ways to enjoy nuts and seeds is to have them as a snack. Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, or a mix of your favorite nuts and seeds can be a satisfying and healthy snack.
  • In Breakfast Cereals: You can sprinkle a handful of nuts and seeds over your breakfast cereal or oatmeal. They make fun toppings that add an extra crunch to your breakfast.
  • Salad toppings: Aside from adding them to your breakfast cereals, they also make a good addition to any kind of salad. Add sunflower, pumpkin, or sliced almonds to your next salad.
  • Baking Ingredient: Incorporate nuts and seeds into your baking. They can be added to bread, muffins, cookies, and other baked goods for extra flavor and texture.
  • Pesto and Sauces: Use nuts like pine and walnuts to make pesto and other sauces. These can be used with pasta, a spread, or a dressing.

🩺 Doctor’s Note

Before incorporating nuts into your diet, ensure you are not allergic. Peanuts and tree nuts are common allergens that can trigger severe reactions in some individuals.

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6. Legumes

Legumes, on the other hand, contain zinc, which is essential for retinal health and overall eye function. The combination of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds found in legumes is beneficial in fighting vision loss conditions like retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration. These benefits make legumes an essential part of a diet focused on preventing blindness.

In 2017, a study published in the Journal of Public Health Nutrition examined the diets of almost 17,000 people. They concluded that incorporating legumes and nuts into the diet while reducing consumption of added sugars and alcohol effectively enhances overall diet quality, which helps lower the risk of chronic disease development.

There are about 16,000 types of legumes, examples include:

  • Peanuts
  • Chickpeas
  • Green peas
  • Black beans
  • Lima beans
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Kidney beans
  • Red beans
  • Pinto beans

The dietary guidelines in the US suggest a weekly intake of approximately 3 cups of legumes.

Here are ways to incorporate legumes into your diet:

  • Salads: Add cooked beans or lentils to your salads for extra protein and fiber. They pair well with a variety of vegetables and dressings.
  • Side Dishes: Cooked legumes can be a simple side dish. Season them with herbs and spices for added flavor.
  • Pasta Dishes: Add legumes to pasta sauces for increased protein content. They work well in both tomato-based and creamy sauces.
  • Baking: Believe it or not, beans can be used in baking. Black beans, for instance, are significant in brownies, they add moisture to the texture without altering the taste significantly.
  • Vegetarian Burgers: Use mashed beans or lentils to make vegetarian patties. They are a nutritious and tasty alternative to meat burgers.
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7. Eggs

Eggs are not widely known to have significant benefits to the eyes. The deep orange hue of the egg yolk is a sign of its high carotenoid content, an antioxidant present in foods that are orange, red, or yellow. Eating one to two eggs a day is safe for most adults. However, The American Heart Foundation suggests eating up to six eggs a week for those at risk of heart disease.

In a study, people who ate 2-4 eggs a week had a lower risk of developing advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) after 15 years than those who ate 1 egg a week or less.

Below are ways to incorporate eggs into the diet:

  • Breakfast: Start your day with eggs cooked depending on how you like it: boiled, scrambled, poached, or fried. Pair them with whole-grain toast, vegetables, or fruit for a balanced meal.
  • Omelets and Frittatas: Combine eggs with vegetables, cheese, and meats to make a hearty frittata. This is a great way to use leftover veggies.
  • Baking: Use eggs in baking cakes, cookies, and bread. Eggs are essential ingredients in a lot of baked products.
  • Salads: Top your salads with hard-boiled eggs for added protein and flavor. They work well in green salads, potato salads, or pasta salads.
  • Sandwiches and Wraps: Make egg salad for sandwiches or wraps. Alternatively, sliced hard-boiled eggs can be a great addition to any sandwich or wrap.

8. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene, vitamin C, and E. Sweet potatoes benefit eyesight, particularly in enhancing night vision and reducing eye dryness. However, they should only be eaten about two to three times a week in moderation due to their high sugar content.

Here are ways to incorporate sweet potatoes into the diet:

  • Baked or Roasted: Baking or roasting sweet potatoes is a simple and healthy way to enjoy them. They can be eaten as a side dish or topped with cinnamon and honey.
  • Sweet Potato Fries: Cut sweet potatoes into strips or wedges, toss them with olive oil and your favorite spices, and bake until crispy. They are a healthier alternative to regular fries.
  • Stuffed Sweet Potatoes: Bake sweet potatoes and stuff them with a filling of your choice, such as black beans, corn, avocado, and cheese.
  • Sweet Potato Salad: Cube and roast sweet potatoes, then mix them into salads. They pair well with greens, nuts, and a vinaigrette dressing.

9. Berries

All kinds of berries are rich in vitamin C, contributing to eye health by combating oxidative stress. Just one cup of berries already contains many nutrients such as fiber, vitamin K, iron, and manganese. Studies have shown that regular consumption of blueberries is linked to several health benefits, such as lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and improved brain health and weight management.

Different kinds of berries include:

  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Goji berries
  • Strawberries
  • Bilberries
  • Acai Berries
  • Cranberries
  • Grapes

A professor in epidemiology at Harvard suggested eating a cup of berries daily, especially in season, to get all their benefits.

Below are ways to incorporate berries into meals:

  • As a Fresh Snack: Enjoy berries on their own as a healthy, refreshing snack.
  • In Breakfast Cereals and Oatmeal: Add fresh or frozen berries to your morning cereal or oatmeal.
  • Berry Jams: Make your berry jams. Homemade versions can be healthier with less sugar than store-bought ones.
  • As a Topping: Use berries to top pancakes, waffles, or desserts.
  • Smoothies: Berries are great in smoothies. Blend them with yogurt, milk, juice, and other fruits for a delicious and healthy drink.
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10. Lean Meat and Poultry

Lean meat and poultry are sources of zinc and help bring vitamin A from the liver to the retina. The retina utilizes vitamin A to produce melanin, which protects our eyes and skin. The recommended daily intake of lean meat varies and depends on age, sex, and overall health. Make sure to eat a balanced portion daily and consume it with other protein sources and types of food.

Examples of lean meat and poultry include:

  • Skinless chicken breast
  • Pork loin
  • Tenderloin
  • White meat fish
  • Lean beef
  • White meat fish

Here are ways to incorporate lean meat and poultry into the diet:

  • Grilled or Roasted: Grilling or roasting lean meats and poultry is a healthy cooking method that retains natural flavors. Serve with vegetables and whole grains for a balanced meal.
  • Soups and Stews: Use lean meats in soups and stews. They add substance and protein, making these dishes more filling and nutritious.
  • Stir-Fries: Add sliced lean meats or poultry to stir-fries with a variety of vegetables for a quick and healthy dish.
  • Pasta Dishes: Incorporate lean meats or poultry into pasta sauces or as part of the main dish, like in a chicken alfredo or spaghetti Bolognese.
  • Casseroles: Lean meats and poultry can be the main protein in casseroles, combined with vegetables, grains, or pasta and a healthy sauce.
  • Homemade Burgers or Meatballs: Use lean ground meats to make healthier burgers or meatballs. Serve them with whole-grain buns or over whole-grain pasta.

These foods are essential to incorporate into your diet, but make sure to eat them in moderate amounts following the dietary guidelines provided. Individuals should control the consumption of these foods according to their health status. Talking to a healthcare provider is recommended to know what is best for you and your needs.

Final Thoughts

Eye health should not be taken for granted. Modifying your diet by eating foods that are good for the eyes is one of the essential steps that you can take to better care for your eyes. Nutrients such as vitamins A, E, C, zinc, and carotenoids are all important to present in your daily consumption.

There are many foods to choose from, such as berries, carrots, sweet potatoes, eggs, nuts, and others. All of them are budget-friendly, and consumption should be within the recommended amount.

Aside from modifying your diet, it is also important to always drink adequate water, wear sunglasses, quit smoking, and limit your screen time. Regularly visit your eye doctor for early detection of eye conditions, if there are any.

FAQs on Foods for Eye Health

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Can changing my diet reverse existing eye conditions?

A healthy diet rich in foods for eye health may slow the progression of certain eye conditions. However, it's unlikely to reverse existing eye damage. Combine your dietary changes with regular medical check-ups and follow any treatment plans your eye care provider prescribes.

How quickly can I see results from dietary changes regarding eye health?

The impact of dietary changes on eye health can vary depending on individual health conditions and the extent of the changes. While some people may notice improvements in a matter of weeks, for others, it may be a more gradual process over several months.

Can a vegetarian or vegan diet provide all the necessary nutrients for eye health?

Yes, many of the best foods for eye health are plant-based. Hence, a well-planned vegetarian or vegan diet can provide most nutrients essential for eye health. You can incorporate plant-based sources of omega-3s, such as flaxseeds and walnuts, and other nutrients into such diets.

Is it safe for children to follow the same dietary recommendations for eye health?

Generally, the foods recommended for eye health are also safe and beneficial for children. However, portion sizes and specific nutrient needs may vary based on age and developmental stages, so it's best to consult with a pediatrician.