Your sight is precious and like the rest of you, it too deteriorates with age. Free radical damage (oxidation) caused by light, smoke, pollution and even a bad diet - hydrogenated fats and alcohol are among the worst offenders - can lead to impaired vision, especially as we grow older. Can what you eat really make a difference to your eyesight? Many experts certainly think so, and yes, carrots are on the list.
Ever told as a child to eat up your carrots because they can help you see in the dark? Well in theory, they can! This is due to their beta carotene content. Beta carotene belongs to a large group of antioxidants called caretenoids and is converted by the body into vitamin A. Vitamin A is found within the retina and it plays a crucial role in the function of rods and cones needed for healthy vision.
Poor vision at night and difficulty adapting to different lights have been linked to low levels of vitamin A, and food sources include – yes you’ve guessed it – carrots, so your gran wasn’t fibbing after all. You can also find vitamin A in apricots, asparagus and broccoli.
Lutein, zeaxanthin and astaxanthin
Other important nutrients for eye health include lutein, zeaxanthin and astaxanthin.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are found naturally in the macula and the retina of the eye, and can be sourced from dark green, leafy vegetables; they have antioxidant and other health-promoting properties, especially for eyes.
Astaxanthin, naturally present in algae, shrimps, salmon and red peppers, is one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants. It is believed to help counter free radical damage and have a particular affinity for the eyes.
Bilberry and eye health
Rich in vitamin C and other eye-supportive nutrients, bilberries are frequently praised as being beneficial for eye health and vision support, and often top the list of ingredients in supplements for eye support . They contain incredibly high amounts of anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants, that have been found to help with a number of sight-related conditions, including glaucoma and myopia (short-sightedness) , and dry and tired eyes.
Bilberries may also help to lower blood sugar, blood pressure and inflammation, all of which, when experienced chronically, can have negative effects on eye health and vision.
Need a helping hand?
Keep an eye out for these best-selling eye support supplements
Solgar Bilberry Berry Extract with Blueberry , £23.75 for 60 capsules
An anthocyanin-rich powerhouse, this popular eye support supplement provides 60mg of standardised bilberry extract with additional blueberry for a potent antioxidant boost.
Hadley Wood Vision Essentials , £15.78 for 60 capsules
A complete supplement for eye health support, with lutein, bilberry extract and vitamins B2, C and A.
Quest Beta Carotene, £6.55 for 30 tablets
A great source of vitamin A and a natural antioxidant. Each 15 mg tablet is equal to 2500µg of vitamin A.
In addition to nutrient support, an eye test at least every two years is very important. These will help to establish whether your eyes are changing and if they need any help from glasses or contact lenses. Regular tests should also detect any problems early on, making them more treatable.