The best vitamins for the eyes are a combination of several nutrients including different antioxidants and essential and trace minerals. These vitamins help with the impairment of vision from age, improper care, or genetics. Although vitamins cannot provide a miracle cure for all vision loss, preventing a deficiency in addition to increasing certain vitamins in the presence of specific conditions can certainly help to improve and preserve healthy eyesight.
Vitamin A contributes to the retina, which indicates light changes. The rods and cones within the retina need vitamin A to communicate to the nervous system the amount of light that exists in the present atmosphere. A healthy liver can store up to a year's worth of vitamin A in the body, and a deficiency in America is quite rare. However, a deficiency most commonly leads to night blindness. Potent sources of vitamin A include orange and yellow foods such as carrots and sweet potatoes.
Beta-carotene converts to vitamin A once ingested. Because beta-carotene is an antioxidant, it prevents cell destruction caused by free radicals. This especially protects against age related macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in the elderly. Carrots, broccoli and spinach are rich sources of beta-carotene. Those who eat a diet full of these foods are less likely to develop macular degeneration.
Vitamin C is highly concentrated in the eye. This antioxidant helps to protect the eye from oxygen related damage. More specifically, it protects retinal cells and prevents macular degeneration and other diseases of the retina. Vitamin C also reduces intraocular pressure by raising the acidity in the blood. This helps with the common visual impairment glaucoma.
Vitamin E is another antioxidant that protects the eye from free radical damage. It protects the lens from free radical damage such as cigarette smoke and light damage. Vitamin E protects the retinal cells from malfunctioning and also reduces the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. Rich sources of vitamin E are vegetable oils, nuts and seeds.
Chromium is a natural option for lowering the pressure in eyelids. Chromium is often supplemented by glaucoma patients. Sources of chromium include starchy fruits and vegetables, Brewer's Yeast and egg yolks.
Selenium is a mineral that helps produce the protective enzyme glutathione peroxidase found in healthy eyes. Selenium also boosts the effectiveness of antioxidants such as beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E. Doctors do not normally recommend a sole selenium supplement. They prefer that it is taken in a multivitamin or through foods such as garlic, onions, mushrooms and fish.
Zinc aids in the prevention of retinal deterioration that comes with age. Zinc produces antioxidant enzymes found in the eye, and many doctors recommend this essential mineral in addition to other cataract treatments and medications. Zinc also works with vitamin A to help the eyes adjust to different levels of darkness. The richest food sources of zinc are protein rich foods such as all meats. Vegetarians can find zinc in beans and dairy, but these sources are not as potent.
- Cherie Calbom and Maureen Keane, "Juicing For Life," 1992
- Earl Mindell, "Vitamin Bible for the 21st Century," 1999
- Gary Null, Ph.D., "The Complete Encyclopedia of Natural Healing; A comprehensive A-Z listing of common and chronic illnesses and their proven natural treatments," 1998