When it comes to improving vision and maintaining healthy eyesight research studies suggest that there is a link between the quality of our diet and the quality of our vision health. For instance, studies show that diets that lack fruits and vegetables and include lots of junk foods and sugary foods tend to increase the risks for eye diseases such as macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. On the other hand, diets that are rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and healthy proteins like albacore tuna, salmon and fish help to significantly reduce the risks for age related eye diseases. When it comes to nutrition for better vision one particular term you have probably heard mentioned many times is the word phytochemical. What are phytochemicals and what role do they play in protecting and improving our vision health?
Phytochemicals are a wide variety of chemical compounds in plants that are found in a variety of different foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and legumes. These chemical compounds serve a variety of useful functions. They play various roles in the body in terms of disease fighting properties.They also play a role in maintaining good general health.These natural chemical plant compounds give fruits and vegetables their green,red,and purple colors and reduce the risks for diseases such as cancer,boost the body’s immune system,lower blood pressure and promote better heart health.
Phytochemicals are subdivided into 4 main categories. These include carotenoids, flavonoids, ellagic acid and allium compounds,(medicinal protective chemicals in plants that protect the heart and immune system found in onions, scallions, chives and garlic). In addition to their general health benefits the subdivision of phytochemicals called carotenoids play a major role in improving vision and protecting eye health. Some types of carotenoids include beta carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Beta Carotene: Beta Carotene which is a precursor to Vitamin A plays a role in protecting the surface of the eyes (the cornea) from bacterial infections. Vitamin A in combination with other vision promoting nutrients like Vitamin C, E, Zinc and Copper reduces the risks for age related vision diseases.
Lycopene: This is the pigment that gives tomatoes their red color. Scientific research suggests that Lycopene when combined with other vision supporting nutrients such as Lutein and Zeaxanthin may actually reduce the risks for age related macular degeneration and cataracts in aging eyes.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin: These antioxidants collectively play a role in filtering out harmful blue light from the sun and act as natural sunglasses in protecting eyesight. Concentrations of these antioxidants are found in the highest levels in the tissues of the eyes more than any other part of the body. Therefore, they play a role as powerful antioxidants in neutralizing disease causing free radical cells in the eyes that cause harm to healthy eye cells. Their role in reducing age related eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts has been documented in scientific research studies.
Phytochemicals are a wide variety of disease fighting chemical compounds in plants providing a variety of health benefits. These include a reduction in heart disease, immune system boosting benefits, and a reduction in age related vision disorders. By including food sources of these healthy plant compounds in our diet, we are doing something good for our general health while protecting our precious eyesight as well.