Eating leafy green vegetables in your diet has a number of healthful benefits, including being good for your eyes. Kale, spinach, broccoli, turnip greens, romaine lettuce, and collard greens are just some of the leafy greens that contain carotenoids with antioxidant properties that help protect your eyes from retinal damage and eye disease. Green vegetables that are darker in color usually contain more vitamins and minerals, including the antioxidant beta carotene which contributes to eye health.
Vitamin A Helps Prevent Vision Problems
Your eyes need vitamin A for color vision. Also known as retinol, vitamin A produces the pigments in photoreceptor cells in the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive part of the eye that perceives color through these cone-shaped cells. When you experience decreased color perception, colors appear less bright.
Not getting enough vitamin A can also lead to problems with night vision. Often referred to as night blindness, the condition makes it more difficult to see and drive in the dark. Low contrast sensitivity is a symptom that makes it harder to see in low light and glare.
If you have low vitamin A levels, along with eating leafy green vegetables also include more bright yellow and orange vegetables and fruits in your diet. Your doctor may also recommend vitamin A supplements.
Poor diet isn't the only factor that contributes to vitamin A deficiency. Children who grow rapidly, individuals with other nutrient deficiencies, and those with health conditions or diseases that cause poor absorption of fat-soluble vitamins can become vitamin A deficient. If left untreated, the deficiency can lead to blindness.
Vitamin B12 Protects Nerve Cells of the Eye
Vitamin B12 helps preserve the myelin coating -- a fatty layer of material that covers and protects nerve fibers. A lack of vitamin A can damage myelin and nerve cells of the retina, leading to symptoms such as double vision, blurry vision, sensitivity to light, blind spots, reduced color vision, and partial loss of vision.
Green vegetables high in vitamin B12 include spinach, kale, and romaine lettuce. You must also eat eggs, meat, seafood, and dairy products to prevent vitamin B12 deficiency.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin Protect Against Free-Radical Damage
Both lutein and zeaxanthin filter harmful blue wavelengths of light and absorb excessive ultraviolet light. While blue light helps to elevate mood and increase attention span, the downside is it may contribute to the development of macular degeneration.
Recent studies suggest that getting enough of these two antioxidant nutrients in your daily diet helps protect the retina from free-radical damage and may reduce the risk of developing eye disease. Lutein and zeaxanthin, which are stored in the retina of the eye, may help prevent age-related vision problems, including macular degeneration and cataracts. Lutein may also slow the progression of the disease if you already have macular degeneration.
These carotenoids improve pigment density in the macula -- a small, opaque spot near the center of the retina that contributes to clear, central vision. A higher pigment density lowers your risk for macular degeneration.
Dark leafy vegetables high in lutein and zeaxanthin include cooked kale, cooked spinach, and cooked turnip greens. Cooking the vegetables provides more of these nutrients since you get more in a serving. Talk to a professional like Optiko Eyewear for more information.