In the alternative health world, we have a tendency to focus on superfoods — those products of nature that improve our health and nurture our bodies. Often, we skip over those foods which have the opposite effect. These not-so-superfoods can harm not only your health in general, but also the sensitive state of your eyes and vision.
That’s because certain foods can increase inflammation in the body, raise blood pressure, reduce nutrient absorption and harm your microbiome… all of which can negatively impact your eyes. Read on to learn about the worst foods for your eye health and vision, and those foods that are actually good for your eyes.
You must have known that this one was going to pop up somewhere on the list, right? Many of today’s most common health conditions and autoimmune disease can trace their origins back to glutenous foods, including wheat, barley and rye.
Gluten causes inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract by binding to the intestinal wall and contributing to leaky gut. This negatively impacts the good bacteria in your gut microbiome and prevents the absorption of many important vitamins and minerals. Cumulatively, this means that your eyes don’t function at their optimum level, receiving less than ideal levels of nutrients and a lower flow of oxygen-rich blood, due to your gluten-induced chronic stress state. This makes gluten one of the worst foods for your eye health and vision.
Other gluten-containing grains include spelt, durum, bulgar, triticale and oats. This means that the vast majority of baked goods contain gluten (unless otherwise stated), along with pasta, wraps and a wide range of processed goods. Read the package before buying to avoid damaging your eyes.
2. Soda and other sweetened beverages
Soda and most commercial beverages get their ultra-sweet taste due to high concentrations of high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup has been shown time and again to be amazingly detrimental to our health, significantly increasing our risk of cardiovascular disease by raising blood triglycerides and LDL cholesterol in the blood.
Increased blood pressure and elevated risk of cardiovascular disease make sweetened beverages one of the worst foods for eye health and vision. High blood pressure, in particular, can cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina, which in turn contributes to eye disease and poor vision.
Check out this post for more foods that contain high fructose corn syrup.
3. Sugary foods
While we’re on the topic of sweet beverages, why not take a stab at sugary foods as well? Studies show that eating too many sugary or starchy foods can contribute to macular degeneration, a major cause of blindness in older people and the most common eye disorder in the country. A study of over 4,000 U.S. adults aged 55 to 80 demonstrated that consumption of sugary foods and refined grains, such as white flour and most mass-produced pasta, meant a person had a higher risk of the disease.
This goes hand in hand with gluten-avoidance and suggests that you’re better off cutting back on all kinds of carbs and sugars if you’re serious about supporting healthy eyes.
4. Vegetable oils
Turns out, vegetable oils are one of the worst foods you can put in your body, and the same is true for the health of your eyes. Vegetable oils are highly modified plant oils, heated and processed to the point that they no longer resemble their original form. Therefore, our bodies have a hard time digesting them, and they can contribute to widespread inflammation. They also contain a very high percentage of polyunsaturated oils, the “bad boys” of the fat family, which promote free radical oxidation within the body.
That free radical damage can negatively impact the health of your eyes, while inflammation correlates to high blood pressure, which as we saw earlier can damage the blood vessels in your eyes. Foods that contain vegetable oils include most mass-produced goods, including basically anything you’ll find in the snack food and candy aisles of your supermarket. Stick to friendlier oils, like coconut, olive and avocado, and your eyes will thank you for it.
Foods that are good for the eyes
Enough of the doom and gloom. You’ve learned about some of the worst foods for your eye health and vision, but what about those foods that actually support your eyes?
Fortunately, this list is longer than the previous. Essentially, those foods which are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory are generally good for you eyes. Here’s a quick rundown of the best foods for your eyes.
Black currants are absolutely loaded with antioxidants, so much so that they’re one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. They contain anthocyanins, a potent family of antioxidants that fight free radical damage and stimulate cell repair in the body…including the eyes! They’re also rich in essential fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory.
Not far behind black currants in the eye support department are bilberries, not to be confused with blueberries! They look pretty darn similar to blueberries, and like blueberries contain a high concentration of pro-vision anthocyanins. This means that they can provide an excellent natural treatment for macular degeneration and cataracts.
Kale and other dark leafy greens are high in lutein. This natural compound stimulates eye health and promotes good vision. Overcooking your leafy greens will denature some of the lutein contained within, so stick to a light sauté or gentle steaming.
Whether you’re eating sockeye salmon or pink salmon, wild-caught salmon is an amazingly good food for your eyes. Salmon contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. These provide structural support for cell membranes and lower inflammation in the body. Wild-caught salmon also contains astaxanthin. This antioxidant protects against a wide range of eye diseases.
— Liivi Hess