A carrot a day, helps you find your way

A carrot a day, helps you find your way (in the dark that is)

We’ve all heard that carrots are good for your eyesight, but, there are actually several fruits and vegetables that contain the compounds, known as carotenoids, which are known for their functions in the eye. These compounds are becoming increasingly known for improving eyesight and preventing age-related declines in vision, such as macular degeneration and cataracts.

An article today on ScienceDaily.com mentions a group from the University of Liverpool that has come out with a guide called “Fruit for Vision,” giving details on how to add more fruits and vegetables into the diet. Until I can get my hands on this guide, I thought it would be helpful to list some of the common food sources of carotenoids. The carotenoids with eye-related functions are the beta- and alpha- carotenes, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin.

Because lutein and zeaxanthin are the only carotenoids actually found in the retina and lens of the eye, a lot of research has focused on them. There are no official recommended values at this point. But, eating a varied diet filled with fruits and vegetables will most likely cover your requirements. The diet sources are as follows:

Egg yolk, corn, kiwi, red seedless grapes, zucchini squash, pumpkin, spinach, orange pepper, yellow squash, cucumber, peas, green pepper. A more exhaustive list can be found in this article on Pubmed.

And, going back to the carrots, vitamin A is also essential for vision. Some carotenoids serve as the precursors for vitamin A, these are beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. There are RDAs for Vitamin A, and though they can be confusing because of the conversions necessary to take into account the activity of the carotenoids, they are as follows:

900 and 700 mcg/day, for men and women respectively (over the age of 14 years)

Besides carrots, the diet sources of beta- (and alpha-) carotene are: sweet potato, spinach (cooked), kale, cantaloupe, apricots, papaya. For a more exhaustive list detailing sources and amounts of Vitamin A see this list from the NIH.

Some non-carrot carotenoids

Some non-carrot carotenoid sources

Though we are talking about eye health, it bears repeating that all of these foods are good for most apsects of your health, as well as great for maintaining a healthy diet. They are all nutrient dense, low calorie and filled with fiber, so you can indulge yourself, guilt-free.