March isn’t just a celebration of all things Irish, it’s also National Nutrition Month® as designated by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. And guess what? Your eyes need nutrition too!
But jeepers creepers, what to feed those peepers? Carrots and other orange-colored fruits and vegetables? Of course! Your Mom wouldn’t lead you astray. A specific type of vitamin A called beta carotene, which gives carrots their cheerful orange color, helps the retina and other parts of the eye to function smoothly.
Your body converts beta carotene to vitamin A to help prevent dry eyes and night blindness as well as fend off various diseases. Even beyond carrots, other deep orange foods like sweet potatoes and butternut squash can also infuse that important beta carotene and vitamin A into your system.
However, beta carotene-rich orange foods have some close cousins like kale and spinach that are green with envy over all the eye-health fame that carrots have always gobbled up.
Per EatRight.org, the dark green leafy variety of foods pack a powerful vitamin-rich punch of lutein and zeaxanthin (related to vitamin A and beta carotene) which are “…believed to protect eye tissues from sunlight damage and reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.” The macula, the part of the retina that acts as a natural sunblock, stores lutein and zeaxanthin to help absorb blue light which is becoming increasingly important as we look at digital devices so frequently.
Without getting too complicated, blue light is a natural part of the visible light spectrum, but it reaches deeper into the eye than other parts of the light spectrum – when compounded over time, blue light can potentially cause damage to the retina.
While blue light is totally natural (sunlight, very beneficial to good our well-being in healthy quantities, is its main source), there are various man-made sources of blue light that have eyecare professionals looking closely at possible long terms effects of blue light on eye health. Digital display screens such as computers, TVs, tablets, smartphones, etc. don’t emit nearly as much blue light as the sun, but the proximity of these screens to our eyes and the amount of time spent looking at them are all very good reasons to load up on the nutrients in deep green veggies and other eye health-boosting whole foods.
So, whether they’re Irish or not, please keep those eyes smiling by feeding them all the good stuff they crave in celebration of National Nutrition Month® this March and beyond! For more information about eye health and this month’s delicious eye-healthy recipe, visit SneadEye.com.