Whenever I say to a patient “your eye health is great” they always come back with “Well, I eat a lot of carrots.” But are carrots really that important for eye health? Is there something else out there that will protect your eyes better?
Carrots provide Beta Carotene (vitamin A) which is actually very important for eye health. If you do not have sufficient vitamin A you will go blind. Many poor people throughout the world, mostly in cultures that have a rice based diet, have vitamin A deficiency, which leads to blindness and death (as it affects the immune system as well). Vitamin A deficiency affects small children and pregnant women most frequently. Adding vitamin A to poor diets around the world could save a third of all deaths before age 5. That being said, here in the western world with our current diets, no one is deficient in Vitamin A, so all the carrots in the world don’t really affect our eye health.
Spinach, on the other hand, can really help maintain healthy vision throughout our lives.
Spinach has lutein and zeaxanthin, which are antioxidants. These two antioxidants form a layer over the macula which protects the most sensitive area of your eye from harmful rays of light. The more leafy green veggies like spinach, kale, chard and turnip greens you eat, the thicker your protective layer is. Paprika and bell peppers also are high in lutein and zeaxanthin. Without this protective layer of pigment, you are more likely to develop macular degeneration which can cause blindness and is more prevalent here in the western world.
• Vitamin A
• Help your immune system and your visual system
• Without it children especially face blindness and death
• More important in the developing world
• Lutein and Zeaxanthin
• Protect your macula by establishing a protective layer over your fovea
• Helps prevent Age Related Macular Degeneration
The bottom line is: carrots and spinach are both healthy for your eyes, but spinach (and leafy green vegetables) are overall in shorter supply for people in the developed world.