Eye Health – Nutrition and the eye

A balanced diet, rich in fruit and vegetables, is important for our overall health and therefore may also be helping to keep our eyes as healthy as they can be.

How your diet may affect your eye condition, depends a lot on the eye condition you have been diagnosed with.

Can being overweight affect my eyesight?

Being overweight in itself does not seem too be a risk factor for any particular eye condition, but being overweight does put you at risk of a number of health problems including;

  1. High blood pressure
  2. Type 2 diabetes
  3. Heart disease
  4. Stroke
  5. Some Cancers

Some of the health complications due to being overweight can cause problems that can affect your sight, these include;

  1. Retinal vein occlusions
  2. Diabetic eye problems
  3. Eye conditions related to a stroke

You can reduce your risk of developing these conditions, which can lead to sight loss, by maintaining a healthy weight, or by losing weight if you need to.

What do I need for a healthy balanced diet?

Most people can get all the vitamins and minerals they need from eating a healthy and balanced diet.


Starchy foods such as bread, pasta and rice should make up about a third of what you eat.

Wholemeal varieties of these foods will also increase your fibre intake.

Fruit and vegetables

You should eat between 5 and 10 portions of fruit and veg a day, as they are an important source of vitamins and minerals.  These can include fresh, frozen, dried or tinned.


The proteins found in meat, fish, eggs, milk, dairy, beans, nuts and seeds are important for repair and growth of your body. Protein is also a good source of vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc and B vitamins.


Fats and sugars are both sources of energy for your body, but if you eat too much it can cause obesity, which in turn can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, strokes and some cancers.

Saturated fats can raise levels of ‘bad cholesterol’ which can lead to heart disease. Saturated fats are found in food such as cheese, sausages, butter, cakes, biscuits and pies.

Unsaturated fats can help lower cholesterol levels. Unsaturated fats are found in foods such as oily fish, nuts and seeds, avocados and in vegetable and olive oils.

Added sugar

It is important to cut down on any added sugar in your diet.

Added sugar is found in items such as cakes, fizzy drinks, chocolate and other sweet foods such as pastries and jam.

Also, some savoury foods, such as pasta sauces and baked beans, contain lots of added sugars,


Do I need a dietary supplement?

Some people may be advised to take a supplement by their GP or eye specialist.

People who have a poor dietary intake of vitamins and minerals, for example some elderly people who have difficulties with digestion, may benefit from taking supplements to help prevent eye conditions, such as Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD)

Type of supplementArea affectedHow it helps
Vitamin C and ELensMay help prevent oxidative damage, e.g. cataracts
Vitamin CAqueous HumourIt Acts as a UV filter, preventing oxidative damage to the lens and retina
Vitamin A & ZincRetinaHelps maintain the health of the retina. Important in the ability of rods and cones to respond to light
Anti-oxidantsChoroidMaintains integrity of choroidal blood vessels
Lutein, Zeaxanthin & Meso-zeaxanthinMaculaMay help to maintain eye health as we age, including prevention of macular degeneration
Omega-3 fatty acidsConjunctiva & tear filmMaintains the balance of the tear film and maintains eye moisture

These vitamins and minerals can also be found in many fruits and vegetables.
The table below details where these nutrients can be found:

Vitamin ABeef or chicken liver, eggs, butter & milkProtects against night blindness and dry eye
Vitamin BWhole grains & avocadosReduces risk of cataracts and retinopathy
Vitamin CSweet peppers, kale, strawberries, broccoli, oranges & melonPlays a role in alleviating glaucoma and may reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration
Vitamin DSalmon, sardines, mackerel, milk, orange juiceExposure to sunlight produces vitamin D
May reduce the risk of macular degeneration
Vitamin EAlmonds, sunflower seeds & hazelnutsCombined with carotenoids and vitamin C may reduce the risk of advanced ARMD
ZincWhole grains, oysters, beef, turkey (dark meat) & avocadosHelps vitamin A reduce the risk of night blindness. Also may reduce the risk of advanced ARMD
Anti-oxidants/carotenoids: Lutein & ZeaxanthinGreen leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, turnip greens, collard greens & squashMay protect against cataracts and macular degeneration
SeleniumSeafood (shrimp, crab, salmon, halibut), brazil nuts & brown riceCombined with carotenoids and vitamins C & E, may reduce the risk of advanced ARMD
Omega-3 fatty acidsCold water fish such as cod, sardines, salmon, mackerel, herring & tuna. Also, freshly ground flaxseed & walnutsAlleviates symptoms of dry eye and guards against macular damage
Beta-carotenePapaya, carrots, sweet potato, spinach, kale & butternut squashCombined with zinc and vitamins C & E, may reduce progression of macular degeneration
BioflavonoidsTea, red wine, citrus fruits, bilberries, blueberries, cherries, legumes & soy productsMay protect against cataracts and macular degeneration
AnthocyaninsBlueberries & grapesMay help improve night vision
SulphurGarlic, onions, shallots & capersFor production of glutathione, which is required to maintain healthy sight

Eggs are also rich in some of the nutrients mentioned above including; cysteine, Sulphur, lecithin, amino acids and lutein.

Research has shown that eating just 1 portion of fish a week, may reduce your risk of developing ARMD by up to 40%.

Recommended Daily amounts for some key eye friendly nutrients:
Vitamin A – 0.7mg a day for men, 0.6mg a day for women
Vitamin B6 – 1.4mg a day for men, 0.6mg a day for women
Vitamin C – 40mg a day for all adults
Vitamin E – 4mg a day for men, 3mg a day for women
Zinc – 5.5-9.5mg a day for men, 4-7mg a day for women

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