Most people take the health of their eyes for granted, even though they are exposed to potentially damaging conditions nearly every day. Whether you stare at a computer screen all day, drive long distances, or are exposed to potentially hazardous chemicals and dust, your eyes are subject to plenty of wear and tear. They need protection! Smart nutrition can help keep your eyes functioning at peak levels during your working years and beyond. Certain nutrients not only help reduce day-to-day eye strain but also protect you from developing eye diseases such as cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma.

Here are five foods that can help protect your eyesight today and for years to come.

  1. Cantaloupe – The beta-carotene in deep orange fruits and vegetables is a potent antioxidant for your eyes. Without enough beta-carotene (a form of vitamin A) in your diet, the retina cannot produce enough pigment and night blindness can result.
  2. Broccoli – Dark green vegetables like broccoli are rich in many nutrients that promote eye health, especially the important antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. These two nutrients, found in high concentrations in the retina, lens and macula of the eye, act as a sunblock for the eyes, protecting them from harmful UV radiation.
  3. Halibut – contain omega-3 essential fatty acids, needed for healthy vision. One study found that adults who consume at least two servings of fatty fish per week were significantly less likely to develop macular degeneration. Omega-3s have also been shown to protect against dry eye syndrome, a condition affecting many in the workplace today.
  4. Sunflower seeds – These seeds contain high levels of vitamin E, another potent antioxidant proven to be beneficial for eyes. Vitamin E helps neutralize oxidation and protect eye tissue, important because our eyes appear to be especially susceptible to oxidative stress and damage.
  5. Beef – Beef is rich in zinc, an important mineral. High levels of zinc are found in the retina. It works together with vitamin A to protect the eye and improve vision, especially at night. Zinc is easily depleted with stress, exercise and illness, so it’s important to frequently replenish it.

What you don’t eat is as important as what you do! Maximize your eye health by avoiding the following foods which can actually harm your eyesight.

Excess sugar and refined grains – These foods raise blood sugar to sky-high levels, causing the lens of the eye to swell and affecting your ability to see.

Bad fats – Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats cause inflammation of the blood vessels, including the blood vessels leading to the heart and those delicate blood vessels in the eye. Just as arteries can become clogged and cause a heart attack, clogged blood vessels in the eye can lead to impaired vision.

Smart food choices like the ones Chef Marshall just described will keep your eyes healthy and bright today and for years to come. Add these foods to your life and you will love the way you feel!