Best Vegetables Vision:

Three of the Best Vegetables for Vision Health

by Orlin Sorensen

Ask anyone to name a vegetable that’s good for your eyes, and their first answer will most likely be carrots. And yes, while Bugs Bunny’s favorite snack is undeniably filled with vision-enhancing vitamins, there are other veggies that can enhance your eyesight (as well as your immune system, your heart, your colon … the list goes on). So when you’re eating for two (two eyes, that is), consider these three vision-boosting veggies: spinach, kale, and sweet potatoes.


According to the American Optometric Association’s 2008 American Eye-Q survey, which assesses public understanding of issues related to visual health, only 29 percent of Americans use nutrition as a tool to deal with vision loss or other eye problems.

The survey showed that nearly half of all Americans still believe carrots are the best food for eye health. But spinach and other dark, leafy greens prove to be one of the healthiest foods for eyes because they naturally contain large amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants essential to good vision.

While spinach has approximately the same amount of beta carotene as carrots, it has more lutein and zeaxanthin. Because of this, eating spinach can reduce your risk of getting certain eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration, which affects approximately 43 million Americans. In order to maintain healthy eyes, add 10 mg of lutein to your diet each day or eat one cup of cooked spinach four times a week (it is easier for the body to absorb nutrients from cooked spinach than from raw).

Spinach also helps prevent the formation of cataracts in the eye. Lutein and zeaxanthin are powerful antioxidants that protect the eyes from UV radiation damage, particularly from exposure to sunlight, which is one of the leading causes of cataracts.


Likewise, kale, a form of cabbage, is loaded with good-for-yous: vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and manganese; dietary fiber, calcium, copper, vitamin B6, and potassium. In fact, according to the World’s Healthiest Foods newsletter, “Kale has more nutritional value for fewer calories than almost any other food around.”

Kale is an excellent source of vitamin C: just one cup of this cooked vegetable supplies 88.8% of the daily value for vitamin C. It has been estimated that more than 50 percent of Americans do not take in the recommended dosage of vitamin C per day. Vitamin C has been shown to minimize or reduce the risk of cataracts and AMD.
Kale is also an excellent source of vitamin A because of its concentrated beta-carotene content. The WHF newsletter notes, “Once inside the body, beta-carotene can be converted into vitamin A, so when you eat kale, it's like getting both these beneficial nutrients at once.” One cup of kale provides 192.4% of the daily value for vitamin A.
Both vitamin A and beta-carotene are important vision nutrients. In a study of over 50,000 female nurses aged 45 to 67, women who consumed the highest dietary amount of vitamin A had a 39% reduced risk of developing cataracts.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes, native to the tropical parts of South America, have been cultivated for thousands of years. They are rich in complex carbohydrates, calcium, dietary fiber, beta carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. In 1992, the Center for Science in the Public Interest compared the nutritional value of sweet potatoes to other vegetables, and for many categories, including vitamins A and C, the sweet potato ranked highest in nutritional value, earning 184 points, 100 points over the next veggie on the list, the common potato.

Sweet potatoes contain unique root storage proteins that have significant antioxidant capacities. In one study, these proteins had about one third the antioxidant activity of glutathione, an antioxidant, immune system booster, and detoxifier. Sweet potatoes have healing properties as an antioxidant food, working in the body to eliminate free radicals, which are associated with the development of conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and degenerative eye diseases.

The antioxidant activity in sweet potato skin, regardless of its color, is almost three times higher than in the rest of the tissue. So purchase organically grown sweet potatoes, bake or boil them, and eat the entire tuber, skin and all.

Dr. Stuart Richer, optometrist and the American Optometric Association’s vision and nutrition expert, says, “Clinical research has shown that nutrients in eye-healthy foods can slow vision loss. Indeed, in some cases, these foods can even improve vision while providing additional health benefits to the patient.” That’s good—and good-tasting—news for all of us.

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