By Linda Conlin, Pro to Pro Managing Editor

Some of the best things about summer are the farmer’s markets that seem to pop up everywhere. They are full of color – red, green, yellow, orange, purple – the visible spectrum of fruits and vegetables. They tantalize the taste buds, and not only do they delight the eye, but they’re beneficial to eye and vision health, too. While you’re gazing at those greens, consider what they can do to protect your vision.

Cataract is an opacity of the crystalline lens resulting from the accumulation of damaged cell protein. Antioxidants, such as Vitamin A and a- and b-carotene, remove damaged proteins and have been shown to protect against nuclear and cortical opacities. Good food sources of Vitamin A include carrots and apricots, and one cup of cooked sweet potato provides 204% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). The carrots your mom always told you were good for your eyes are also a good source of a- and b-carotene.

Glaucoma is damage to the optic nerve caused by increased intraocular pressure.  The right nutrients may help protect the optic nerve.  Studies have shown decreased risk of glaucoma among people who consumed more Vitamin A, folate, a- and b-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin (antioxidants). Spinach contains both lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as Vitamin A and a- and b-carotene.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition that results in loss of central visual field (macula) because of damage to the retina. In the retina, organic pigments absorb light and transmit a signal to the brain as an image. Depletion of the organic pigments impedes this process. Carotenoids are organic pigments that build and maintain the thickness of the retinal pigment. Carotenoids include lutein, zeaxanthin, and a- and b-carotene.

Most nutrients are best obtained from foods instead of supplements, but we may not consume the variety of necessary nutrients on a regular basis. For example, the recommended daily intake of lutein is 6 mg per day, but the average U.S. diet contains only 1.3 to 3 mg. Supplements are the answer, but which ones, and how much? The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) reported a nutritional supplement called the AREDS formulation can reduce the risk of developing advanced AMD. The formulation contains lutein, zeaxanthin, omega-3 fatty acids and zinc, but you will need to make sure that your diet includes plenty of Vitamin A and a- and b-carotene, too.

Most people will tell you carrots are best for your eyes, but did you notice that spinach contains all of the top eye vitamins? In the 2008 American Optometric Association Eye-Q Survey, 48% of respondents believed that carrots were the best food for eye health, while only 2% chose spinach. While we’re making our own dietary corrections, why not educate our patients, too? The benefits will go beyond vision to overall health.

You can learn more about how nutrition affects our vision with our CE, Nutrition and Vision, at, and take advantage of our extended Summer CE Sale. All CE courses are Buy One, Get One Free when you enter the code CESummerSale at checkout.