We all know how the food we eat can impact our body and overall well-being. As your eyes are often considered to be a window to the health of your body, it makes sense that your diet can also have an effect on your vision and eye health.
Here at OEL, my goal is to provide you with simple lifestyle and dietary strategies that are easy to implement in order to optimize your eye health. One of these methods involves learning how to nourish your body with nutritious eye foods, and how to avoid foods that have been found to be harmful.
Below is a list of seven types of foods and beverages that can harm your eyes, as well as your overall health:
+ no. 01 SUGAR
Processed or sugary food items can be bad for your overall health, contribute to diabetes, and impact your vision. How? Greater consumption of sugar can lead to high blood sugar (glucose), which in turn can cause the lens of the eye to swell and change your prescription—and ability to see. Additionally, high sugar intake from an unhealthy diet can also make you more vulnerable to age-related macular degeneration, which is a leading cause of vision loss.
+ no. 02 SALT + FOODS WITH HIGH SODIUM
While salt is an essential part of our diets, too much sodium can be bad for the body. Diets high in salt can cause your body to retain water. Your eyes can appear puffy and become swollen as your body works to stay hydrated. One of the biggest offenders with a surprising amount of sodium content is processed meats, such as deli meat. It’s also worth noting that salt intake also contributes to high blood pressure, so it’s best to steer clear of high sodium foods for a number of reasons to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
+ no. 03 FRIED FOODS
Did you know that your eye doctor can detect signs of heart disease just by looking inside your eyes? While it’s fine to treat yourself to a burger and fries occasionally, eating a regular diet full of fried foods can lead to clogged arteries and high blood pressure, which in turn can cause hypertensive retinopathy (retinal vascular damage). Your eye doctor can identify the signs of uncontrolled high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease by observing the tiny blood vessels within your eyes during your dilated eye exam.
+ no. 04 JUNK FOODS
Most people understand that “junk food” isn’t good for your waistline, but few understand that the same monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that pack on the pounds can put you at higher risk for eye diseases, too. Avoid highly-processed foods such as margarine, milk chocolate, potato chips, and peanut butter, to name a few. A high intake of these unhealthy fats has been linked to the development of advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Instead, replace these foods with healthy omega-3 fatty acids from salmon, tuna, and walnuts, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin from dark, leafy greens (such as spinach and kale) to reduce your risk of developing AMD.
Related Post: 5 Nutritious Foods for Healthy Eyes
+ no. 05 HIGH-GLYCEMIC FOODS
People with diabetes are advised to avoid high glycemic foods like white pasta, white bread and potatoes, because they can cause a spike in your blood sugar. But even healthy adults should be cautious about these foods! Salad dressings and condiments often have a surprising amount of sugar in them and should be avoided or used in moderation. Why? Studies suggest that the quantity and quality of carbs in one’s diet can play a role in the formation of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. When you top your leafy greens—which are very good for your eyes—with fatty or sugary dressings, you may be undoing the nutritious benefits that you were seeking in the first place.
+ no. 06 SOFT DRINKS
Many soft drinks are laden with sugar alternatives and chemicals that not only increase your glycemic index, but also increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Even diet sodas—often marketed as a healthier alternative to regular soda—have been linked to a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, all which can lead to retinal damage. Your best beverage option? Water, hands down. (Don’t like plain water? Liven it up by infusing fresh fruit or veggies, such as lemon, strawberries, or cucumbers for an extra hint of flavor.)
+ no. 07 ALCOHOL
Drinking too much alcohol can cause more than a bad hangover—it can cause eyelid twitching (myokymia), blurred or double vision, and slowed pupillary reactions. Additionally, it is thought that excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages may be linked to the development of toxic optic neuropathy (damage to your optic nerve). As the optic nerve is the “cable” connecting your eyes and brain, this condition causes painless loss of vision, decreased peripheral vision, and reduced color vision.
Photos by Jordan Lambesis