As the night turn into another beautiful morning, we wake up; closing our eyes to our inner world and opening them to let the outer world in. Whether it is to watch the news, or browse social media happenings, to educating ourselves -we are all continuously using the power of vision to keep our day rolling.
While several lyricists and poets have sung praises and written sonnets about these beautiful and sensitive organs, today, aside from its poetic popularity, our eyes are combating an additional strain given the prominence of the favorable work from home (WFH) culture. This modern-day problem is primarily because of an excessive consumption of the ‘blue light’ emitted from the electronic devices – computers, laptops, television, and mobile phones tends to damage the retina of the eyes, when used for extended periods.
Given that WFH is here to stay and the digital world is expanding exponentially, it is now vital to provide these dynamic organs with some extra care and attention to maintain their health and sustain its function.
Food for eyes
For our eyes to perform, the cells of the eyes are regularly rejuvenated to enable clear eyesight. Foods rich in compounds like Carotenoids (carotenes and beta-carotene), Vitamin E, Zinc, Selenium, Lutein, and Zeaxanthin help sustain and maintain the health and wellness of the eyes.
A Carrot-y Myth: “A carrot a day keeps blindness away!”
While this statement is a myth, it is proven without a doubt that the carotenes found in carrots are one of the most important phytonutrients (plant-derived nutrient) that help improve night vision.
Can a rabbit can’t see better than a hawk?
If eating carrots gave us a sharp vision, then rabbits would be sharper than hawks! However, health of eyes is not just dependent on carotenes from carrots. Another major pigment, Beta-carotenes, responsible for the yellow-orange color of vegetables - pumpkin, yellow cucumber (dosakaya), yellow bell peppers, corn, carrots, and sweet potatoes also help strengthen vision and support eye health.
The red-yellow pigmentation of the vegetables and fruits like ripe mango, papaya, apricots, orange, musk melon, banana, etc. are also because of the Beta-carotene pigment. Some popular preparations of these fruits and vegetables include:
- Pumpkin chutney
- Yellow cucumber curry with moong dal
- Steamed Sweet corn
- Carrot halwa
- Mango shake
- Orange juice
- Musk melon milkshake
- Papaya lassi
Night-mode setting for eyes
Our gadgets are equipped with the night-mode feature- an emulation of what our eyes naturally perform- adapting vision to night time lighting. This feat of our eyes is made possible by provitamin-A or Retinol.
The beta-carotenes when consumed are converted to provitamin-A or Retinol. The Vitamin-A and beta-carotene work together in keeping the cornea of the eyes moist and help enhance peripheral and night-time vision.
This phytonutrient is also best assimilated by consuming fresh green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, lettuce, broccoli, ponnagani, gogu, curry leaves, etc. These greens can be prepared into various dishes to make it delicious and to avoid monotony.
The best way to incorporate Vitamin-A/Retinol is by consuming beta-carotenes via food. Since the carotenoids are fat-soluble vitamins and preparing the above-listed fruits and vegetables with a portioned amount of fat, especially vitamin E rich oils like sunflower oil, would increase the absorption of the carotenoids by the body. The heat-stable nature of the carotenoids is an added advantage to contain the loss of vitamins while cooking.
Note: It is advisable to cook the vegetables and fruits on a low flame for lesser time to retain other nutrients in the foods.
Antioxidants for the blue-light
Lutein and Zeaxanthins are anti-oxidants and are a part of the carotenoid family. When eyes are exposed to light and air, free radicals/oxidants are produced within the eyes. The Lutein and Zeaxanthin scavenge these free radicals, especially in the retina and macular area of the eyes, and help protect against macular damage. These compounds are known to especially absorb the oxidants from the blue light emitted by electronic devices, making them a vital constituent of the diet for healthy eyes.
Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and collard greens have high amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin. Cooking these greens helps enhance the ability of the pigments. Over-cooking of the greens will however diminish its effect.
Vitamins & Minerals for eyes
Holistic health of the eyes comes from eating a balanced, nutrient-rich diet consistently. Along with the phytonutrient- carotenoids, other Vitamins & Minerals also play an important role in sustaining eye health.
Free radicals, or the unstable charged molecules that can harm cells causing illness, like cataracts, also hasten the aging process for the eyes. Antioxidants like Vitamin E are the antidote to free radicals in the body; scavenging the radicals and preventing the formation of cataracts.
Nuts like almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and seeds like pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are rich sources of vitamin E that helps maintain the cellular structure of eyes. Consuming a handful of these Vitamin E rich sources consistently will reduce the risk of cataract formation.
Animal products like eggs, liver meat, salmon, and dairy products including milk, yogurt, paneer, and cheese are excellent sources of zinc and selenium that are crucial for preventing eye damage due to diabetes.
Balancing your eye health
Consuming nutrient-rich foods to protect and preserve the wellness of the eyes is only half of the deal. It is also necessary to avoid the additional physical strain that affects the efficacy of our eyes by engaging in physical activities like playing indoor games, gardening, reading books, cooking, baking, etc. rather than binge-watching tv and extended usage of smart phones, to reduce stress on the eyes.
The following tips are recommended to preserve the wellness of the eyes, especially while you are working from home
- Taking short breaks of 5-8 min., every 30 minutes, while working on electronic devices
- Keeping the brightness of the devices low
- Usage of anti-glare spectacles while working with the device
- Having proper and adequate sleep and rest during the night
- Using cool eye packs for relief during intense work times
- Practicing stress relief exercises for eyes
To battle the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home is a crucial effort to contain the casualties and check the spread of the infection. While this can be an arduous task, when approached with consistent and persistent effort, a balanced nutrition serves as fuel for our eyes.
Fueling your eyes by nourishing them is a sustainable way for us to accomplish our work tasks, while we bearing the additional strain of working from home. Adopt a balanced approach and take care of your eyes; your windows to the real and imaginary worlds and the means of sustenance of (WFH) life.
This article was written by the Fitday Nutrition team. For any questions, comments and clarifications please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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