When I was growing up, I remember my parents telling me, “Eat this, it’s good for your eyes!” They then placed a plate of mixed vegetables with carrots as the star ingredient in front of me. I’ve always wondered whether there was any truth to what they said, or was it just a ploy to get me to eat vegetables?
Turns out, there is some truth to my parents’ wise words after all. According to Shania Khialani, Dietician/Nutritionist with the Marie-Claire O Shea Dietitians in Australia, studies have proven that eating certain foods can indeed improve your eyesight, thanks to the high content of vitamin A. Khialani shares that a 2011 study carried out by Mayo-Wilson et. al. of the University of Oxford revealed that vitamin A was also associated with a reduced prevalence of vision problems including night blindness and xerophthalmia, a condition in which the eye fails to produce tears.
It makes sense then that parents should give their kids foods to boost their eyesight (see, my parents were right after all!). If you don’t know where to start, check out our list of the best 10 foods that are loaded with vitamin A and all the great stuff that are beneficial for the eyes — plus some great ideas on including them in your kiddos’ meals!
A top favourite of Bugs Bunny, the carrot is the most common food associated with improved eyesight. Carrots (and other yellow and orange fruits and vegetables) contain beta-carotene — a type of vitamin A found in plants that help protect your eyes. Most kids can’t get enough of its bright orange colour, so go ahead and add some carrot slices to your regular salads, pasta and soup.
2. Leafy green vegetables
Khialani says that leafy green vegetables such as parsley, spinach and kale have the highest level of lutein and zeaxanthin. As the main dietary carotenoids found in the human retina, lutein and zeaxanthin help to enhance our eyesight and have important antioxidant functions that protect the eyes from harmful sun rays.
Want to get the most from leafy greens? Try not to overcook them. Simply blanch them for a minute or two before serving.
A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to have beneficial effects on the retina. Most oily fish like salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help to protect the retina through its anti-inflammatory effects.
For an easy meal, simply pan-fry salmon with some butter until it’s golden brown all over. This simple dish is usually a great hit with most kids, including my fussy 1-year-old!
Avocados are said to contain more lutein (the super nutrient that helps to improve your eyesight) than any other fruit or vegetable. In the long run, it also helps to reduce your risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
Mash an avocado to whip up a yummy homemade guacamole or add some slices on top of a sandwich to give your kids a healthy dose of fats and vitamin E for healthy peepers.
Don’t underestimate the sheer size of eggs — they carry an abundance of nutrients that are beneficial to your eyes and the rest of the body. When serving eggs to your kids, be sure to include the yolk as well because that bright yellow part happens to be the most nutritious portion. The darker the egg yolk, the more nutritious it is.
Speaking of eggs… soft boiled eggs with kaya toast for breakfast, anyone?
Commonly available in the colours of a traffic light (red, yellow and green), capsicums contain vitamin A which is good for our eyes and helps prevent eye disease. Throw in some brightly-coloured strips of capsicum in a stir-fried meal or enjoy it raw with your favourite dip. Get your kids to eat their way to bright, healthy eyes!
Nuts like almonds and cashews contain vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, which may help to prevent dry eyes. Go nuts for your and your kids’ health and grab a handful of these as a midday snack, or mix a tablespoon of nuts into your morning cereal.
The ‘magic’ ingredient in blueberries is a group of compounds called anthocyanosides. These naturally attach to the retina and help to boost your night vision. But do note that you’d need to load up on blueberries for more than 2 months before noticing the difference.
Since these magic berries may not be available all year round in Singapore, another great alternative is to take them in capsule form or tablet (widely available from organic stores). Aim to take up to 600mg per day.
9. Dark Chocolate
Having a hard time keeping the kids away from the chocolate stash? It may not be such a bad idea to let them indulge once in a while — as long as it’s the dark variety. Packed with flavonoid, dark chocolate has been shown to protect the blood vessels in your eyes and strengthen your eye lens and cornea. So, keep your eyes peeled for those dark chocolate bars the next time you head down to the supermarket.
Also known as Goji berries, these small, red and pleasantly sweet-tasting berries are a good tonic for clearing the eyes. They are also used as a natural remedy for poor eyesight, dry eyes and cloudy vision. The effect that these berries have on the eyes is attributed to the high content of beta-carotene, vitamins B and C, as well as linoleic acid in them.
theAsianparent reader Sharon Chin shared on our Facebook page that she usually prepares boiled wolfberries with longan and red dates for her kids to boost their eyesight. Sounds like a tasty concoction that the kids will love!