Next time you’re out at the mall or grocery store, take a look around you…
How many people are wearing glasses? How many people are slumped over squinting at their smartphones?
Everyone’s talking about the obesity epidemic, but the bad vision epidemic is just as real.
Even with all the advances in medicine and technology, there are more vision problems today than there were 30 years ago.
Most of us are chained to computers, tablets, and smartphones for work all day. You can’t just up and quit your job. But how are you supposed to protect your eyes?
Good news: you can take action to protect your eyesight.
It all starts with the foods you eat.
Widespread Vision Problems Are Modern Problems
Our Paleo ancestors had a lot to worry about. Serious things like finding shelter, famines, and saber-toothed cats.
But one thing the vast majority of them didn’t worry about was their eyesight. In a world where survival hinged on our ability to spot food sources and threats, practically all of our Paleo ancestors had perfect vision. And less than 3% of modern hunter-gatherers have vision problems like myopia—and those are mostly mild cases (1).
For the rest of us, things are drastically different now. Myopia (nearsightedness) has exploded in the last few decades. Fifty % of all Swedish 12-year-olds have myopia (2).
Unfortunately, there’s no sign of these eye problems slowing down or going away any time soon. Not when the typical modern diet and lifestyle “stack the deck” against healthy vision…
Bad Diets and Electronics: The Perfect Storm for Vision Problems
A vicious combination of bad diets and electronics-filled lifestyles has caused vision problems to explode.
Many foods in typical modern diets—grains, refined sugars, and processed foods—cause vision issues. These foods, which are digested quickly in your body, spike your insulin levels and, if you eat them often enough, promote myopia and other vision issues (3).
As far as lifestyle goes, most of us work indoors with our eyes glued to screens. The vision consequences can be devastating. The American Academy of Optometry found that working just 2 hours on a laptop can lead to vision problems and eye pain (4). That adds up in a hurry—especially if you’re working 10- or 12-hour days.
(Related: Why You Need a Digital Detox)
With bills to pay, you might not be able to change your lifestyle. But you can address one of the most dangerous culprits of vision problems: a poor diet.
Following the Paleo diet puts you ahead of most people who work in front of screens all day. You’re already making smart choices by simply avoiding grains, refined sugars, and processed garbage. These choices are protecting your eyes.
But you can emphasize certain Paleo foods to take your quest for healthy eyesight to the next level.
Eating more of these foods puts you in the best shape to keep your eyes healthy… even if you’re stuck working in front of screens all day.
Here are 7 Paleo foods to protect your eyesight:
1. Organic, Pastured Egg Yolks
Egg yolks are great for your eyes because they contain lutein and zeaxanthin. As you’ll see throughout this list, those are found in all kinds of vision-boosting foods.
Lutein is a carotenoid that helps fight against deteriorating conditions like macular degeneration. And zeaxanthin is an antioxidant that protects your eyes against damage from blue light and sunlight. Both decrease your chance of getting cataracts (5).
Go for organic, pastured eggs if you can afford them. They contain much higher levels of nutrients than factory-raised alternatives.
Also, to get the most vision-boosting benefits, consume your egg yolks as close to raw as possible. Overheating eggs—like scrambling them or frying them too long—can damage lutein and zeaxanthin (6).
Poaching your eggs or lightly frying them are probably your best options.
2. Leafy Green Vegetables
You’re probably already eating a lot of leafy green vegetables if you’re following a Paleo diet.
That’s great for your eyes because they’re loaded with lutein and zeaxanthin. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who ate vegetables highest in lutein and zeaxanthin (like leafy greens) had a 43% lower chance of developing macular degeneration than those who had the least (7).
Some of the best leafy green vegetables to choose from are:
- Collard greens
- Romaine lettuce
- Turnip greens
3. Fatty, Cold-Water Fish
The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are crucial for your eye health. And most of us aren’t getting nearly enough of them.
DHA has been found in the outer segments of your “retinal photoreceptors” (an important part of your eyes). Consuming enough omega-3s helps your body get the nutrients it needs to keep your retinas healthy (8). And omega-3 fatty acids also fight inflammation, a known culprit in serious eye conditions like macular degeneration.
How can you consume more omega-3s?
Eating more fatty, cold-water fish will give you the most bang for your buck.
One study found that people who ate the most animal-based omega-3s had a 60% lower risk of macular degeneration compared to those who ate the least (9).
Some of the best fatty, cold-water fish for your eyes are:
Wild-caught salmon is a particularly good choice. It also contains an antioxidant called “astaxanthin.” This is the most powerful antioxidant that’s ever been discovered as far as eye health is concerned (10).
4. Yellow & Orange Fruits
Fruits and vegetables are an important part of any Paleo diet…
But yellow and orange fruits are particularly helpful if you’re looking to protect your eyesight from too much screen time.
These fruits are packed with plenty of beneficial nutrients, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin. Those actually give yellow/orange fruits and vegetables their color (11).
So focusing on fruits with those colors ensures you’re picking the ones with the greatest vision-boosting benefits.
Start with these:
5. Yellow & Orange Vegetables
Besides being loaded with health-boosting nutrients, yellow and orange vegetables are good for your eyesight for the same reason similarly colored fruits are: they’re packed with lutein and zeaxanthin.
Some of the best vegetables to eat for your eyesight are:
- Orange peppers (one study found these had the highest concentration of lutein and zeaxanthin of 33 different fruits and vegetables tested) (12).
- Sweet potatoes
- Yellow peppers
6. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are great, Paleo-friendly snack choices if you’re stuck at your computer for work.
They’re also great for your eyesight.
Nuts and seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids (which protect your retinas and fight dangerous inflammation), as well as other vitamins—like vitamin E—crucial for good eyesight.
Vitamin E, which is commonly found in nuts and seeds, is particularly beneficial. One study of nearly 5,000 people found that those who took a nutritional formula containing vitamin E had a 25% lower risk of developing macular degeneration than those who didn’t (13).
You can get these awesome benefits by focusing on these nuts and seeds:
- Sunflower seeds
Berries are great for your eyesight because they’re packed with antioxidants. These antioxidants protect your eyes against damage from harmful free radicals, helping maintain your vision and preventing serious conditions (like macular degeneration) from developing.
Another reason berries are so powerful: they contain a lot of “anthocyanins.” These are another type of antioxidant that offer all kinds of important health benefits—everything from strengthening cell membranes and capillaries to decreasing inflammation (14).
These berries are the best for your eyes:
- Black currants: eating these berries is a powerful way to boost your vision health—especially when they’re in season. But if you have a hard time tracking them down where you live, you can pick up some black currant seed oil and use it as a strategic supplement to your vision-boosting diet.
- Bilberries: these might be hard to find unless you live where they grow naturally (central and northern Europe). But it’s worth picking up some extract to supplement with if you’re worried about your vision.
Protecting Your Eyes: Now and into the Future
You might not be able to ditch your computer, tablet, or smartphone — at least not when you’re at work.
But you can focus on the Paleo foods above to keep your eyesight as sharp as possible.
Eating more of these foods will fuel your eyes with vital nutrients, as well as prevent long-term issues—like macular degeneration or cataracts—from happening later on.
The best time to start?
(You Might Also Like: 8 Tips for Better, More Effective Sleep)
How do you protect your eyes if you have to work in front of screens all day? Leave a comment below and let us know.