Foods to Help Prevent Cataracts

A cataract is the clouding of your eye's natural lens, which leads to loss of vision. Age-related cataracts are a common cause of blindness. The exact cause of a cataract is unclear, but experts suggest oxidation caused by free radicals damages proteins and enzymes in the eye's lens. Surgery is the conventional treatment for cataracts. Regularly including certain foods in your diet may help reduce the risk of cataracts or slow their progression, says All About Vision 2.

Vitamin C

Antioxidants protect cells from free radicals, unstable molecules which damage healthy cells. There is some evidence higher intakes of the antioxidant vitamin C decreases the risk of cataracts, slows their progression and reduces the need for cataract surgery. Consuming at least 250 mg of vitamin C daily may be beneficial to eye health, reports the American Optometric Association. Five servings of well-chosen fruits and vegetables can provide 100 mg or more vitamin C. Good sources of vitamin C include:

  • oranges
  • grapefruit
  • papaya
  • cantaloupe
  • green peppers
  • tomatoes
  • strawberries
  • broccoli

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an antioxidant which may help reduce the risk of cataracts. Good sources of vitamin E include:

  • wheat germ oil
  • almonds
  • sunflower seeds
  • sunflower oil
  • safflower oil
  • hazelnuts
  • peanuts

Vitamin E is also found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli. The recommended dietary allowance of naturally-sourced vitamin E is 15 mg, states the Office of Dietary Supplements. Two servings of nuts and seeds daily can provide 8 to 14 mg of vitamin E, according to the American Optometric Association.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidant compounds known as xanthophylls, which are the yellow pigments found in plants. The pigments are also found at concentrated levels in the lenses of the eyes. Lutein and zeaxanthin may help prevent cataracts and reduce the need for cataract surgery, but it is unclear how much is required daily to protect eye health 1. The best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin include green leafy plants such as kale, spinach, collards and turnip greens. People should aim for five to nine servings of vegetables and fruits daily, according to All About Vision. Five servings of well-chosen fruits and vegetables can provide 5 to 6 mg of lutein and zeaxanthin. Consuming 6 mg of lutein and zeaxanthin daily is associated with health benefits, states the American Optometric Association 1.