Omega-3s: The Healthy Fat for Your Eyes

SardinesWhat? There is a fat that is good for my eyes? Please, tell me more!

Yes, it’s true. Fatty acids (the building blocks of fat) are crucial for the production and function of cells, muscles, nerves and organs. They are also essential for the regulation of blood pressure, blood clotting and heart rate. Our bodies can produce some fatty acids on their own, but other fatty acids must be obtained through food.

Omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids are two such fatty acids that need to be obtained through our diet. Several studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may help protect adult eyes from macular degeneration. A large European study published in 2008 found that participants who ate oily fish at least once per week reduced their risk of developing neovascular macular degeneration by half, compared to those who ate fish less than once per week.

The risk of dry eye can also be reduced by omega-3 fatty acids. In a study of more than 32,000 women between the ages of 45 and 84, the women who ate at least two servings of tuna per week had a significantly lower risk of dry eye than women who ate one or fewer servings per week. A recent study on mice also showed that topical application of omega-3 fatty acids significantly reduced dry eye symptoms and inflammation associated with dry eye.

Because omega-3 fatty acids can only be obtained through food, it is important to know what foods are the best sources. To increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, add more of the following foods to your diet:

  • Cold-water fish—Sardines, herring, salmon and tuna are some of the best sources. Wild-caught varieties of fish are healthier than farmed fish which usually contain more pollutants and chemicals. Eye doctors suggest eating cold-water fish on a regular basis to reduce the risk of eye problems. You are also benefitting your heart every time you eat fish. The American Heart Association recommends at least two servings of cold-water fish every week to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Seeds, nuts and greens—If you are not a lover of fish, you can find good sources of omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, walnuts, and dark green leafy vegetables. However, your body cannot process the fatty acids from vegetarian sources as well as fish.

Fish oil supplements—You can take fish oil supplements if you are concerned that you are not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids from your food. Doctors agree that food sources of omega-3 fatty acids are best, but supplements can substitute if necessary (Source: All About Vision).

To get you started, here are some eye-healthy recipes from our blog that will help increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Bon appetit!

Herbed Salmon with Oven Roasted Broccoli
Tuna Salad with Dried Fruit
Eye Healthy Pumpkin Pie with Walnut Crust