Broccoli contains several nutrients that support eye health.
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If you rarely toss a fresh head of broccoli or a bag of frozen florets into your grocery cart, you're missing out on one of the most nutritious foods you can buy. Not only is broccoli low in calories and rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, but - like other cruciferous vegetables - it also contains an impressive array of compounds that exert significant anticancer activity. It seems like icing on the cake, then, that broccoli is also good for your eyes.
Like most dark-green vegetables, broccoli is a good source of lutein, a yellow-orange carotenoid that protects plant cells from damage during photosynthesis. Much of the lutein you get from your diet is stored in the retinas and lenses of your eyes, where it absorbs harmful blue light and protects the macula from light-induced damage. This protective effect helps prevent structural changes to the eye that can lead to vision problems. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, a lutein-rich diet is more likely to help delay the onset of cataracts and macular degeneration than taking a supplement. Spinach, kale, turnip greens, zucchini and Brussels sprouts are other good sources.
Broccoli also contains beta-carotene, another carotenoid that benefits eyesight, albeit through a slightly different pathway. Whereas lutein is a powerful antioxidant, beta-carotene promotes eye health nutritionally. Your body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which is vital to eyesight. The various forms of vitamin A are actually referred to as вЂњretinoidsвЂќ because of how important they are to your eyes' retinas. Vitamin A allows your eyes to adjust in dimming light and see in the dark. A slight deficiency can cause varying degrees of night blindness, while a more serious deficiency can result in total blindness. You'll get about 50 percent of the daily value for vitamin A from a 1-cup serving of cooked broccoli.
Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin C, an antioxidant nutrient that's involved in both creating and protecting the structure of your eyes. Vitamin C is integral to the structure of all bodily cells, including the capillaries and tissues of your eyes. Vitamin C is also highly concentrated in eye fluids, where it acts as an antioxidant to protect your eyes from light-induced damage. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, some studies indicate that a diet high in vitamin C may help prevent or delay the formation of cataracts. One cup of chopped raw broccoli delivers 135 percent of the daily value for vitamin C; a cup of the cooked vegetable supplies nearly 170 percent of the recommended daily value.
In general, the Ocular Nutrition Society recommends consuming a balanced diet based on whole foods to support optimal eye health. This includes getting enough dietary fiber. A fiber-rich diet promotes healthy blood glucose levels and protects against diabetes, a disease that can degrade vision. With about 5 grams per cup, cooked broccoli is an excellent source of fiber. Omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and vitamin E are also essential to good vision. The carotenoids in broccoli are more readily absorbed when the vegetable is cooked and served with a small amount of fat. Lightly steamed broccoli drizzled with a bit of olive oil and served alongside a piece of salmon or tuna is an eye-healthy meal.