A nutritious diet is typically linked to maintaining a healthy weight and reducing risk for chronic disease. However, a healthy diet also can protect vision.

The World Health Organization estimates that at least 2.2 billion people have a near or distance vision impairment. Vision loss is often characterized as a natural byproduct of aging, and the National Institute on Aging notes that it’s normal for individuals to notice changes in their vision as they age. But, it’s a mistake to think there’s little people can do to protect their long-term vision. In fact, a nutritious diet can be a great ally as individuals aspire to protect their long-term eye health. According to the Optometrists Network, a collective that includes clinical optometrists and respected researchers, the following are five foods that can help people protect their eyes.

  1. Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids help with vision development and can reduce a person’s risk of developing dry eye, a condition marked by chronically dry eyes that either don’t produce enough tears or produce tears that cannot adequately lubricate the eyes. Various types of fish, including salmon, anchovies, herring, and trout, among others, are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Individuals who don’t like eating fish can consider various nuts and legumes, such as walnuts, lentils, and peanuts, which all contain omega-3 fatty acids as well.
  2. Seeds: Flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and sunflower seeds contain either omega-3 fatty acids or vitamin E, which the Optometrists Network notes can help to prevent age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
  3. Leafy green vegetables: WebMD reports that lutein and zeaxanthin are potent antioxidants that can help to prevent age-related eye disease and protect the eyes from the harmful effects of exposure to ultraviolet rays in sunlight. Leafy green vegetables such as collards, kale, and spinach are high in lutein and zeaxanthin.
  4. Sweet potatoes: Though their popularity spikes in fall, sweet potatoes are available year-round. That’s good news for sweet potato afficionados hoping to use diet to protect their eyes, as the Optometrists Network reports that sweet potatoes are high in beta carotene, which helps the eyes adjust to darkness. Sweet potatoes also are high in vitamin C, which may help individuals reduce their risk for cataracts.
  5. Eggs: Like leafy green vegetables, eggs are high in lutein and zeaxanthin. The Optometrists Network also reports that eggs are rich in vitamins C and E and are a good source of zinc. The presence of zinc is notable in relation to eye health, as it’s been shown to help the body utilize lutein and zeaxanthin found in the yolk. Zinc also has been found to protect the retina from potentially harmful blue light and helps to increase the amount of protective pigment in the macula.

Many benefits associated with a nutritious diet are widely known. But even the most devoted healthy eaters may not recognize how much certain foods are helping to maintain their long-term eye health.