Can Leafy Green Vegetables Prevent Cataracts?

Dr. Russel Lazarus, October 5, 2021

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), cataract formation is a leading cause of vision loss.

What are cataracts?

Cataracts are the leading cause of blurry vision. A cataract develops when the protein in the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, causing the vision to become translucent or opaque rather than clear.

Age, family history, and ethnicity are all factors that you can’t control that may raise your chances of developing cataracts.

However, risk factors we can control such as not smoking, controlling diseases like diabetes, using UV-protective eyewear and wide-brimmed hats to reduce exposure to sunlight, can help lower your chance of cataracts and minimize their progression.

Another way to lower your chance of developing cataracts is by eating a well balanced diet and by adding antioxidants – specifically vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein and zeaxanthin.

These nutrient powerhouses, which can be found in green leafy vegetables and nuts, help to protect your lens from damage.

Leafy green vegetables

A study published in the ScienceDaily (2004) conducted at Ohio State University was the first to show that antioxidants present in dark leafy green vegetables can help prevent cataracts.

The antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, present in vegetables like kale, spinach, and collard greens, help protect human lens cells against UV light, which is a leading cause of cataract formation, according to the results of  laboratory research on human lens cells.

The effects of these antioxidants were compared to vitamin E, an antioxidant that is also known to decrease the risk of developing eye disorders.

Lutein and zeaxanthin were found to be roughly 10 times more effective than vitamin E at protecting cells from UV damage.

But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add other foods with vitamin E, as they can still help in the prevention of cataracts.

SEE RELATED: Can I Prevent Cataracts Naturally?

Contact an eye doctor near you to learn more about what foods and supplements you should add to your diet.

Find an eye doctor near you

What are the top 12 green leafy vegetables?

There are many lists of the best green leafy vegetables to eat, here is our list:

  1. Spinach
  2. Carrots
  3. Broccoli
  4. Brussel sprouts
  5. Sweet potato
  6. Mushrooms
  7. Asparagus
  8. Beets (beetroot)
  9. Bells peppers (capsicum)
  10. Onions
  11. Garlic
  12. Tomatoes

Other nutrients to add to your diet

Vitamin C

Vitamin C not only protects the immune system and helps fight against infections and can also help reduce the risk of cataracts.

This vitamin is abundant in oranges and guava.

Green and red chili peppers, bell peppers, dark leafy greens, broccoli, kiwi and papaya are all high in vitamin C.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids help to prevent cataracts and keep your eyes moist by providing important oils to your tear layer.

Flax seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids and are considered one of the best sources.

Grass-fed beef, tofu, and fatty fish including cod, salmon, sardines, and halibut are other good sources.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E, found in nuts and seeds, is an antioxidant that protects the membranes of your eyes.

Vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants are all abundant in walnuts.

Other nuts and seeds that are good for your eyes include sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts and hazelnuts.

LEARN MORE: Guide to Cataracts

Schedule an appointment with an eye doctor near you to discuss ways to prevent cataracts.

Lower your chances of developing cataracts by eating a well balanced diet and by adding specific antioxidants.