Improving eyesight with a capital E: The little-known benefits of a vitamin

When it comes to nutrition for healthy eyesight, vitamin A often gets the star treatment. But we should take a moment to consider the benefits of the big E.

Vitamin E, an antioxidant found in nuts, fortified cereals and greens, plays an important role in protecting certain parts of the eye. Specifically, vitamin E has been known to lower the risk of developing macular degeneration and cataracts, two of the most common age-related conditions affecting eyesight. Several studies have shown evidence of the positive role vitamin E can play in improving vision.

How vitamin E can help your eyesight

Vitamin E is believed to protect eye cells from unstable molecules called free radicals, which break down healthy eye tissue. This is what may lead to the formation of cataracts or age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (or AREDS), sponsored by the National Eye Institute, found that a high dose of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and zinc reduces by 25 percent the likelihood of AMD among people at high risk of developing advanced stages of the disease.1

Similarly, research indicates that cataract formation also may be delayed by vitamin E.2 The Roche European American Cataract Trial, conducted in 2002, found that a supplement of vitamins C and E and beta-carotene leads to a slight decrease in the progression of cataracts in less than three years.3

Eating with a capital E

The most effective way to increase antioxidant levels is through whole foods and nutrients. Peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes and cereals are all high in vitamin E4 in addition to the foods listed below. Consider combining them with foods stocked with vitamin C, such as citrus fruit, kiwi and peppers, to create a powerful and natural eye-care supplement.

  • Leafy greens: Mustard greens, Swiss chard, spinach, kale and collard greens all are excellent sources of vitamin E as well as vitamin C. Enjoy in salads or cooked just lightly to retain more of the benefits.
  • Tropical fruits: Kiwi and papaya are among the sweetest carriers of vitamin E. Blend them into a smoothie and have your vitamin fix on the go.
  • Vegetables: Red bell peppers and broccoli are both rich in vitamin E and vitamin C and have the benefit of being highly versatile. They can be eaten fresh in a variety of ways, from salads to cold soups (for red peppers) or mixed in with hummus. Some experts also recommend eating broccoli steamed.
  • Oils: Vegetable oils, particularly olive oil, can add a dose of vitamin E to salad dressings, dips and vegetables when used as an alternative to butter. Keep oils away from sunlight to retain freshness.
  • Wheat germ: Processed wheat tends to lack vitamin E because the germ is often removed. So go for the germ alone, and get the E.5

Finally, don’t forget the vitamin A. The path to a lifetime of healthy eye care should be lined with all essential vitamins, which work together to produce optimal, and optical, results.

1. “Antioxidant Vitamins and Zinc Reduce Risk of Vision Loss from Age-Related Macular Degeneration,” National Eye Institute,
2. “Vitamin E,” American Optometric Association,
3. “Cataract: New evidence that antioxidants support lens health,” ScienceBased Health,
4. “Vitamin E,” American Optometric Association,
5. “10 Vitamin E Rich Foods,” FitDay,