What you eat can have a significant impact on your eye health because your eyes are intricate organs that require a range of essential vitamins and minerals for optimal functioning, such as vitamins A, E, C, and B, selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, copper, lutein, and zeaxanthin. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]
Fortunately, following a carnivore diet has the potential to help improve and maintain your eye health. Animal-based foods serve as excellent sources of essential vitamins and minerals critical for eye health. Moreover, these foods are highly bioavailable, allowing your body to efficiently absorb the nutrients they provide.
In this article, we will look at the key nutrients that are important for eye health and why the carnivore diet is an excellent diet in providing you with those essential nutrients.
What Eye-Friendly Nutrients Does the Carnivore Diet Provide?
Vitamin A is critical for vision because it is a key component of the pigment molecule called rhodopsin, which is found in the retina of the eye. Rhodopsin is essential for the process of phototransduction, where light is converted into electrical signals that the brain interprets as vision. Without sufficient vitamin A, the production of rhodopsin is impaired, leading to difficulties in seeing in low-light conditions and even vision loss and blindness. [8, 9, 10]
In addition, vitamin A is important for maintaining the health of the eye’s surface tissues, including the cornea and conjunctiva. It helps create a barrier that protects against infections and supports the body’s immune response to prevent eye infections. 
The best sources of vitamin A are animal-based foods such as animal liver (beef, lamb, and pork liver), fatty fish, eggs, and dairy products. For example, a 100-gram serving of beef liver delivers 4,970 mcg of vitamin A, equivalent to 552% of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin A. [12, 13]
Some plant-based foods, such as sweet potatoes, spinach, pumpkin, and carrots, can be rich in vitamin A. However, it should be noted that plant foods provide only provitamin A carotenoids, which are precursors your body needs to convert into vitamin A in the intestine. In contrast, animal sources of vitamin A contain preformed vitamin A, which your body can readily use and absorb. 
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): In addition to its functions in energy production and as an antioxidant for the proper functioning of the immune system, healthy skin, and hair, riboflavin is necessary for the maintenance of healthy corneas, the clear outer layer of the eye. A deficiency in riboflavin can result in conditions like cataracts, glaucoma and keratoconus
- Vitamin B9 (Folate): Folate is necessary for DNA synthesis and repair, which is crucial for the growth and maintenance of cells in the eye. A deficiency in folate can result in an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
- Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin): Vitamin B12 is important for the overall health of the nervous system, including the optic nerve. A deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to optic neuropathy and vision problems
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): Thiamine is essential for maintaining the health of the optic nerve, which transmits visual information from the eye to the brain. A deficiency in vitamin B1 can lead to vision problems.
Animal-based foods such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products are all excellent sources of readily bio-available B vitamins. They contain B12, B6, riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), and other B vitamins in forms easily absorbed by the body. In addition, vitamin B12, which plays a critical role in the production of red blood cells, neurological function, and the synthesis of DNA, is primarily found in animal-sourced food. [27, 28, 29]
While plant-based food such as green leafy vegetables, brown rice, whole wheat, quinoa, lentils, and chickpeas, do contain some B vitamins, the bioavailability of these vitamins can be lower when compared to animal sources. 
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps protect the eyes from oxidative damage. With its high metabolic rate, the eye also has an added need for antioxidant protection. In addition, vitamin C is also required for the synthesis of collagen which is important for maintaining the health of blood vessels in the eyes. 
High intake of vitamin C has been linked to a significantly decreased prevalence of cataract or cataract surgery. A diet rich in vitamin C could substantially reduce the risk of cataract progression and age-related macular degeneration. [31, 32]
Although food on the carnivore diet is not known as a good source of vitamin C, it appears to provide sufficient vitamin C because people on the carnivore diet or a heavily meat-based diet don’t seem to suffer from vitamin deficiency or scurvy. 
If you are looking to boost your vitamin C intake on the carnivore diet, incorporating organ meat like spleen, pancreas, lungs, brains, and kidneys into your diet regularly can help. For example, a 100-gram serving of cooked beef spleen would deliver 50.3 mg of vitamin C equivalent to around 84% of the average recommended daily intake. 
Vitamin E is found mainly in plant-based food such as wheat germ oil, sunflower oil, sunflower seeds, almond, and canola oil. Animal products do contain vitamin E although in lower levels. However, as mentioned above, in the absence of anti-nutrients, animal-sourced nutrients are highly bio-available, therefore, you may not need as much nutrients as you would on an omnivore or vegetarian diet. 
As vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, it is found mainly in fatty meat cuts and a few other animal-based products. Good animal sources of vitamin E are chicken fat, eggs, fish eggs, abalone, salmon, rainbow trout, and octopus. [38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44]
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids play several important roles in promoting and maintaining eye health.
DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid, is an essential component of the retina, especially the macula, the central part of the retina responsible for sharp and detailed vision. DHA helps maintain the structural integrity of the macula and supports its function, potentially reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration and other macular diseases. 
Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, has been found to help reduce the symptoms of dry eye syndrome, a common eye condition characterized by dryness, irritation, and discomfort. 
Furthermore, omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, which can be beneficial in reducing inflammation in the eyes and the risk of age-related macular degeneration. 
Several animal-based foods are excellent sources of omega 3 fatty acids, including oily fish (mackerel, salmon, tuna), animal brains (beef, lamb and pork brain), beef tallow, and shrimp.
Although some plant-based foods do contain omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., flaxseed, walnut, chia, hemp, algal oil and canola oil), their bio-availability is low. Some studies found that alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) from nut and seed oils was not converted to DHA at all. In contrast, omega-3 fatty acids from animal sources are in the form that can be readily absorbed and utilized by the body. 
Zinc is a mineral that is essential for maintaining the health of the retina and may help protect against age-related macular degeneration. 
Zinc is present in high concentrations in the retina, particularly in the macula, a part of the retina responsible for central vision. Zinc helps maintain the structural integrity of the retina and supports the function of photoreceptor cells. [50, 51]
Furthermore, zinc is an essential component of an antioxidant that helps protect the eye’s cells from oxidative damage. High levels of oxidative stress are associated with AMD, a leading cause of vision loss in older adults. Zinc, when combined with other antioxidants like vitamins C and E, has been found to reduce the risk of AMD progression, especially in its advanced stages. [52, 53, 54]
Animal-based foods are the best sources of zinc due to their high bioavailability. The top animal sources of zinc include oysters, crab meat, beef, shrimp, cheese, sardines, yogurt, and eggs. Plant-based foods, such as beans, nuts, and whole grains, also contain zinc, but the bioavailability of zinc from these foods is much lower than that from animal foods due to the presence of phytates, which bind to zinc and other minerals, inhibiting their absorption. 
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that are found in high concentrations in the macula of the eye, which is responsible for central vision.
Lutein and zeaxanthin play a significant role in promoting and maintaining eye health, primarily by protecting the eyes from damage caused by harmful high-energy light waves like ultraviolet light and blue light. In addition, these carotenoids help improve visual acuity and act as antioxidants, scavenging harmful reactive oxygen species. Moreover, they have been associated with a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. [56, 57]
Lutein and zeaxanthin are naturally occurring carotenoid pigments and known for their yellow and orange color. They are found in various fruits and vegetables and are particularly concentrated in leafy green vegetables. On the carnivore diet, egg is a rich source of both lutein and zeaxanthin. 
Good Eye Care Practice
In addition to a healthy diet that is rich in essential nutrients that are critical for eye health as discussed above, good eye care practices are essential for maintaining healthy eyes and preserving your vision. Below are some key practices to help keep your eyes in good condition.
Schedule Regular Eye Checkups
Visiting an eye care professional, such as an optometrist or ophthalmologist, for regular eye tests can help detect vision problems, eye diseases, and other conditions early when they are more treatable.
Not all optometrists are the same, so it’s important to choose reputable practices with qualified specialists and appropriate equipment.
For example, large companies like OPSM have tests for specific conditions such as diabetes, macular degeneration, and glaucoma, along with advanced scanning technology that may not be available at smaller practices. Their Ultra-Wide Digital Retinal Scan can capture images covering over 80% of your retina, and their OCT device provides detailed 3D images below the surface of your retina. These advanced tools offer a more comprehensive assessment of your vision and overall health compared to standard eye tests.
Protect Your Eyes from UV Rays
Wear sunglasses that offer 100% UVA and UVB protection when you’re outdoors for extended duration. Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays can increase the risk of cataracts, macular degeneration, and other eye problems.
Use Protective Gear When Necessary
When engaging in activities that could pose a risk to your eyes, such as swimming, playing sports, doing DIY projects, or working with hazardous materials, wear appropriate protective eye wear like safety goggles or sports goggles.
Practice Proper Contact Lens Care
If you wear contact lenses, follow your eye care professional’s instructions for cleaning, storing, and replacing them. Poor contact lens hygiene can lead to eye infections and other complications.
Rest Your Eyes
Give your eyes regular breaks, especially if you spend long hours in front of a computer screen or other digital devices. The 20-20-20 rule is a helpful guideline: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus on something at least 20 feet away.
Drink plenty of water to keep your eyes and the rest of your body well-hydrated. Dehydration can lead to dry eyes, which can be uncomfortable and affect your vision.
Smoking is linked to an increased risk of developing eye diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts. Quitting smoking or avoiding exposure to second-hand smoke can benefit your eye health.
Practice Good Hygiene
Always wash your hands thoroughly before touching your eyes or handling contact lenses. This helps minimize the risk of transferring harmful bacteria, viruses, or foreign particles from your hands to your eyes, reducing the likelihood of eye-related issues and protecting your vision.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Other elements of a healthy lifestyle can also help protect and improve your eye health:
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight: This can promote overall health, including eye health
- Manage screen time: If you use digital devices extensively, adjust screen settings for comfort and consider using blue light filters or computer glasses to reduce eye strain
- Get adequate sleep: Ensure you get enough quality sleep as it plays a role in eye health and overall well-being.
If you are on a carnivore diet or an animal-based diet, you are already doing a great job of providing your eyes with an abundance of essential nutrients critical for eye health. However, remember that preventive measures are crucial for maintaining good eye health too. If you experience any sudden changes in vision, eye discomfort, or other unusual symptoms, seek prompt medical attention from an eye care professional.
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Disclaimer: The information in this post is for reference purposes only and is not intended to constitute or replace professional medical advice. Please consult a qualified medical professional before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle. Please check out our disclaimer for more detail.