Everybody knows that eating carrots improves vision. For one thing, your mom said so. For another, one almost never sees a rabbit wearing glasses. In fact, numerous studies have shown that regular carrot consumption benefits eyesight, primarily because the vegetables are rich in beta-carotene, which the body uses to make vitamin A, which in turn is used by the eyes to convert light into nerve impulses that can be sent to the brain for interpretation.
So go ahead and eat your carrots. Fortified rice, kale, squash and liver too. They’re all rich in vitamin A. Blueberries, garlic, onions and grapes contain antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin that protect eyes from sun damage.
Here are 8 other super-sensible food tips:
- Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is a good health practice all around, but it’s particularly important to your eyes, which are 78 percent water and require plenty of additional moisture in the form of lubricating tears.
- Foods rich in antioxidants, especially folic acid, have been linked to improved hearing – or at least to a slowed loss of hearing. These foods include spinach, apples, beans, eggs, liver, nuts and, of course, broccoli, which may be nobody’s favorite superfood. Antioxidants reduce the number of free radicals circulating in your system that can damage nerve tissues in your inner ears.
- Salmon, tuna, trout and sardines are all rich in omega3 fatty acids and vitamin D, which may also benefit hearing. Some studies have shown that adults who ate fish twice a week had a 42 percent lower chance of experiencing age-related hearing loss compared to people who did not eat fish. The reason may be that omega 3 fats strengthen blood vessels in the ear’s sensory system.
- Everybody’s sense of taste declines with age. It’s a numbers game. We’re born with around 9,000 taste buds, on average, but they begin to wear out and disappear around age 40 to 50 for women; 50 to 60 for men (The reason for the gender difference isn’t known). By age 60, most adults have lost half of their taste buds. You can help keep your remaining buds functioning at full strength by not overworking them. Specifically, reduce consumption of processed foods, which typically contain too much salt, sugar or both and tend to overwhelm subtler flavors. Also, quit smoking.
- Eat more fat. Well, maybe not. Most Americans eat too much fat as it is. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that the average American consumes almost one ton of fat each year from all sources. Still, a little fat tends to make food taste better, so cut back on the ice cream and drizzle some melted butter over your steamed broccoli. Or use oils like olive, sesame, peanut and grapeseed.
- Contrary to popular notion, drinking milk does not actually promote increased mucus production, but in some people with a genetic predisposition to dairy products, it can cause congestion in the membranes of the nose, which in turn diminishes the effectiveness of odor receptors and the sense of smell. Taste too.
- Hyposmia is a reduced ability to smell and detect odors. It can be caused by a lot of things, among them a zinc deficiency. Foods rich in zinc include lentils, sunflower seeds, oysters and pecans.
- An important nutrient for healthy skin, which includes robust nerve endings capable of sensing the slightest touch, is vitamin A. (Remember how vitamin A benefits the eyes. Those eyes benefit from admiring healthy skin.) Low-fat dairy products are vitamin A-rich, particularly things containing probiotic bacteria that promote intestinal health. Antioxidant-rich foods like strawberries and plums help too.