6 Plant Foods that Ensure Good Visual Health in Children

Some vegetables, such as fruits, vegetables and legumes, ensure good visual health in children and help improve their performance.
6 Plant Foods that Ensure Good Visual Health in Children

Last update: 28 May, 2023

In young children, visual development culminates years after birth, as does cognitive development as they grow. For this reason, eye care is considered critical for learning and social progress. Parents are concerned about preventing any eye damage and, therefore, we want to tell you about the vegetables that ensure good visual health in children. Keep reading so that you can enrich your children’s menu with foods that benefit visual health and facilitate better learning.

The importance of diet in the visual health of children

Although it doesn’t represent a miracle solution, a proper and balanced diet for children is capable of preventing certain visual problems. It can also stop the progression of some diseases. The promotion of children’s visual health begins before birth, hence nutrition during pregnancy is fundamental for their development.

At birth, the eyes and visual pathways are immature and develop little color differentiation. But, as the child grows, visual development occurs very rapidly. By 6 months, they can see at a higher resolution. But how do they achieve this rapid visual development? Initially, it’s through breastfeeding, and then through other foods. These provide key nutrients to support a child’s visual health, such as the following.

  • Vitamins A, C, and E
  • Zinc
  • Selenium
  • DHA
  • Anthocyanins
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin

These nutrients predominate in a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, the adequate consumption of which promotes eye health in young and older children.

Know the plant foods that ensure good visual health in children

We know that vegetables provide flavors, aromas, and colors in food. Many of the pigments they contain represent some fundamental nutrients, such as vitamin A, lutein, zeaxanthin, and anthocyanins.

A young girl biting into a freshly picked carrot.
Orange vegetables, such as carrots, as well as yellow vegetables, are a source of vitamin A, which is essential for the proper functioning of the retina.

1. Carrots, pumpkins, and orange and yellow fruits and vegetables

Pumpkins, carrots, mango, melon, peppers, and sweet potato, among others, provide yellow or orange beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A.

According to the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in young children in developing countries. It’s essential for good retinal function, as well as for maintaining the health of the superficial layers of the eye, i.e., the cornea and conjunctiva.

2. Leafy greens, corn, and fruits

Leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, collards, Swiss chard, watercress, and lettuce, among others, as well as yellow corn, contain lutein and zeaxanthin. These are two types of carotenoids essential for retinal health. They have a strong antioxidant effect and are responsible for absorbing high-energy blue light and ultraviolet light. In that way, they act as natural filters and protect against oxidative damage to the retina.

The journal Nutrients comments that these nutrients increase the density of optical pigment in the macula. This is the center of the retina and responsible for high-resolution vision. They also reduce headaches, eye fatigue, and tension. In addition, other vegetables, such as kiwi and zucchini, contain lutein, while melon and orange provide zeaxanthin.

3. Fruits and vegetables, sources of vitamin C

There are several fruits and vegetables that provide vitamin C, which works as a powerful antioxidant recommended to reduce eye pressure. In addition, it helps in the synthesis of collagen, which is part of several structures of the eye. Among the best sources of this vitamin are strawberries, kiwi, guava, citrus fruits, and papaya. Also, peppers, brussels sprouts, kale, and spinach contain it in good quantity.

For these foods to have a greater antioxidant effect, fresh fruits should be prepared in salads or whole. Juices are also recommended, but they should be consumed almost immediately. In addition, vegetables should not be exposed to very high heat, because up to 90% of vitamin C can be lost.

A woman feeding avocado to a baby.
Avocados, nuts, and seeds contain vitamin E, an important antioxidant that promotes eye health.

4. Avocado, nuts, and seeds

The journal Hospital Nutrition states that vitamin E also has antioxidant activity for eye health. Therefore, it helps maintain the integrity of the crystalline lens and prevents oxidative damage to the retina. Almonds, pine nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, and avocadoes are excellent sources of alpha-tocopherol or vitamin E.

Moreover, nuts and seeds, such as chia and flax seeds, also contain omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, which help promote good vision.

5. Legumes

Legumes, such as chickpeas, beans and lentils, among others, provide zinc, and selenium. Zinc works together with vitamin A in the visual center of the retina. Selenium works as an antioxidant and aids in the absorption of vitamin E. Seeds, such as sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin, are also good sources of these minerals.

6. Red, blue, and purple fruits and vegetables

Anthocyanins are a type of polyphenols that have great antioxidant power and act, along with vitamins A and E, to protect vision. They’re characterized by their intense blue, purple, and red colors. They include grapes, pomegranates, blueberries, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, and black plums. Vegetables include onions, cabbage and purple sweet potatoes.

A varied, colorful, and fun diet

Vegetables and fruits play an important role as a source of nutrients that have positive effects on children’s vision. This requires a varied and colorful diet. The FAO/WHO School Nutrition Manual recommends 3 servings of fruits daily and 2 servings of vegetables per day.

Foods such as carrots, squash, mango, melon, strawberries, blueberries, purple grapes, avocado, broccoli, purple onions, eggplant, nuts, and seeds are key. In addition, make these vegetables fun and delicious for the palate of the children.

For example, you can offer a fruit and vegetable smoothie that includes spinach, strawberry, and mango. This drink will provide vitamin C, anthocyanins, vitamin A, lutein, and zeaxanthin to maintain good visual health.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • FAO/OMS: Serafin P. (2012). Manual de la alimentación escolar saludable. (2012). HABITOS SALUDABLES PARA CRECER SANOS Y APRENDER CON SALUD.
  • Fernández-Araque, Ana, Giaquinta-Aranda, Andrea, Laudo-Pardos, Consuelo, & Rojo-Aragüés, Abel-A.. (2017). Los antioxidantes en el proceso de patologías oculares. Nutrición Hospitalaria34(2), 469-478. https://dx.doi.org/10.20960/nh.420
  • Ma, L., Liu, R., Du, J. H., Liu, T., Wu, S. S., & Liu, X. H. (2016). Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Meso-zeaxanthin Supplementation Associated with Macular Pigment Optical Density. Nutrients8(7), 426. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8070426
  •  Villagrán M, Muñoz M, Díaz F, Troncoso C, Morales C, Mardones l. (2019). Una mirada actual de la vitamina C en salud y enfermedad. Rev Chil Nutr, 46(6): 800-808. Disponible En: https://scielo.conicyt.cl/pdf/rchnut/v46n6/0717-7518-rchnut-46-06-0800.pdf
  • Wiseman, E. M., Bar-El Dadon, S., & Reifen, R. (2017). The vicious cycle of vitamin a deficiency: A review. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition57(17), 3703–3714. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2016.1160362

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.