5. Orange bell peppers
These peppers are the best dietary source of zeaxanthin, the other carotenoid that concentrates in the back of the eye. The higher the level of carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, the lower the risk for cataracts and macular degeneration. Orange bell peppers have a lot of vitamin C and more zeaxanthin per mouthful than any food on the planet, Pratt says. Other orange foods — including gogi berries, pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes and carrots — may have similar benefits. These orange-colored choices also are chock-full of vitamin A, which boosts night vision. And they contain a carotene that helps lower the risk of cataracts.
Broccoli activates anti-inflammatory enzymes in the body and acts to encourage detoxification. Other vegetables like Brussels sprouts and cabbage rev up these enzymes. Broccoli also triggers anti-inflammatory systems that help decrease inflammation in the back of the eye.
Green tea, black tea and oolong tea are best for preventing cataracts. Teas may help prevent macular degeneration, too, by preventing the growth of new blood vessels in the back of the eye, Pratt says. When too many new blood vessels grow beneath the retina, they leak blood and fluid. This leakage causes permanent damage and results in blind spots and serious loss of vision from "wet" macular degeneration.
New research shows that soy — especially soy milk, soy sauce, miso and tempeh — are rich in isoflavones, compounds with powerful antioxidant properties that protect against cataract formation in animals. Isoflavones also may help restore tear production that's been reduced by dry eye syndrome, according to a 2010 study.