Health Promotion Board announced last year that Singapore tops the world for the highest prevalence of childhood myopia! Our 7- to 9-year-olds are suffering from short-sightedness and their eyesight will continue to deteriorate as they age.
So it’s crucial that you remind junior to observe good habits in order to maintain healthy eyesight. Says eye specialist Dr Lee Sao Bing, “Things like reading in dim light, holding their materials too close to their faces, lying down while reading and playing [with their] handheld devices for an extended period of time should be discouraged.” The senior consultant at Shinagawa Eye Centre says reading while lying down is really problematic as the lighting is often inadequate and reading materials are often too close to their faces.
Additional support for your kid’s eyes comes from their diet: Dr Lee, in particular, stresses that it will be good for kiddo to get adequate nutrients by sticking to natural and whole food sources for vitamins and minerals.
1) Omega-3 and omega-6 fats
Dr Lee says getting adequate servings of foods high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids have been shown to help reduce or control dry eyes. Fish like salmon, herring, bluefish and tuna are good sources for omega-3; vegans can opt for walnuts or flaxseed, canola and soybean oils. Poultry, corn oil, pumpkin seeds, cashews and pecans are good sources for omega-6 fatty acids.
2) Vitamin A
Choose liver, milk and cheese to help kiddo improve their night vision, as these are high in Vitamin A. Vitamin A can also help with wound healing and proper functioning of the immune system, said Dr Lee, citing an article on allaboutvision.com. Dr Lee also attributes the next three items on the list to the same source.
The vitamin C in citrusy fruits like oranges, kiwis and grapefruits could mean fewer visits to the docs!
3) Vitamin B
Homocysteine is an amino acid that — in high concentrations — has been shown to lead to an increased risk of heart attack, strokes and more critically, have adverse effects on the retina. Dr Lee shares that consuming complex B vitamins can help prevent elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood. Wholegrain foods and enriched grains are good sources of wide variety of B vitamins. Dairy foods like soybeans or milk, yogurt and cheese can help too!
4) Vitamin C
Even if your youngster is not a fan of citrusy fruits like orange, Vitamin C has been associated with the reduced risk of cataracts in the elderly, according to Dr Lee. Other fruits like grapefruits, kiwis, strawberries and papaya are good sources; while Brussels sprouts, tomatoes and dark leafy vegetables can contribute (for savouries). Don’t forget Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant good for boosting one’s immunity (yay for fewer visits to the docs)!
5) Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Ensure your child eats his greens! Lutein and Zeaxanthin are carotenoids that can help lower the risk of macular degeneration — blurred or complete loss of vision that often plagues an older person — and cataracts, shares Dr Lee. Choose these: kale, spinach, corn and broccoli. Wolfberries, often used in Chinese cooking, is also rich in Lutein and Zeaxanthin.
Besides these conventional food sources, you could try out herbal additives. Click on to read our recommendations.
Traditional Chinese Medicine physician Lam Man Sze at Ma Kuang Chinese Medicine & Research Centre advises parents to always consult a physician before consuming any herbs as they should be tailored to meet individual needs.
Lam reminds us all to be mindful to leave a gap of one to two hours after consuming western medication and supplements or caffeine-containing beverages before consuming herbs — this reduces any harmful interactions. The following five can be used to help with eyesight (among other conditions):
6) White chrysanthemum (菊花)
This subdues the yang in the liver, eliminating the “heat” (aka “toxins”) to improve vision. Lam says to avoid consuming this if you are allergic to marigolds and daisies.
7) Wolfberry or goji berry (枸杞子)
This sweet-tasting berry, often used in Chinese cooking, enriches the yin of the liver and the kidney and supplements the kidney’s blood, said Lam. Besides improving your eyesight, it also reduces one’s blood sugar and pressure. Avoid this if you are taking warfarin pills — blood-thinning meds — it can cause increased bleeding.
“Cicadas are no stranger to dining tables around the world – these are served deep-fried in some parts of China!”
8) Peppermint (薄荷)
Lam says by regulating the liver’s qi, peppermint can improve your eyesight, soothes the throat and relieves itching. Peppermint disperses “heat” from the body through perspiration so it is unsuitable for individuals who experience excessive sweating or have dry lips, mouth or skin and constipation.
9) Cicada slough (蝉蜕)
Cicadas are good for relieving spasms and nebulas — clouded spots on the cornea. Lam adds that these can help eliminate blurred vision, and can help with the loss of voice due to laryngitis. Before you cringe at the thought of consuming a creepy-crawly, cicadas are no stranger to dining tables all over the world – cicada nymphs (the young) are often served deep-fried in some parts of China.
10) Selfheal fruit-spike or spica Prunellae (夏枯草)
This herb is good for treating several eye conditions like “sore eyes” while working to help improve one’s vision, said Lam. It is also good for treating mastitis — breast inflammation due to an infection — a common problem during the first 6 months of breastfeeding. As it is considered a “cold” herb, it is not recommended for weak stomachs.
SmartParents recommends that readers consult their respective doctors and physicians before dosing up on these foods.