n case you need another reason to eat more kale, it turns out that this dark leafy green can help protect your eyes from the harmful effects of technology use. Kale contains high amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin. These carotenoids, or pigments, are found in the retina and lens of our eyes where they are responsible for filtering blue light and protecting our retinal cells from its harmful effects. In addition to eating foods that are high in lutein and zeaxanthin, wearing eyewear that filters blue light and modifying our use of technology can play an important role in protecting our eyes.

Studies have shown that exposure to certain wavelengths of blue light (blue-violet light 400–460nm) may cause damage to the retina and increase your risk for sight threatening eye disease such as age-related macular degeneration. Blue light exposure can also affect your vision and ocular comfort, causing an increase in glare and decrease in low contrast visual acuity.

Not all blue light is bad

Blue-turquoise light (465-495nm) is essential to our vision. It also contributes to our sleep-wake cycle and plays a vital role in mood and overall general health. Proper and timely exposure to blue light during the day helps the body maintain wakefulness.

However, chronic exposure to blue light at night can interfere with our production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep, thus disrupting your circadian rhythm. Although more research is needed to determine the exact amount of blue light exposure that can lead to retinal cell damage and eyestrain, there are things that you can do everyday to protect your eyes.

Wear glasses that filter blue light when using technology

You can minimize the amount of blue light that enters your eyes by wearing glasses that filter some of these harmful rays. Most ophthalmic lens companies offer a high quality blue light coating that will eliminate a portion of the short wavelength blue light. Other blue blocking lenses are also available that can filter up to 100 percent of blue light. Your optometrist can recommend the best blue filter options for you depending on your individual visual needs.

Protect your children’s peepers

Children’s eyes are particularly vulnerable to the effects of blue light as virtually all of the blue light they are exposed to passes through their cornea and lens, and reaches the retina. Coupled with a high amount of screen time, this puts them at risk for over-exposure to blue light that may prove to have long-term consequences. Here, I recommend some safe technology habits for the entire family.

  • Say goodnight to technology two hours before bedtime. Blue light from our devices at night can disrupt our circadian rhythm and melatonin production, making it harder to fall asleep.
  • Turn down the brightness on your devices. You can also use applications such as Nightshift on the iPhone to decrease the amount of blue light emitted from your device.
  • Limit children’s screen time. The Canadian Association of Optometrists recommends limiting screen time to one to two hours per day for children over two years of age and restricting it completely for children under two years old.

Eat foods that are high in lutein and zeaxanthin

Our bodies do not make lutein and zeaxanthin, so it is important to obtain these pigments through diet or supplements.

Not surprising, kale and spinach are the top food choices for blue light protection, as these Eyefoods are some of the best food sources of lutein. Watercress, pea shoots, and Chinese broccoli are other often overlooked, good leafy greens choices.  I recommend making leafy greens a daily addition to all of my patients’ diets either through salads, soups, or smoothies. Consuming orange peppers — both raw and cooked — and eggs four times per week will also help to increase the concentration of lutein and zeaxanthin in the body and macula.

The bottom line: Visit your Doctor of Optometry and ask for specific recommendations on how to best protect your eyes from blue light through eyewear, nutrition, and adopting safe technology habits.

Dr. Capogna has co-authored the top-selling Eyefoods books, including her newest release, Cooking with Eyefoods: Recipes to Protect Your Eyes From Blue Light.  She is the founder of Eye Wellness in Niagara Falls where she provides her patients with a holistic approach to eye care. www.myeyewellness.com