As the bright sun is shining you put on sunglasses to protect your eyes. Are you eating to protect your vision? With age-related macular degeneration the major cause of blindness in older people did you know, what you eat may help lower your risk?
Eating a variety of colorful plant foods and fish can help your eyes, as well as, the rest of you. Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, collards, and Swiss chard top the list for being rich in lutein and its cousin, zeaxanthin. Other green vegetables like peas, broccoli, romaine lettuce, Brussels sprouts, zucchini and asparagus have lower amounts of lutein. Lutein and zeaxanthin are the predominant carotenoids in both the lens and retina of your eye, helping you to see clearly.
Having a significant cataract between the ages of 65 to 74 is the number one cause of poor vision. At least half of us will one or have had one removed by age 75. Those who consume more lutein and zeaxanthin have been found to have a lower risk of cataracts and advanced macular degeneration. It is believed that it is the lutein and zeaxanthin providing the protection, but it could be something else in the leafy greens that explain the link to healthy eyes. Those dark green leafy vegetables are nutritional powerhouses with lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. In one study of women who had high doses of B vitamins lowered the risk of macular degeneration.
Another group of foods that may provide protection for your eyes are oily fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel. Many studies have indicated that people who eat oily fish are less likely to have macular degeneration. Some think it is the omega-3s but it maybe the Vitamin D or selenium or both in the fish.
Be sure to avoid smoking, excess sunlight, and refined sugar and starches. The refined sugar and starches usually indicate a poor diet which means empty calories are replacing nutrient-rich foods. For example, if you have a 500 calorie cupcake, bagel, or muffin in place of nutrient dense foods (like vegetables and fruits) you will reduce the amount of vitamins and minerals you would get from the healthier foods. In this case, you could reduce the amount of lutein and zeaxanthin everyday by as much as 75% of what you otherwise would get from the healthy foods.
Keeping your weight under control will also help your eyes. An increase in inflammation and oxidative stress is seen in those who are obese increasing the risk of eye disease.
To help protect your eyes eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, especially dark green leafy vegetables and oily fish. Also keep the sunglasses on when out in the sun.
Mayo Clinic Staff, (2012). Macular Degeneration: Prevention Downloaded at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/macular-degeneration/DS00284/DSECTION=prevention
Nutrition Action Health Letter, (2011). Eat Smart, Which Foods are Good for What, Center for Science in the Public Interest, December 2011, Vol. 38 (10), p.4-5,7