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Eating for healthy eyes

31/08/2017

Eating for healthy eyes

Eat right for healthy eyes and good vision

Eating the right foods will benefit your entire body, including your eyes. The eye is an organ that requires a lot of oxygen*, so it is particularly susceptible to oxidative stress (an imbalance in the production of free radicals). It also has a high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and significant exposure to visible light.

These and a number of studies that have shown that eating the right balance of nutrients can slow the progression of eye diseases or prevent problems, particularly in people who:

  • Have a family history of macular degeneration
  • Suffer from diabetes
  • Have someone in the family that suffers from retinitis pigmentosa
  • Are older and therefore more susceptible to eye diseases and disorders.

Studies show that a combination of antioxidants and zinc reduces the risk of progression to advanced AMD by approximately 25% in those with intermediate AMD or advanced AMD in one eye*.

What can eating for healthy eyes prevent?

As well as eating the right nutrition for good vision, there are also a number of eye diseases that can be slowed or prevented. They include the following:

  • Macular degeneration. Sometimes called age-related macular degeneration (AMD), this is the leading cause of vision loss in people over 60. It occurs when the macula, which is the central part of the retina, deteriorates. A macular degeneration diet is an important tool in fighting this disease.
  • Retinal vein occlusion. This is when there is a blockage in one of the veins that feeds to and from the retina. Diabetes and high cholesterol are two diseases that can cause this disorder.
  • Diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy is where the blood vessels inside the retina are damaged as the result of the disease and can lead to blindness.
  • Cataracts. Although there is no proof that nutrients can prevent cataracts, there is evidence that eating well could slow the progress of cataracts.
  • Retinitis pigmentosa. This is a genetic degenerative eye disease that can eventually lead to blindness. A report has shown that, over four to six years, sufferers who consumed a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids experience a slower decline in rates of distance and visual acuities***.
  • Cone rod dystrophies. Rare disorders that cause decreased central vision.
  • Stargardt disease. This is an inherited form of macular degeneration that appears earlier in life, usually between six and thirty years of age.
  • Dry eye. A diet high in oily fish or flaxseed oil supplements can help to reduce dry eye symptoms.

What makes a healthy eye diet?

There are several key nutrients that, eaten on a regular basis, are particularly good diet for healthy eyes.

Lutein & Zeaxanthin

These reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases, including macular degeneration and cataracts. You find them in:

  • Leafy vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Some fruits such as mandarin oranges, oranges and pawpaw.

Vitamin C

Evidence suggests vitamin C can help slow the progression of macular degeneration. Foods high in Vitamin C include:

  • Oranges
  • Capsicums
  • Kiwi fruit.

Vitamin E

Protects cells of the eyes from damage caused by free radicals that breaks down healthy tissue. Foods with Vitamin E include:

  • Nuts
  • Some bright coloured fruits and vegetables
  • Leafy greens.

Essential Fatty Acids

Proven to be important for proper visual development and retinal function. They can be found in:

  • Oily fish
  • Some seeds or nuts
  • Vegetable oils.

Zinc

Highly concentrated in the eye, mostly in the retina and choroid, the vascular tissue layer lying under the retina. Zinc is found in:

  • Some shellfish
  • Red meat
  • Some nuts and seeds.

How do I eat for healthy eyes?

So, now that you know what the vitamins and nutrients for eye health, how do you fit them easily into your diet?

Omega 3 fatty acids

A diet high in these has shown to reduce a person’s risk of developing macular degeneration. It’s easy to have a diet high in this terrific eye health nutrient. Three times a week, eat a serving of oily fish such as:

  • Salmon – fresh or canned
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines.

Typical meals can include a homemade nicoise salad, a salmon and salad sandwich for lunch and grilled mackerel for dinner.

Leafy greens

These are a fantastic antioxidant, as well a being a great source of Vitamins C, E, lutein & zeaxanthin. This includes:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Cavolo nero
  • Swich chard.

The variety means that these couldn’t be easier to work into your everyday diet – consider a salad for lunch (throw in some tuna or salmon), or a serving of a steamed green with your dinner.

Brightly coloured fruits

These include fresh:

  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries.

Berries are a delicious way to ensure that you have enough vitamin C and are a great reason to have dessert, or snack on them during the day.

Brightly coloured vegetables (especially yellow and orange)

The best way to get foods with the all-important lutein and zeaxanthin combination. Some terrific options are:

  • Yellow capsicum
  • Pumpkin and squash
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Peas
  • Celery.

How about pumpkin soup for lunch or a salad with lots of yellow capsicum? Roast pumpkin or another vegetable would also go well with dinner.

Nuts

A wide range to choose from:

  • Almonds
  • Pecans
  • Walnuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Cashews
  • Chestnuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pistachios.

Snack on them during the day, or build them into a meal – pesto uses pine nuts or throw a few chopped walnuts or pecans in a salad.

Is it easy to eat the right foods to help prevent eye disease?

It certainly is. Your diet probably already has antioxidants to prevent eye disease. You may need to add an extra serving of fish or leafy greens here and there, but it’s simple to ensure you’re having the right nutrition for eyes – and a lot more enjoyable than having to remember to take a daily handful of supplements.

Download our quick reference ‘Eating for good eye health’ chart here

 

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*Nutrient Supplementation for Age-related Macular Degeneration, Cataract, and Dry Eye” Ronald P. Hobbs, MD and Paul S. Bernstein, MD, PhD. J Ophthalmic Vis Res. 2014 Oct-Dec.

**A randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial of high-dose supplementation with vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and zinc for age-related macular degeneration and vision loss: AREDS report no. 8. Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group Arch Ophthalmol. 2001 Oct.

*** Online First by Archives of Ophthalmology.

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