Eating for Optimal Eye Health
Your vision is important to you, but it is probably safe to say that you place equal importance on heart health. So how do you choose between an eye-friendly diet or a heart-friendly diet? The good news is that you do not have to choose because the same foods that nourish your vision are also beneficial to your cardiovascular health.
Use these four foods as basic guidelines, and make selections within these food families for optimum eye (and heart) health.
Kale is one of the best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that also reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. One study found that women who consumed high amounts of lutein were 23 percent less likely to develop cataracts than women who ate low amounts of lutein. Sauté kale in some olive oil and garlic as a side dish, or make a fresh kale salad with nuts, dried fruit and feta cheese. Substitutes for kale include spinach, Swiss chard, collard greens, turnip greens, peas, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
Of all the citrus fruits, the orange is probably the favorite. Tangy, yet sweet, the orange comes in countless varieties. Mandarins, tangerines, navels, or blood oranges offer plenty of vitamin C, an essential antioxidant for healthy vision. A diet that includes a full recommended allowance of vitamin C can help prevent or delay cataracts and macular degeneration. Other foods that are high in vitamin C are lemons, limes, grapefruit, strawberries, red and orange peppers, tomatoes, and peaches.
Salmon, as well as tuna, mackerel, anchovies, and trout are rich in DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in the retina. DHA is essential to retinal health and is instrumental in preventing eye disease. A 2010 study from Johns Hopkins found that people who ate a diet that was high in omega-3 fatty acid were less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration.
Zinc is an essential mineral that is found in high concentration in the eyes, and it protects against the damaging effects of light. Black-eyed peas are some of the best sources of zinc in the legume family. If you are not a fan of black-eyed peas, try kidney beans, lima beans, split peas, or pinto beans. Other great sources of zinc include oysters, lean red meat and poultry.
A healthy diet is essential for vision health and heart health, but 87 percent of Americans fall short of their daily requirements of vegetables and 76 percent are not eating their recommended amounts of fruits. Maybe it’s time for a little self-assessment of your daily diet so you can protect your vision for years to come.