This is a guest post by Dr. Hilla Abel, the Cheftometrist.
Most people would agree that vision is a precious sense, and maybe even one that we tend to take for granted. While serious eye diseases like macular degeneration and diabetic eye disease are on the rise, the good news is that science is helping us understand what we can do to protect our eyes as much as possible. One key strategy is eating well. Check out these tips to learn what foods are good for the eyes...
1. Eat plenty of colorful veggies and fruit. Choose a wide variety of vegetables and fruit to get in your eye-healthy antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, and get your fiber in too. Selecting produce like berries, red bell peppers, sweet potatoes, and broccoli helps insure that you get the spectrum of plant nutrients in your diet.
2. Along with all your colorful veggies and fruit, pay special attention to include lots of leafy greens. Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale are high in lutein, which protects against macular degeneration and cataracts. When you eat lutein, it is literally sent to the macula and lens of the eye to protect these structures from light damage and oxidative damage. Lutein is really important for eye health!
3. Try to avoid white sugar and white flour as much as possible. White sugar and white flour contribute to a high glycemic-index diet, which has been shown to increase risk of macular degeneration and diabetes (which can lead to diabetic eye disease). Instead of eating so-called refined (i.e. processed) foods, choose the real deal: whole grains like brown rice, oats, and quinoa for your carbohydrates, and high-fiber foods like beans and vegetables.
4. Choose healthy fats. Our bodies need some fat from the diet, and it's important for the fat that we consume to be of good quality. Omega-3 fatty acids have been proven to protect against macular degeneration and are used to treat dry eyes. Try to regularly incorporate omega-3-rich foods like salmon, anchovies, sardines, and flax seeds in your diet. And while you're increasing your consumption of omega-3's and other good fats, be sure to also decrease your consumption of the poor quality fats found in processed foods.
5. Go exotic! A number of foods which have been known to be healthy according to ancient medical traditions have turned out to be scientifically beneficial. Turmeric is the yellow spice found in curries and has been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits; early studies suggest that turmeric may have a role in preventing or treating eye diseases like cataracts, macular degeneration, diabetic eye disease, and glaucoma. Green tea, of Chinese origin, packs in an incredible amount antioxidants, fights inflammation, and protects against sun damage. Chinese tradition has also taught us that goji berries (also known as wolfberies) are good for the eyes. Now, modern science has proven that goji berries are high in zeaxanthin, which protects the macula and lens along with lutein.
As you can see, eye-healthy eating is sensible, with many delicious foods working to protect your eyes. In addition to eating right, other eye-healthy strategies are wearing sunglasses, exercising regularly, not smoking, and getting regular eye exams. Your eyes are worth it!
A note for those of you with medical conditions... If you have any specific medical conditions that may relate to food, be sure to speak with your doctor before making changes in your diet. For example, people taking warfarin (Coumadin) should speak to their doctors before increasing their consumption of leafy green vegetables.
Dr. Hilla Abel is a practicing optometrist and a certified natural foods chef. For more eye-healthy recipes & tidbits, visit her blog at www.morethancarrots.com and follower her on Twitter at @Cheftometrist.