Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus.See all posts »
Eating for Your Eyes
My father is blind from a hereditary eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa. He was diagnosed at a young age but didn’t go legally blind until he was in his 40’s. It runs in the family; his father, grandfather, sister, niece, and others have the disease. Luckily my brother and I did not get the disease. Growing up, we were always careful as kids to not leave our shoes and toys laying in the middle of the floor because Dad would trip over them. He now has a leader dog named Dusty Dog who keeps him on track.
Needless to say, I have been interested in the connection of diet and eye health for many years. Most of the research has to do with prevention of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).
Lutein and Zeaxanthin are phytochemicals that also help eye health by killing off free radicals that damage cells in the eyes. It is thought that lutein and zeaxanthin act as a sort of natural sunglasses, stopping harmful light from damaging the retina. They also may help prevent cataracts.
What should you eat for healthy eyes?
- Dark colored veggies like spinach, broccoli, peas, sweet potatoes, green bean, squash, kale, pumpkin
- Other veggies like green beans, sweet corn, brussel sprouts, peppers, romaine lettuce
- Fruits like melons, oranges, grapefruit, mango, papaya, grapes, kiwi, plums and prunes
As much as you can eat! Try to get 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and as many from the list above as possible.
What about supplements?
A nutritional supplement can help, and in fact one study found that risk of cataract is 60% lower among people who use a multivitamin or other supplement containing Vitamin C and E for more than 10 years. However, I would rather get your nutrients through food. When you get the nutrients through food, they are absorbed better and you get the synergy of all naturally occurring plant substances working together to prevent disease. Check out this article on vision supplements for more info on supplements.
A study in this month’s American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a connection between eating high glycemic index (GI) foods and AMD. High GI foods are typically full of sugar and refined grains. This is preliminary research and just one study, but it won’t hurt to cut back on high GI foods anyway.
This is a picture of my Dad with Dusty Dog, his Leader Dog for the Blind.