Eating for Good Vision: SuperFoods for Eye Health
Nothing is more critical than protecting our vision. While most all of our organs are important, our eyes are essential for reading, driving, watching television, and exploring the world.
Like the rest of our bodies, our vision can decline with age. Free radicals and inflammation caused by high energy light can damage the sensitive structures of the eye. Ultraviolet light from the sun and even high-intensity blue light can damage the lens and retina of our eyes. Cataracts, macular degeneration, and even calluses on the whites of our eyes (pterygia) are all related to free radicals, inflammation, and oxidative damage. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and vascular disease can also damage the very small blood vessels that provide blood and oxygen to the key part of the retina, called the macula. In fact, heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure are risk factors for macular degeneration and cataracts. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the United States for people over 55 years old and is a growing problem in this country. Cataracts and cloudiness in the lens of the eye can also lead to poor vision and light sensitivity.
The good news is that there are scientifically proven ways to protect your precious vision.
SuperFoods for Eye Health
The powerful antioxidants in SuperFoods help to protect the retina and lens by absorbing and controlling free radicals. Especially critical to eye health are:
- vitamin C
- alpha-lipoic acid
- omega-3 fatty acids
What Should You Eat?
Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that act as protective pigments in the back of the eye, while omega-3 fatty acids control inflammation and improve the functioning of the cells in the retina.
- Spinach is packed with important carotenoids the eye uses like a sunscreen to absorb high energy light before it can damage the cells in the eye.
- Kale and broccoli are also good sources of these important carotenoids.
- Salmon and other fatty fish are packed with omega-3 fatty acids.
- People who eat fish at least twice a week have a lower risk of developing macular degeneration.
What Should You Do?
- Try to eat a low-fat diet.
- Control your blood pressure and cholesterol. SuperFoods will help, but sometimes people need medication.
- Get a yearly physical and see what your doctor recommends.
- Get regular eye exams. Try to get a dilated, eye exam from an eye professional at least every two years. This should be more frequent for diabetics and individuals over 65.
- Purchase good sunglasses
- Exercise regularly. A sedentary lifestyle is associated with a higher risk for developing macular degeneration. Start by walking 30 minutes everyday.
Can Taking Vitamins Help?
Yes — particularly a daily multivitamin supplement and omega-3 supplement.
The omega-3 supplement should have 500 to 1000 mg of DHA and EPA, the long chain omega-3s that comes from fish or marine algae. Choose a multivitamin supplement with a whole food component that includes some carotenoids like lutein.
Adults should be getting at least 800 to 1000 IU of vitamin D as vitamin D3 (calcitriol). Low vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of developing eye disease. Check your daily supplement and add extra vitamin D as necessary. Milk and dairy products are often fortified with about 100 IU per serving.
Finally, ask your doctor if a specially-formulated eye supplement is a good idea for you.
What Should You Avoid?
- Smoking is one of the biggest, controllable risk factors for developing macular degeneration.
- Trans-fats and fried foods
- Limit your usage of vegetable oils like corn oil and soybean oil; cook with extra virgin olive oil or canola oil.
So, eat your SuperFoods and take care of yourself. A SuperFoodsRx HealthStyle will help your whole body, even your eyes.
Fun Fact: SuperFoodsRx started with the eyes. Dr. Steven Pratt, one of the authors of the SuperFoodsRx books and a leading expert on the power of whole foods, is an eye doctor. In practice as an ophthalmologist in La Jolla, California, Dr. Pratt witnessed the effect that aging, poor nutrition, and neglect had on vision and the eyes. His interest in the power of plant antioxidants and phytonutrients helped him create the first SuperFoodsRx book not just as a whole body nutrition program, but as a comprehensive, scientifically-based, eye health diet.