Food for Eyes

3 minutes

Visual impairment is a global epidemic. In developing countries, nutritional deficiency and cataracts continue to be the leading cause of blindness, whereas age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts are the leading causes in developed nations. The World Health Organization has instituted VISION 2020: “The Right to Sight” as a global mission to put an end to worldwide blindness.

Good nutrition is important to keep your eyes healthy and functioning their best throughout your lifetime. Age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration (vision loss) and cataracts commonly cause impaired vision and blindness in older adults. But lifestyle changes, including a healthy diet, can help in delaying or preventing certain eye problems. Uncontrolled diabetes increases a person’s risk for cataracts and may cause diabetic retinopathy.

Lots of researches have concluded that vitamin A, C, E plus zinc can slow down the development of age-related changes in eyes. Vitamins C and E may also help to inhibit the development or progression of cataracts. Vitamin A can be found in vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and spinach. Good sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits (oranges, lemon, mausmi), and various berries like amla. Two chemical compounds called Lutein and zeaxanthin also are instrumental in preventing eye damage because of ageing and overexposure to the sun’s radiation. They can also act like natural sunglasses, physically helping to filter out harmful rays and stopping it from reaching and damaging eyes.

In addition to important eye and vision benefits, lutein may help protect against atherosclerosis (buildup of fatty deposits in arteries), the disease that leads to most heart attacks.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are often found together in many fruits and vegetables. They include spinach, kiwi, sweet corn, mango, broccoli, green beans, prunes, capsicum (orange), peas, melon, grapes, oranges, papaya, peaches, lettuce, and pumpkin. For maximum benefit, eating these foods mentioned above lightly cooked is better than eating them raw, as cooking makes it easier for the body to absorb them. Overcooking, however, can remove goodness of vegetables.

A diet high in saturated fat and sugar may increase the risk of eye disease. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and eye conditions including cataracts and age-related macular degeneration have been shown to occur less frequently in people who eat diets rich in vitamins, minerals, healthy proteins, omega-3 fatty acids and lutein.

There is currently no officially recommended daily dose of lutein and zeaxanthin, but it is thought that we should eat about 6mg each day – around two to four servings of fruit and vegetables mentioned above.  It remains unclear how much lutein and zeaxanthin are needed daily for adequate eye and vision protection. Also, it is unknown at this time whether supplements have the same effect as lutein and zeaxanthin obtained through food sources.

Remember that taking dietary supplements does not replace a healthy diet. Eating a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables usually is the best way to get the important eye nutrients you need.

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