It’s common knowledge now that a healthy diet helps pave the way to a healthier heart, slimmer waistline, sharper brain, and stronger bones. But how often do you think about your diet as it relates to your EYES?
A recent visit to my ophthalmologist was the perfect reminder of yet another reason its so important to prioritize nutrition, especially as we age.
It’s not often that you think about your eyes being “in good shape,” but that is exactly what my eye doc told me at the conclusion of my exam. After sharing my profession with him, he was not surprised, and confirmed what we already know . . .
An anti inflammatory diet rich in veggies, fruit, and healthy fats, and low in sugar and processed foods, is critical to the prevention of eye and vision problems such as macular degeneration and cataracts. YES this is preventable too!
Cataracts can cause blindness. In the U.S. alone, about 3 million cataract surgeries are performed each year. And macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision problems in people over 60.
We want to acknowledge that there can be a genetic component to eye diseases. But just like anything else, your lifestyle can absolutely influence your risk.
Much of the reasoning boils down to the powerful properties found in whole foods, especially colorful fruits and veggies.
In the eye, free radicals (from stress, poor eating habits, smoking, etc) causes something caused oxidation. Oxidation affects proteins and fats in the lens to the extent that the lens becomes damaged and cloudy.
Preventing free radical damage with healthy foods, particularly those containing antioxidants, is one way to help slow down this process.
For starters, let’s talk plant chemicals. Ever wonder what makes yellow beets yellow and broccoli green? Lutein and zeaxanthin are are plant pigments that are responsible for the bright colors. The central part of the retina (macula) has the highest concentration of these two pigments in the entire body! And lo and behold, they appear in studies to offer protection against macular degeneration and cataracts.
The same rings true for vitamin C and beta-carotene (think Bugs Bunny . . . orange produce like carrots and sweet potatoes).
Fruits and veggies also contain an abundance of flavonoids, another class of antioxidants known for their anti-inflammatory properties that play a role in cataract prevention. Apples, berries, purple grapes and purple cabbage have the highest amount, but flavonoids are also found in nuts, onions, and even tea.
Other key players for eye health include the mineral zinc, found in nuts, eggs, whole grains, beans, and omega 3 fats, found in fatty fish such as sardines, mackerel, salmon, and ground flax.
In fact, a landmark study, The Age Related Eye Disease Study, found that adults at high risk for advanced macular degeneration (AMD) who supplemented their diet with a combination of specific nutrients had a 25% lower risk of developing this disease. Yes, 25 percent lower risk! These included vitamins C, E, beta-carotene, zinc and copper.
So what’s the take home?
A healthy diet matters – a lot – if you want to keep your eyes in good shape. And though you may find some of these targeted nutrients in various supplements, NOTHING can ever take the place of a whole foods diet filled with good fats and colorful fruits and veggies.
Whole foods (versus supplements) will offer an array of so many other vitamins, minerals, plant chemicals and fiber to keep all your other organs running in tip top shape. Check out some ways to fit more of these goodies into your daily fare.
> Enjoy our YouTube video on eating the rainbow
> Try out a delicious Acai Bowl for breakfast or Hearty Rainbow Chili for lunch or dinner
> Discover the surprising properties in the common carrot
For more information for healthy eating after 50, check out PM Meal Mastery,™ a scientifically-backed nutrition plan for optimal health, energy, and confidence after menopause. PM Meal Mastery is the nutritional program for post menopausal women who want to fuel their bodies, feel their best, and live an active, engaged life.