Eating for Eye Health

The eyes are most often exposed to the damaging effects of the surrounding environment, and unfortunately they are most frequently unprotected. Diffuse light, cigarette smoke, car exhaust gases or simply the dusted, dry air can affect our sensitive visual system. But apart from avoiding external damaging factors, we must also include in our diet food items that contain substances which are vital for the good health of our eyes.

Those so much talked about, vital substances called “antioxidants” can protect our organism from free radicals. These beneficial substances include vitamins A, E, and C, as well as micro-elements such as selenium and carotenoids. From a nutritional point of view, the American National Eye Institute conducted a research which has demonstrated that there are indeed certain nutrients that can ensure the protection of our eyes. The most significant foods that can prevent ocular degeneration are the ones which are rich in beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, zeaxanthin and lutein, zinc and omega-3 fats.

Among these excellent foods we could of course mention carrots. They are full of beta carotene, which is an antioxidant that reduces the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration process. Carrots can be part of salads, soups or they can be part of a side dish for lunch or dinner. They can be added to most anything: hummus, salsa, peanut butter, guacamole and low calorie dressings. Some other foods that are excellent for the good health of our eyes include broccoli, bell peppers and Brussels sprouts. They all provide a good quantity of vitamin C, which is yet another essential antioxidant for the protection of our eyes. These veggies can be steamed, roasted, added to omelets or soups. Also, they may be combined for a delicious “pasta primavera” (spring time pasta), with a little bit of oil and garlic.

Of course, not only fruit and veggies are good for the eyes. Apparently, the meat which is healthiest for the eyes is the ostrich meat. This kind of meat can actually be a substitute for turkey, chicken, pork or lamb meat. It has the quality of absorbing all kinds of seasonings and it contains zinc, iron and a lot of proteins. Zinc is actually one of the most essential ingredients for the maintenance of healthy eyes. Zinc is contained by the retina. This substance is responsible for the good functioning of enzymes which are actually meant to ensure the eyes’ health. Turkey meat also contains a lot of zinc and the B-vitamin niacin which can protect the eyes against cataracts disease. Turkey meat can be used in sandwiches, salads, chili and tacos or burgers.

Another veggie which contains high levels of beta carotene is the sweet potato. As their name suggests, sweet potatoes do indeed have a sweet taste. These vegetables can be included in recipes for dinner side dishes. They can be baked with a small quantity of oil or they can be used for the famous French fries.

Another amazing food that can do wonder to one’s eyes is spinach. This one contains four essential ingredients that can protect one’s eyes. Thus, spinach contains vitamin C, high quantities of zeaxanthin, lutein and beta carotene. All these antioxidants can be found in the macula’s tissue. They have the special capacity of absorbing 40%-90% of the intensity of blue light, and therefore can act like a sort of eyes’ sunscreen. Several research results have attested that if we eat foods which contain a large quantity of zeaxanthin and lutein, our macula’s pigment density can be increased. This means that our retina is better protected, and therefore there is a much lower probability of macular degeneration for our eyes. Spinach is generally eaten as a side dish. However, it can be a delicious salad or omelet ingredient. It is low in calories and rich in vitamins, so there is no reason why to avoid such a beneficial healthy food. The key is to give it a good taste, without overcooking it so as not to lose its nutritive qualities.

There are even foods which can help protect those very small blood vessels that are found deep inside our eyes. Such foods include sardines and wild salmons. Because of that it’s highly recommended to eat at least 2-3 portions every week.

By Claudia Miclaus

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