How You Can Protect your Eyes with Nutrition
Prevention and Treatment The proof is in the science. Nutrition and lifestyle can help decrease the risk of common eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.
What you put on your plate can also help relieve your burning and watery eyes as studies show foods high in omega-3 fatty acids can help with the management of dry eye syndrome. Let us explore how nutrition plays a role in the prevention of some of the most common eye conditions — and what foods and nutrients you should include in your diet everyday to maintain optimal eye health.
Age-related macular degeneration
Scientists have found a relationship between antioxidants and the carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, and the prevention of AMD. Eyecare professionals recommend most patients with AMD take a supplement to help prevent the progression of the disease, the leading cause of age-related vision loss in North America. In addition to adding supplements to your diet, science shows that diets high in certain nutrients help to reduce the risk of AMD, and that poor diets can increase a person’s risk for developing the disease.
If you have, or are at risk of developing AMD, it is important to take the supplement recommended by your eye doctor and to enjoy a diet high in lutein and zeaxanthin — pigments that are found in your retina — and other antioxidants. Taking a supplement does not replace a healthy diet, as your body benefits from the synergy of the nutrients in food. The Eyefoods plan recommends following the guidelines below to help decrease your risk for AMD.
■ Consume a handful a day of lutein-rich leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach, watercress, and Swiss chard.
■ Eat two orange peppers per week, two ways — raw and cooked — for a boost of zeaxanthin, lutein, vitamin C
and vitamin E.
■ Eat four eggs per week, including the yolk, as they are a good source of lutein, vitamin E, and zinc.
Load up on broccoli, peppers, kiwi, and citrus fruit to nourish your eyes with vitamin C and help to decrease the risk of cataracts — a clouding of the lens of the eye. You can also decrease your risk of this common condition by consuming a diet high in the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. These are found in high amounts in cold-water fish such as wild salmon, rainbow trout, sardines, and mackerel. By avoiding foods with a high glycemic index, such as white bread and sweet treats, it will also help lower your risk of cataracts.
Go fishing for your dinner to help relieve your symptoms of burning, watery, and red eyes caused by dry eye — a condition that can also cause fluctuating vision and light sensitivity. Dry eye is often treated by taking lubricating artificial tear eye drops, however, a holistic approach that addresses underlying causes of dry eye such as inflammation, and helps improve the quality of the tear film provides a better long-term treatment approach. Increasing the amount of omega-3 fatty acids through diet or supplements can help with inflammatory conditions and help decrease the incidence of dry eye. Eat cold-water fish 3–4 times per week, and choose smaller fish as they are less likely to contain high amounts of contaminants such as mercury and PCBs.
The bottom line: fill your dinner plate with brightly coloured vegetables and fruits, and cold-water fish to decrease your risk for age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and dry eye syndrome. Engage your optometrist in a discussion about proper nutrition for your eye health to see if you would also benefit from taking an ocular supplement.