By now you’ve probably heard the rumor that sugary foods and drinks will soon be taxed and regulated like alcohol and cigarettes. While the rumor isn’t true (yet), it stems from a highly publicized article in the journal Nature dated February 2nd. According to a follow up article at Time.com, regulating sugary foods will be a challenge in today’s culture because we have an emotional attachment to sugar. We celebrate birthdays with cake, not salad.
Another problem is sugar’s prevalence in our lives. No one has to look very far before they find more than enough to satisfy their cravings. Just this morning a well-meaning vendor brought two dozen doughnuts for the eye doctors and staff at LaFollette Eye Clinic. I looked them over, since they were baked at a local shop whose artisans are long on talent, if not nutrition. They were pretty, but I didn’t touch one. I abstained not because I’m worried about my hips, but because I want to protect my heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and yes, my eyes.
Colorful fruits and veggies are great for the eyes!
The far-reaching damaging effects of excess sugar are no secret, but they are beyond the scope of this post. Fortunately, good nutrition is also no secret, especially as it relates to our eyes and vision. Here’s a good rule of thumb that’s easy to remember: food that’s prettiest to the eyes (i.e., most colorful) is generally better. Remember, though, that it should be natural (as it came from the ground) and not processed (as it came from the box of doughnuts).
Read on to discover seven foods to eat for better vision and eye health:
1. Leafy greens: spinach, chard, kale, and collards. These nutrient packed powerhouses are listed first for a reason. First, they contain the pigments lutein and zeaxanthin, which are naturally found in the eyes. They both improve vision and reduce the risk of macular degeneration. Second, they provide carotenoids, a provitamin A that is converted to natural vitamin A (retinol) by the body. Vitamin A is also known to reduce the risk of macular degeneration. Third, they contain vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants protect retinal cells from UV radiation, again reducing the risk of macular degeneration. Are you noticing a pattern here?
2. Berries: strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Berries are high in antioxidants, protecting against macular degeneration and cataracts.
3. Colored fruits and vegetables: this broad category has two parts. Orange-colored fruits and vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, mangos, cantaloupe, apricots) provide beta-carotene, the most common type of carotenoid that supports retinal health and protects against macular degeneration and cataracts. Other colorful fruits and vegetables (bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, strawberries, cantaloupe, oranges) contain vitamin C, a key protective antioxidant.
4. Fish: specifically, salmon and sardines. These fish are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce the risk of macular degeneration and also have additional benefits for dry eyes and other ocular surface dieases. Many fish are also good sources of another potent antioxidant, vitamin D.
5. Nuts: almonds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds and even peanut butter. These are sources of vitamin E, yet another powerful antioxidant. Wheat germ and avocados are also good sources of vitamin E.
6. Lean meat: lean beef and turkey. Here’s where you’ll get plenty of zinc, which helps your body absorb all those antioxidants you’ve been reading about.
7. Milk: contains riboflavin (a B vitamin) and natural vitamin A (retinol). Riboflavin can help prevent cataracts, and as mentioned before, vitamin A helps prevent macular degeneration.