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Nutrition & Healthier Vision
By Deborah Kogler

What if you could delay, prevent or reduce the severity of age related eye diseases simply by choosing what you eat?

Chances are you remember your grandmother telling you to eat your vegetables. Grandma always knows best! And yes, vegetables are important. But did you know what an impact they can make on your vision?

Antioxidants found in vegetables can help prevent and repair oxidative stress, a process that damages cells within the body and has been linked to the development of cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and numerous eye diseases.

Eating a daily diet rich in fruits and vegetables, (especially green vegetables) increases the amount of antioxidant protection for your eyes as well as other organs in the body.

Research shows that the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin found in kale, spinach and other green vegetables helps protect the eyes from cataracts. These carotenoids are found in high concentration in the eye. Age related cataracts occur when the protein in the eye's lens begin to clump together which eventually cause a white, milky cloud to form in the vision. Increased exposure to UV rays can cause a great risk for the formation of cataracts.

Another age related eye disease is Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD). This eye disease is progressive. ARMD is caused by the breakdown of the macula, a small yellow area located in the retina. The macula is starved of nutrients because the blood vessels become clogged.

Though smoking has been shown to be a leading cause of macular degeneration, nutrition also plays a significant role. Just as fatty foods can clog the blood vessels and increase the risk of the heart disease, the clogging of the vessels to the retina of the eye causes macular degeneration. Diets rich in leafy green vegetables and fruit help with the "cleaning" of these vessels, thereby eliminating the clogged vessels to the retina.

Dietary studies have shown a significant lower risk for developing age related eye diseases in people who had high amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin in their blood. Daily use of these antioxidants helps to rid the arteries and blood vessel of the eye from any damaging effects.

You are never too young or too older to start taking care of your eyes. Along with vitamin supplements, proper diet, exercise and regular ophthalmic exams you have a better chance of mainting a better quality of vision later on in life.

Food sources of common antioxidants.

  • Beta-carotene is found in foods that are orange in color: sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, sq uash, a pricots, pumpkin, and mangos. Some green leafy vegetables including collard greens, spinach, and kale are also rich in beta-carotene.
  • Lutein is abundant in green, leafy vegetables such as collard greens, spinach, Swiss chard, red peppers and kale.
  • Lycopene is a potent antioxidant found in tomatoes, watermelon, guava, papaya, apricots, pink grapefruit, and blood oranges.
  • Vitamin A is found in foods such as liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, fortified milk, egg yolks and mozzarella cheese.
  • Vitamin C is also called ascorbic acid, and can be found in high abundance in many fruits and vegetables and is also found in cereals.
  • Vitamin E, also known as alpha-tocopherol, is found in almonds, many oils including wheat germ, safflower, corn and soybean oils, and also in mangos, nuts, broccoli and other foods.

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