Did you know that macular degeneration is the leading cause of legal blindness in people over 55 in the U.S.? In the next ten years, the population of baby boomers over 55 will be six times greater than it was in 1990. In a mere decade, macular degeneration may reach epidemic proportions.
- Vitamin A: liver, fish oils, egg yolks, dairy
- Cartenoids (a precursor to vitamin A, such as betacarotene and lutein): red peppers, mangoes, kale, or other colorful fruits and vegetables
- Vitamin D3: salmon, mackerel, sardines, beef liver, fortified milk
- Vitamin C: fruits, cauliflower, green cabbage
- Vitamin E: broccoli, peanuts, almonds, avocados, sunflower seeds
- Omega 3 fatty acids: fatty fish, flaxseed, walnuts, squash, tofu
- Zinc: oysters, crab, nuts, whole grains
- Lycopene: tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit
- Antioxidants: cranberries, blueberries, pomegranates, and other dark foods
For optimal eye health, there are a few culinary tricks, too. For example, if you are making a spinach salad, adding sliced oranges or strawberry slices will give you an extra boost of Vitamin C, which enhances the absorption of iron found in plant foods. You could even grill salmon and serve it on a bed of spinach topped with peppered strawberries for a delicious meal that promotes optimal eye health.
Similarly, Vitamin D, A, E and K are fat soluble, so the presence of a bit of dietary fat helps with vitamin absorption. If you’re serving broccoli with sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts, for example, leave the nuts raw rather than toasting for that extra bit of oil. While toasting nuts releases the oils and intensifies the flavor, leaving nuts raw will maximize the potential health benefits.
Sometimes foods that are cooked are also more nutritious. In a spinach omelet, for example, cooking the spinach briefly helps your body retain more carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin.
It’s hard enough to know what to eat, let alone how, to save your eyes. And saying that mackerel is good for your eyes is all well and good, but who knows how to cook mackerel? And what other fish might work just as well? (Hint: fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids…salmon, bluefish, herring, etc.) That’s why I wrote Eat Right for Your Sight. While I don’t have macular degeneration, I think it’s that important to eat well to protect our bodies. What’s good for your eyes is also good for your heart, bones and the rest of you.
Jennifer Trainer Thompson is the author of 18 books, including Eat Right for Your Sight, which was published last spring in collaboration with the American Macular Degeneration Foundation.