Opinion

Preventing Vision Loss With A Healthy Diet; The Foods You Should Eat

Cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are the most common eye problems to affect older adults, leading to vision impairment and blindness. Whereas cataracts causes the lenses of the eyes to become cloudy, AMD damages the retinas — the tissue at the back of the eye that converts light into nerve signals. Both occur in people over the age of 55, but it’s AMD that is the leading cause of blindness in adults of this age. Worldwide, AMD affects over 25 million people.

A nutritious, well balanced diet has been linked to a number of health benefits, including the prevention of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. It’s also been shown to benefit the eyes, helping us to maintain good eyesight throughout life. Some studies suggest that the right nutrients could even help to correct vision loss from eye diseases and aging.

Here are some foods and nutrients that you should include in your diet for better eye health.

Antioxidants

A diet rich in antioxidants is considered one of the most effective ways to counter the aging effects of free radicals, which exist in everything from food to air. They are also produced by the body while converting food to energy and in the skin and eyes during exposure to sunlight.

Antioxidants like vitamin C and E, beta carotene, selenium, and zinc can help counter free radical damage. Vitamin C is found in most fruits and vegetables, while nuts, sweet potatoes, peanut butter and fortified cereals are rich in vitamin E, which has been linked to decreased risk of cataract formation as well as AMD.

Yellow, orange, and red fruits and vegetables, like carrots, papayas and mangoes, are rich in beta carotene, but it can also be found in liver, eggs, and milk. The body converts beta carotene to vitamin A, which helps eyes adjust to changes in light, keeps them moist and helps prevent AMD and cataracts.

Dark green and colorful fruits and vegetables contain the most natural antioxidants. In addition, flavonoids found in red wine, dark chocolate, and dark-colored berries (like bilberries and blackberries) have been shown to protect capillaries in the eyes, as well as other blood vessels in the body.

vision loss Just like a healthy diet can prevent obesity, it can also prevent vision loss. These are the foods you should be eating. Pexels, Public Domain

Whole Grains

High-fiber foods won’t only keep you feeling full for longer, they may also help prevent AMD as you get older. The refined sugars and flours in most processed foods could be responsible for a higher risk of AMD, based on a study that tracked the dietary glycemic index (dGI) of almost 4,000 patients over six years.

In addition to raising the risk of eyesight degeneration, refined carbohydrates are absorbed at a faster rate, so you consume more calories to feel full. A diet with a higher fiber content slows down the absorption of starches and sugars, which in turns slows down digestion and helps your body absorb more nutrients from food.

Whole grains and cereals provide a lower dGI than refined white flours and sugars. The former should make up at least half of your daily grain and cereal intake, according to experts. Seniors, in particular, need to reduce their consumption of refined carbs and switch to a high-fiber diet.

Omega-3s

Essential omega-3 fatty acids are found in certain fat molecules, and they are vital for healthy eyes, among various other health benefits. Two of these, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), could be instrumental in protecting eyes against AMD, especially for those who are at high risk of developing the condition.

EPA helps the body produce DHA, which is found in high concentrations in the retina and the vascular layer underneath it. Low levels of these omega-3 fatty acids could lead to dry eye syndrome, AMD, diabetic retinopathy, and retinopathy of prematurity. These acids are also important for proper visual development and eye function in infants.

Omega-3 fatty acids are primarily found in seafood, especially salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, and other fatty fish. They are also found in nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, and dark leafy greens, as well as vitamin supplements. However, some studies show that Omega-3 vitamin supplements do not work as well as eating fatty fish.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin

These carotenoids are natural antioxidants found in the eye, and including them in your diet can help reduce oxidation in the eye cells, preventing degeneration of the retina and lens. This in turn can help reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases like cataracts and AMD.

However, the body cannot produce enough of these crucial nutrients to provide benefit. Increasing your dietary intake or taking supplements can help. Dark-colored leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, kale and collard greens are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin. They are also found in fruits like kiwi, melons, and mangoes, as well as eggs, yellow corn, and carrots.

Vision Supplements

Supplements are meant to provide essential nutrients when you’re not getting enough of them through your diet, or when you already have an eye health condition. Other supplements are designed to help the body absorb nutrients it cannot otherwise synthesize.

For instance, the mineral selenium helps with the absorption of vitamin E, while zinc helps the body absorb vitamin A. B vitamins are also essential nutrients for the body, and vitamin B12 may help treat vision loss in glaucoma patients. Taking supplements with folic acid and vitamin B6 could help with reducing the risk of developing AMD as you get older.

In addition to eating the right foods, get an eye exam on a regular basis. Modern medical treatments like laser eye surgery can correct conditions that were previously considered irreversible. If it’s caught early, the Lasik procedure can reverse vision damage and restore your eyesight, so visit an eye center regularly.

Aaron Barriga aspired to become an eye doctor when he was younger, but his fantastic knack for understanding people and his outgoing personality led him into the field of marketing. As online marketing manager for an eye care center, he has the best of both worlds. He blogs with a mission to inform readers about the latest in eye care technology and topics to eye care and health. In addition, he loves collecting coasters from different bars and restaurants.

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