5 Fantastic Foods For Your Eyes

While most have heard of cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), lesser-known but insidious eye diseases affect millions of people many of which are children. Diseases such as Stargardt’s Disease, retinitis pigmentosa, Usher Syndrome and diabetic retinopathy can cause vision loss and blindness.

Research has shown that optimizing one’s diet with key nutrients alongside medical treatment may help slow the rate of degeneration in some conditions.

Fantastic Foods #1: Salmon, Sardines and Cold-water Fishomega 3 collage

Cold-water fish are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA. Studies have shown that diets high in these essential fatty acids can help reduce the risk of developing AMD, cataracts and dry eye later in life. A promising study reported that combining omega 3 fatty acids with vitamin A in patients with retinitis pigmentosa slowed the rate of decline of visual acuity.

Omega 3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body and eating a diet rich in these nutrients may help prevent or postpone the development of diabetic retinopathy

Fantastic Foods #2: Kale, Collard Greens & Spinach

These dark leafy green nutritional powerhouses are loaded with the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin are the only carotenoids found in the retina and lens of the eye. Their role is to help filter harmful light and protect the eye through their anti-oxidant properties.

Studies show that diets rich in these nutrients may help slow the development of AGM and cataracts and reduce the progression of midperipheral vision loss in adults with retinitis pigmentosa.

 Enjoy these leafy greens with olive oil, avocado or some tasty nuts. Carotenoids are best absorbed when consumed with a healthy source of fat.

 Fantastic Foods #3: Scallops, Muscle & Clams

These foods are rich in taurine which is the most abundant amino acid in the retina and acts as a potent antioxidant. Researchers are continuing to investigate taurine’s role in retinal diseases; however, recent studies have shown that taurine can prevent the degeneration of specific retinal cells.

Shellfish is also rich in iodine. Iodine is an essential nutrient for thyroid function. While most people are iodine sufficient, consuming an abundance of certain foods, like those highlighted in Fantastic Foods #2 (e.g. Brassica family), may inhibit the transportation of iodine in some people.

If you start every day by filling your blender with a box full of kale for your morning smoothie then you may want to ensure your iodine levels are sufficient as this can help reduce the impact of these goitrogenic chemicals (goitrin and thiocyanate). Cooking kale, spinach and collards was also shown to reduce their impact.

However, fear not, research has shown that healthy people consuming regular quantities of these foods, such as kale and spinach, on a daily basis did not have any interference with thyroid function.

Fantastic Foods #4: Pumpkin, Sesame & Sunflower Seedspumpkin seeds

These seeds are loaded with zinc and vitamin E. Zinc is highly concentrated in the macula of the eye, which is part of the retina. Its role is to enable vitamin A to synthesize melanin, a protective pigment for our eyes. Zinc deficiency has been linked to cloudy cataracts, impaired vision and poor night vision. Those at risk of AMD may benefit from increasing their consumption of foods rich in zinc.

Vitamin E acts as a powerful antioxidant that helps protect the cells in our eyes from free radical damage.

Fantastic Foods #5: Strawberries, Peppers, Papaya & Citrus Fruit

You may have guessed that these fruits provide significant amounts of vitamin C. Like vitamin E, C also acts as an antioxidant protecting our cells from damage. Diets rich in vitamin C are linked to a reduced risk of developing cataracts.

Food and nutrients work synergistically together and studies show that when combining vitamin C with other essential nutrients, like those listed above, it can slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration and visual acuity loss.

Bottom Line:

While no single food or nutrient can cure eye disease, eating a well-balanced nutritious diet loaded with veggies, fruit, fish, shellfish, nuts and seeds may help reduce the risk or slow the progression of certain eye ailments. Focus on food first and always discuss supplements with your doctor prior to taking them.

Recipe: Salmon with Quinoa & Kale Salad

This recipe is not only great for your eyes, the protein-rich salmon, the low glycemic quinoa and antioxidant rich kale is the perfect meal to enjoy after a long training ride.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cups quinoa (uncooked)
  • 1 bunch kale (curly or Lacinato, stems removed and thinly sliced)
  • 2 green onions, finely sliced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (divided)
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
  • 4 salmon fillets about 4 oz or 120 grams each.

Sauce to Top:

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. In a medium saucepan, cook the quinoa for about 10 minutes until grain separates. Drain. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the kale, lemon juice, green onions, garlic, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and pinch of salt. Massage the kale in the dressing until it begins to soften. Add the cranberries, pumpkin seeds and cooked quinoa to the kale. Mix until combined.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large nonstick pan. Place the salmon on the warmed pan and cook skin-side down for 3-5 minutes or until crispy and brown. Place the salmon in the preheated oven to finish cooking. Depending upon thickness this could take another 5-10 minutes.
  5. Divide the quinoa & kale salad between 4 bowls and top with the salmon.
  6. Make the sauce by whisking all ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth.
  7. Spoon over the fish and serve immediately.

 References:

Berson, M.D.,1 et al. Clinical Trial of Lutein in Patients with Retinitis Pigmentosa Receiving Vitamin A Arch Ophthalmol. 2010 Apr;128(4):403-11. doi: 10.1001/archophthalmol.2010.32.

Berson EL1, Rosner B, Sandberg MA, Weigel-DiFranco C, Willett WC. ω-3 intake and visual acuity in patients with retinitis pigmentosa receiving vitamin A. Arch Ophthalmol. 2012 Jun;130(6):707-11. doi: 10.1001/archophthalmol.2011.2580.

Felker P1, Bunch R2, Leung AM2. Concentrations of thiocyanate and goitrin in human plasma, their precursor concentrations in brassicavegetables, and associated potential risk for hypothyroidism. Nutr Rev. 2016 Apr;74(4):248-58. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuv110. Epub 2016 Mar 5.

Froger N1, et al. Taurine is a crucial factor to preserve retinal ganglion cell survival. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2013;775:69-83. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4614-6130-2_6.

Froger N1, et al. Taurine: the comeback of a neutraceutical in the prevention of retinal degenerations. Prog Retin Eye Res. 2014 Jul;41:44-63. doi: 10.1016/j.preteyeres.2014.03.001. Epub 2014 Apr 8.

Kowluru RA1, Zhong Q, Santos JM, Thandampallayam M, Putt D, Gierhart DL. Nutr Metab (Lond). Beneficial effects of the nutritional supplements on the development of diabetic retinopathy. 2014 Jan 30;11(1):8. doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-11-8.

McCusker MM1, Durrani K2, Payette MJ3, Suchecki J2.An eye on nutrition: The role of vitamins, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants in age-related macular degeneration, dry eye syndrome, and cataract. Clin Dermatol. 2016 Mar-Apr;34(2):276-85. doi: 10.1016/j.clindermatol.2015.11.009. Epub 2015 Nov 22.

Shen JH1, Ma Q, Shen SR, Xu GT, Das UN. Effect of α-linolenic acid on streptozotocin-induced diabetic retinopathy indices in vivo. Arch Med Res. 2013 Oct;44(7):514-20. doi: 10.1016/j.arcmed.2013.09.010. Epub 2013 Oct 10.

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