Tuesday, April 2, 2013

(Carrots, Clementines &) Kale Yes, For the Eyes!

Kale and other dark leafy greens contain high levels of Vitamin C, which helps promotes good eye health. Archive photos.

JUST about everyone has gotten the memo that a proper diet will help decrease his or her chances of contracting any number of dastardly diseases associated with being overweight and obese.

But what about eating to help avoid afflictions of the eye? Specifically, age-related macular degeneration or AMD. It is a condition brought on when the retina is damaged, causing a loss of vision in the macula, the center of the visual field. In simpler terms, AMD results in poorer vision and can lead to cataracts and blindness. It generally affects adults over 50.

Regardless of one’s age, however – even if s/he is 9 years old – it is never too early to adopt a diet that will promote good eye health, say experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Department of Ophthalmology. There is general agreement that introducing carrots into the diet is a start. Don’t stop there, though.

Salmon and vegetables are a strong fatty acid-Vitamin C combo.

“The basis for this belief is that carrots are high in beta-carotene,” School of Optometry Professor Leo Semes told the UAB news service. “But beta-carotene alone is not going to be protective enough. There’s also a tangential relationship that a lack of vitamin-A, a cousin of beta-carotene, is implicated in poor darkness adaptation.”

Taking nutritional supplements containing high levels of antioxidants and zinc are a help, too. “These dietary supplements are not a cure for AMD, but they do reduce one’s risk of progressing to the most serious form of the disease,” said Cynthia Owsley, professor and vice chair for clinical research in the UAB ophthalmology department.

Carrots need help in maintaining strong eyes.

Professors CO and LS also suggest a diet that includes fruits and vegetables, particularly those rich in Vitamin C, which can help minimize cataracts and AMD. In this category are oranges and tangerines (or clementines). But it also includes papayas, strawberries, green and red hot chili peppers, bell peppers and dark leafy greens such as kale and mustards.

Also recommended for good eye health because of their fatty acid content are fleshy fishes such as tuna and salmon, as well as lean meats. The acids protect against AMD. Vegetable oil and the Vitamin E it contains can slow the progression of AMD. Lastly, whole grains and red meats can keep zinc levels healthy, since a zinc deficiency can lead to cataracts.

Papayas give a strong shot of Vitamin C.

It should go without saying but won’t: The foods being recommended are whole, nonprocessed foods, foods that are not spiked with harmful chemicals and pesticides, meat from animals that have not been mistreated..

And, and, and everyone has gotten the memo that red meat consumption should be kept to a minimum, right? Other non-red meat sources of zinc-rich foods besides whole grains include seeds of watermelon, pumpkin and squash, dark chocolate and peanuts.

A bit of parting advice from Professor LS: consult an optometrist ... Rx

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