A lot is talked about these days about eating well for your heart, reducing cholesterol, losing weight, avoiding diabetes and the rest. But not so much is mentioned about a diet that includes foods that promote good eye health. Why is that? Surely the eyes are important! We want to avoid if possible glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration that are becoming more and more common among the elderly. Well, I think the best way to do this is to ensure we are taking on enough eye boosting nutrients. Fortunately, those foods that are good for the rest of the body are good for the eyes as well.
Healthy Eating helps your eyes
It appears widely accepted that the super foods where the eyes are concerned are those containing lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin. The vegetables containing the most of these compounds (except for meso-zeaxanthin) are spinach and kale. Meso-zeaxanthin is not usually found in plants although can be found in some fish and in particular, from their skins. These compounds are found in the macula of the eye (the area in the retina that is responsible for providing sharpness of vision) and these caratenoids (pigments) provide protection against disease and damage caused by, among other things, ultra violet light. The body does not produce lutein and zeaxanthin naturally. So you need to get them from your food. It is thought that the body though can produce meso-zeaxanthin from lutein. Another source of lutein is eggs.
Your colorful fruit and vegetables (carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers, corn and strawberries for example) are the eyes’ friend too. They are rich in caratenoids as well as Vitamin A and C. Check out this great post on ohmylens.com for the top 17 most beneficial super foods to maintain good eyesight.
Outback Protocol: is there any truth in this?
This is a website that has caught my attention recently offering to restore 20/20 vision just by combining into a smoothie super foods for the eye. The founder of this site has determined that short sightedness has come about by the deterioration of the macula. He went to the outback in Australia and an Aborigine told him the secret of his super sight. It all comes down to what he (and his fellow Aborigines) eat. On his return to the US, he works with an eye specialist to create smoothies that contain high concentrations of the nutrients found in the foods that the Aborigines were eating. His wife, who was suffering with blurred vision at the time, then sees miraculous results in a short period of time after drinking these smoothies daily. He was dismissive of eye exercises and said the only way to restore 20/20 vision was by the recipes they were offering (for a price). However, what I found interesting was when they went over what was contained in the pack you would receive after purchasing the product, it included eye exercises! So I am not really convinced. I am not saying the smoothies would not be beneficial but I think without eye exercises (or more accurately new eye habits) it would have limited effect.
Other recipes promising sight restoration
There are several recipes out there on the web promising amazing results just by taking a ‘potion’ three times a day. One recommends having saffron in hot water. Another suggests a mixture of honey, garlic, lemons and linseed oil. Another still suggests the same except swaps the linseed oil for flax seed oil and states that one tablespoon of the mixture be taken on a wooden spoon three times a day! I am not sure why it would make a difference if the spoon is wooden! I am up for giving these concoctions a go but I would be surprised to see the amazing and quick effects that they promise. One of these promises amazing hair growth which I could do with as well!
TV program with scientific proof
I saw a TV program recently on the BBC called ‘Trust me i’m a doctor’. On one of the segments they were asking this question, can we actually improve our eyesight through what we eat? The results of research by Professor John Nolan at the Waterford Institute of Technology in south east Ireland, suggest an increase of these three compounds in our diet can indeed improve our eyesight. Volunteers drank a smoothie (with foods containing high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin) daily for 5 weeks. The contents of the smoothie was thought up by Dr Elizabeth Johnson of Tufts University in the US. The recipe for this is:
- 125g cooked Kale
- 80ml milk, 2% with DHA
- 1/2 small banana
- 125g kiwi, cut pieces
- 125g pineapple chunks, canned in water
- 1/2 medium peeled apple
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves (this is for flavouring)
- 1 tbsp almond butter
- 1/2 tsp wheat germ oil
- 1/2 lime (squeezed)
After the 5 week period, it was found that the volunteers had nearly doubled their lutein levels in their blood. However, levels of zeaxanthin and macular pigments had not increased. There was also no sign of improvements in their eyesight. It may be that the 5 week period was not enough before zeaxanthin could filter through to the eye tissues. Or the recipe needs to be changed to increase the dose of zeaxanthin. Supplements containing zeaxanthin source this compound from marigolds. Not something you want to be adding to your smoothie! Check out my post on eye supplements and I think you will be surprised as I was at the results of the recent research.
Age and fitness factors too
An optician told me during an eye exam (being careful not to say the word ‘age’ as if it was a rude word) that changes in my eyesight (unfortunately for the worse) come about due to the ageing process. The eyes’ lens becomes stiffer and less flexible. I was given the diagnosis that I was on the cusp of needing bi-focal lenses. That was a wake up call for me. I think now though there was a touch of defeatism in the optician’s words. We could, though, say that about other parts of our bodies: “oh, there is nothing I can do about it now, it just all part of the ageing process.” But we don’t do that usually do we? Well, not straight away, at least. We try something to combat it. For example, if we are told we have high cholesterol we don’t just give up when we are given this diagnosis! We change our diets to counteract this. So why is it not the same when it comes to our eyesight? I believe through eating well so we get the right nutrients for the eyes and keeping fit as well (so those channels supplying those nutrients to the eyes are kept clear) we stand a better chance of maintaining healthy eyes well into our old age.
Healthy Eating does help the eyes
So there are definitely good sources of food out there that will promote good eye health. They will help to protect the eye from diseases and provide nutrients that it needs. Top of the list are spinach and kale due to their rich concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin but there are other fruit, vegetables, nuts and whole grains that supply the eyes with caretenoids and vitamins. There are fantastical recipes on line that promise remarkable improvements in eye vision. I do not dismiss them outright. But I am cautious about their claims as they do seem just too good to be true. However, there may still be a grain of truth in what they advocate. I am willing to try some of these claims out. The scientific experiments done in this area indicate some positive effects of having foods rich in certain compounds. But it seems the research could have done with a much longer study to provide better data in this area. With the change of my eye habits I am taking, I am also seeing the need to ensure my diet is right too. Coupled with regular exercise to stand the best chance of success on the road to improving my distance vision.
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