Some of us may know someone affected by age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and if not, AMD is a degenerative eye condition and is the leading cause of severe vision impairment in people over 40 years of age. Oxidation and inflammation are known triggers of age related eye disease so it’s important to be mindful of eating foods, which help protect against these processes. Such foods include those rich in antioxidants and vitamins. To help support eye health, here are some specific foods to include in your daily diet:
Avocado: contains a high amount of lutein, a carotenoid, which has an antioxidant action, and is well known for its ability to help prevent macular degeneration. Lutein is fat-soluble and the healthy fats in avocado help us to absorb lutein. Avocado is also a source of other vitamins beneficial for eye health such as Vitamin A and Vitamin C.
Sweet potato: source of beta-carotene, which the body converts to Vitamin A. Both of which exert antioxidant activities and have been shown to be beneficial for eye health.
Beetroot and spinach: both a source of vegetable nitrates, new research* shows that people who eat 100 to 142mgs of vegetable nitrates daily have a 35% lower risk of developing early AMD. To put this into perspective, beetroot has 15mg of nitrate per 100g.
Kale: source of lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which are found in the lens and retina and concentrated in the macula region of the retina. Lutein and zeaxanthin are also believed to protect against retinal oxidative damage by absorbing blue light.
Sunflower seeds: source of vitamin E, another antioxidant required by the body, which can aid eye health.
Papaya: a good source of the antioxidant Vitamin C, the eye has a high requirement for antioxidants and therefore boosting vitamin C intake can aid eye health.
Oysters: rich source of dietary zinc, zinc is necessary to help maintain the health of the retina and also aids in scavenging free radicals. If you aren’t an oyster fan, other sources of zinc include chickpeas, chicken, almonds, beef, crab, pumpkin seeds, turkey, yoghurt and cashews.
Salmon: known for its high omega-3 essential fatty acid (DHA & EPA) content. Omega-3 is important to help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. DHA is also found in the retina and helps to regulate functions of the eye. If you don’t eat fish, hemp seeds are also a good source of omega-3 fats.
Rasmussen, H et al 2013, ‘Nutrients for the aging eye,’ Clin Interv Aging, ‘ Vol. 8, pp. 741-748.
*Westmead Institute for Medical Research. “Eating leafy greens could help prevent macular degeneration.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 October 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181019100558.htm>.