Healthy Eyes At Every Age

Carrots:  When it comes to staying healthy as we age, we may tend to focus on our heart, brain and bones, first. But healthy aging also involves seeing well into the future. Keeping our eyes healthy is an important way to help prevent age-related eye diseases, such as macular degeneration, vision loss, dry eyes, cataracts, and problems with night vision. While an overall healthy, active lifestyle is the key to bright eyes, adding more of these six healthy foods to your diet will help keep them sparkling and strong.

Green Vegetables: To prevent eye diseases such as macular degeneration—a condition which causes progressive damage to the retina, resulting in a gradual loss of vision—dark green vegetables, such as kale, spinach, collard greens and dark green lettuce (think Romaine), should definitely be on the menu. That’s because they contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two important nutrients that have antioxidant functions in the body and help to prevent cell damage. “We have lutein and zeaxanthin as pigments in the back part of the eye,” says Dr. Guillermo Rocha, an ophthalmologist and Medical Director of GRMC Vision Centre in Brandon, Manitoba. “Keeping that part well nourished helps maintain normal physiology at the back of the eye.” Rocha explains that lutein acts like sunglasses, helping to protect the retina from damage.

Fish:  To prevent eye diseases such as macular degeneration—a condition which causes progressive damage to the retina, resulting in a gradual loss of vision—dark green vegetables, such as kale, spinach, collard greens and dark green lettuce (think Romaine), should definitely be on the menu. That’s because they contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two important nutrients that have antioxidant functions in the body and help to prevent cell damage. “We have lutein and zeaxanthin as pigments in the back part of the eye,” says Dr. Guillermo Rocha, an ophthalmologist and Medical Director of GRMC Vision Centre in Brandon, Manitoba. “Keeping that part well nourished helps maintain normal physiology at the back of the eye.” Rocha explains that lutein acts like sunglasses, helping to protect the retina from damage.

Beans:  From chickpeas and kidney beans, to mung beans and lentils, eating beans and other legumes is an easy way to add zinc to your diet. Zinc helps release vitamin A from the liver so that it can be used in eye tissues, while a zinc deficiency can cause deterioration of the macula, at the centre of the retina. Serve up beans in stews and casseroles, or add them to salads. Zinc is also found in oysters, beef, poultry and pumpkin seeds.

Wheat:  Wheat germ is great source of vitamin E, another important antioxidant. “What vitamin E does is protect the eyes from free-radical damage,” says Coulson, meaning that it protects cells in the body from oxidation, which can cause deterioration and disease. Vitamin E may also decrease the progression of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. While wheat germ is an easy addition when you’re baking, it can also be sprinkled on oatmeal, yogurt and salads, and mixed with smoothies. “You can even add it to stews,” says Coulson. Almonds, sunflower seeds and hazelnuts are also good sources of vitamin E.

Broccoli:  While this hearty cruciferous vegetable has long been touted for keeping cancer and heart disease at bay, it’s important for eye health, too. In addition to containing lutein and zeaxanthin, broccoli is also high in vitamin C. “It’s the synergy of nutrients,” says Coulson. “That particular food and that particular combination of nutrients can actually reduce the progress of age-related macular degeneration and vision loss.”

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