Make sure you’re cooking up the right stuff to help protect your eyes. Maintaining good eye health with the right nutrition is essential for helping to keep eye diseases at bay and ensure you’re performing at your best.
The Green Light
Leafy greens such as kale and spinach are full of vitamin C, lutein and zeaxanthin. These not only protect your eyes from harmful UV rays with their powerful antioxidants but also help to prevent the development of eye conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration. The more pigments formed in the macula (the centre of the back of the eye) by these green the more your eyes are protected from these conditions which can eventually lead to blindness, so it’s important to keep them at bay.
Other greens that are rich in antioxidants include broccoli, peas and avocados.
Kale is often dismissed because of its bitter taste but should not be overlooked as it is packed with vitamins and minerals that are extremely good for eye health. You can turn this nutritional super food into a tasty meal accompaniment very easily by sautéing it with a good helping of seasoning (remember to go easy on the salt!).
If you’re still not a fan then spinach is a great alternative and very easy to introduce into your diet. You can eat it raw in salads and sandwiches or use it as an ingredient in hot meals such as healthy stir-fries, curries and pasta bakes.
Many people opt for eggs because they’re a healthy source of protein but did you know they’re also full of eye-loving nutrients such as lutein, zinc and vitamin A? This helps the eyes to function at their best and stay protected from dryness. Vitamin A helps to protect the outer layer of the eye called the cornea and zinc help maintain a healthy retina (the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye) and helps to aid night vision. Please note that these nutrients are found in the yolk of the egg – so you need to eat the whole thing to get the full benefit!
The great thing about eggs is that they can be cooked in so many different quick and easy ways and work for all different times of the day – even as an ingredient for your main evening meal or boiled as a snack.
Oily and cold water fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which protect the small blood vessels in your eyes, therefore helping to prevent dry eyes, cataracts and macular degeneration. Don’t be put off by the word ‘fat’ – these are good fats so as long as you eat them in moderation you won’t have any trouble. 2-3 portions a week is the recommended amount.
There’s a great variety of fish you can choose from such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, anchovies and sardines. Salmon is particularly rich in omega-3 but try and opt for wild salmon as it is lower in saturated fat than farm-raised salmon. If you’re not a fan of fish you can still get the goodness of omega-3 through certain supplements such as fish oil and flaxseed oil.
Grilled fish fillets make a delicious lunch or light evening meal. Sardines and anchovies are also very easy to add straight to dishes like salads and rice bowls for a quick omega-3 fix.
The Whole Shebang
Refined carbohydrates such as white rice, pasta and bread have a high glycemic index. Switching to products such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, whole-wheat bread and quinoa which have a low GI can help reduce the likelihood of developing macular degeneration. These foods also contain zinc, vitamin E and niacin – some more eye-loving nutrients!
Not only is whole wheat good for your eyes but it is also slow releasing, helping to keep hunger at bay which in turn can aid in weight loss.
Sweet n Sour
Dark berries and citrus fruits such as blueberries, bilberries, oranges, grapefruits and lemons are very rich in vitamin C which, like leafy greens, helps protect against cataracts and macular degeneration by looking after the blood vessels in your eyes. Dark berries also promote better night vision and strengthen the blood vessels that deliver vitamins and nutrients to your eyes. Blueberries, in particular, are loaded with antioxidants that reduce the risk of many health conditions including cataracts, glaucoma and cancer.
Berries make a bright addition to porridge or cereal as part of a healthy balanced breakfast. You can team this with a glass of orange or blend it all together in a super-smoothie for extra vitamin power!
Fish isn’t the only thing that’s rich in omega-3, you can also find this healthy fat in nuts such as almonds, peanuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, and walnuts. They are also packed with vitamin E which protects healthy tissue from being harmed by unstable molecules in the body. Nuts can be quite calorific, so keep an eye on your intake and dry not to eat more than half a cup a day to maintain a balanced diet. Nuts make a great little snack on their own but can also be chopped and added to baking, cereal and even salads.
Colourful fruit and veggies such as tomatoes, bell peppers, strawberries, sweet potatoes and yes, carrots (you guessed it!) are rich in both vitamin A and C which, as we have established, is great for your overall eye health and can also help prevent infections. Not only this but these bright fruits and vegetables are packed with beta-carotene which gives them their orange, red and yellow colours. Beta-carotene is responsible for carrots being linked to good night vision; it helps the eyes to absorb light and adjust when it gets darker.
You can snack on raw carrots, peppers and strawberries raw for a quick injection of goodness on the go to satisfy hunger in between meals. Sweet potatoes also make fantastic fries when cut into strips and roasted.
Seed the Benefit
Sunflower, chia seeds, legumes, kidney beans and lentils are loaded with zinc which aids the body in absorbing vitamin A by helping release it from the liver so that it can reach the eyes. As stated above, vitamin A plays a key part in reducing the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. Chia seeds also contain even more omega-3 than salmon and more antioxidants than blueberries which make them a true superfood! You can try sprinkling seeds into salads and stir-fries to give them a little extra crunch or simply have them alone as a healthy snack.
Red meat, especially beef, is another food that’s loaded with zinc which aids the body in absorbing vitamin A by helping release it from the liver so that it can reach the eyes. As stated above, vitamin A plays a key part in reducing the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
Another might meat is turkey which also contains zinc but is also full of vitamin B and niacin, another cataract preventer. The body struggles to break down red meat, so this poultry alternative is a great choice for the health conscious individual.
Both beef and turkey are very versatile to cook with. You can use minced meat to make chilli and bolognese or strips in stir-fries and pasta. You can even snatch a slice of cooked beef or turkey to add to a sandwich with whole wheat bread at lunch.