Eat Right for Your Sight: Banana Blueberry Pom Smoothie
It’s never too early to focus on eating more clean, whole foods to strengthen your eyesight and prevent age-related macular degeneration. I had the pleasure to check out the new cookbook (Eat Right for your Sight) showcasing healthy and deliciously easy recipes featuring the perfect nutrients to keep your eyes healthy and strong (as May is Healthy Vision Month!). There are plenty of dietary factors in various foods that can protect your eyesight.
Macular degeneration is a condition that affects 10 million Americans and unfortunately those numbers are increasing rapidly. Macular Degeneration is a medical condition that usually affects older adults and results in a loss of vision in the center of the visual field because of damage to the retina. It occurs in “dry” and “wet” forms. It is a major cause of blindness and visual impairment in older adults (>50 years), afflicting 30-50 million people globally, according to Wikipedia. This health condition especially hits home to me as I know of a few family members being afflicted by this problem. Yes, it usually occurs later with age, but there is plenty to do to help avoid getting this condition and to keep your eyes as healthy as they can be. Imagine not being able to read, drive, see faces, travel well, all due to a condition that may be preventable with a healthy diet.
Take the proper dietary measures early, and protect your sight!
There are many nutrients that help keep our eyesight strong. Some particular ones to note are:
Zinc is an essential trace mineral or “helper molecule.” It plays a vital role in bringing vitamin A from the liver to the retina in order to produce melanin, a protective pigment in the eyes. Zinc is highly concentrated in the eye, mostly in the retina and choroid, the vascular tissue layer lying under the retina. Impaired vision has also been linked to zinc deficiency. A deficiency of zinc can result in poor night vision and cloudy cataracts.
Good sources: legumes, seafood, beef, spinach, pumpkin seeds, cashews, nuts/nut butters, cacao powder (raw chocolate), pork, and chicken.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Often found together in many foods, these two critical compounds are powerful antioxidants. They are thought to be critical for eyesight because in humans, lutein and zeaxanthin are found in high concentrations in many parts of the eye. Therefore, consuming these antioxidants through foods helps keep our eyes strong. They protect our eyes from strong UV rays, give us good vision in dim lighting, and protect us from various eye diseases, including Macular Degeneration. “Note: Many studies combined lutein and zeaxanthin with other nutrients, such as vitamins C and E. It’s possible that the combination of nutrients may be more helpful than any single nutrient” according to WebMD. (and another reason why the recipes in Eat Right for your Sight are so amazing, because they are filled with many nutrients for our eyesight, not just one!
Good sources: eggs, carrots, kale, spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, pistachios, peas, avocado.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables. Scientific evidence suggests vitamin C lowers the risk of developing cataracts, and when taken in combination with other essential nutrients, can slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and visual acuity loss. One study showed that a 500 mg/day intake of vitamin C, taken with antioxidants beta-carotene, vitamin E and zinc supplementation, slows the progression of advanced age-related macular degeneration by about 25 percent and visual acuity loss by 19 percent in individuals at high-risk for the disease.
Good sources: citrus fruits like grapefruit, orange, berries, lemons, guava, oranges, kiwi, and even red and green peppers contain vitamin C.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are a type of polunsaturated fatty acids, essential to our bodies. They are considered to be a “healthy” fat. A number of clinical studies have shown omega-3 fatty acids are essential for normal infant vision development.Several studies suggest omega-3 fatty acids may help protect adult eyes from macular degeneration and dry eye syndrome. Essential fatty acids also may help proper drainage of intraocular fluid from the eye, decreasing the risk of high eye pressure and glaucoma.
Good sources: fish & fish oil, flax seeds, chia seeds, olive oil, nuts, soybeans, eggs, cauliflower,
Vitamin E is thought to protect cells of the eyes from damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals, which break down healthy tissue. Research has been shown that Vitamin E can also help prevent cataracts from developing.
Good sources: wheat cereal, nuts, seeds, nut butters, sweet potato.
Vitamin A from animal-derived foods is called retinol. This “pre-formed” vitamin A can be used directly by the body. Vitamin A obtained from colorful fruits and vegetables is in the form of “provitamin A” carotenoids, which are converted to retinol by the body after the food is ingested. Vitamin A is important for eye health because it protects the surface of the eye, called the cornea, and is important for good vision.
Good sources: animal meats, eggs, cheese, milk, fortified cereals and grains, sweet potato, cantaloupe, apricots, winter squash, pumpkin, carrots, etc.
Carotenoids are vitamin A-like compounds found in plants. Some are provitamin A carotenoids. Our bodies can convert these carotenoids into the active form of vitamin A (known as retinol…see above). The beneficial effects of carotenoids are thought to be due to their role as antioxidants. Carotenoids consist of dark colored pigments (i.e. the darker the fruit or vegetable, the more nutrition!) Beta-carotene, what gives carrots and sweet potatoes their orange color, is a well known example.
Good sources: spinach, broccoli, sweet potato, cantaloupe, apricots, winter squash, pumpkin, carrots, etc.
“Eat Right For Your Sight” is written by James Beard nominated author Jennifer Trainer Thompson. It translates 20 years of research from the American Macular Degeneration Foundation into delicious and practical recipes for readers. The recipes are tasty, very healthy and use whole foods.
- 1 ripe banana
- 2 kale leaves, stem removed
- 1 cup blueberries
- 2 cups pomegranate juice
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth, about 45 to 60 seconds.
Chill briefly if desired. Serve immediately.
Serving Size: 2 cups
- Calories: 262
- Protein: 4 g
- Fiber: 5 g
- Fat: 1 g
- Saturated fat: less than 1 g
- Sodium: 33 mg
- Vitamin A: 7,808 IU
- Vitamin C: 135 mg
- Vitamin E: 2 IU
- Zinc: 1 mg
- Beta-carotene: 4,677 μg
- Lutein and zeaxanthin: 19,946 μg
Recipe from Eat Right For Your Sight: Simple Tasty Recipes That Help Reduce the Risk of Vision Loss from Macular Degeneration, copyright © American Macular Degeneration Foundation, 2014. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.
This cookbook has SO many incredible nutrient-dense recipes, I wish I could make them all! The recipes include everything from roasted fish (halibut anyone?), crisp summer salads, hearty winter soups (white bean and kale soup) and a deliciously simple Toasted Quinoa Salad. They even have a Three Bean Salad that is crazily almost-identical to my own here. The recipe I most definitely will be making are the Chocolate Beet Cupcakes with Chocolate Yogurt Frosting. Need I see more? (superfood dessert…nom) The whole dessert section of the cookbook alone should make you want to buy the book (which you can buy here for less than $20).
I’d say about 90% of the recipes in Eat Right For Your Sight are either gluten-free or easily made gluten free. Soo perfect!
Definitely check out this fabulous new cookbook! Even if you aren’t looking for recipes contributing to eye health specifically, these recipes are delicious and overall a perfect addition for any healthy diet.