Making sure you protect your eyes from conditions such as general vision loss, macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts could make all the difference to your eye health later on in life.
Giving up smoking, taking frequent exercise and wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from damaging UV rays are proven ways to safeguard your eye health, and it's important to have regular check-ups with a qualified ophthalmic practitioner, too.
What you put into your body is also a factor. There are many supplements (a list is detailed at the bottom of this article) available if your lifestyle or dietary requirements make it hard to eat the most beneficial diet; but if you can, a healthy diet will benefit you hugely.
Almonds are one of the richest sources of vitamin E on the planet, weight for weight, and a small handful of the nuts will provide half your RDI (Recommended Daily Intake).
The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), a major research project sponsored by the US National Eye Institute found that a regular intake of vitamin E can reduce the risk of developing cataracts by 25%. Other excellent sources of vitamin E include extra-virgin olive oil and sunflower seeds. The recipe below uses ground almonds instead of flour, so is Gluten free too.(Not suitable for someone with a nut allergy).
Blackberries are loaded with anthocyanins, the antioxidant pigments that give them their dark colour, which studies suggest prevent and slow the progression of age-related conditions such as AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration) and cataracts.
Blackcurrants, blueberries, and other high anthocyanin-containing foods like purple olives, offer the same eye-boosting benefits. Try to include these antioxidant foods in your diet several times a week if you can.
Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin C, chromium and folate. It is a very good source of dietary fibre, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin E, manganese, phosphorus, choline, vitamin B1, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), potassium and copper. It is also a good source of vitamin B1, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, zinc, calcium, iron, niacin and selenium. Broccoli is also crammed with phytonutrients which are linked to improving the body's ability to impede the growth of cancer cells. It may not live up to its reputation of being a super food, but nevertheless it contains many nutrients, which are needed for numerous functions in the body including eye health.
Broccoli is a flexible vegetable that works well in salads, stir fries, curries and soups. An 80g serving will count towards your 5 A Day."
Granny always says that carrots are good for the eyes and help you see better in the dark. Well, she is not wrong. Carrots are a rich source of lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body.
Vitamin A is essential for clear vision and general eye health, and may help prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. Several portions a week should suffice and like kale, cooking your carrots will make their precious pigments more bio-available.
Egg yolks are a very rich source of lutein and contain impressive levels of zeaxanthin. Importantly, experts believe the lutein and zeaxanthin in eggs are more easily absorbed by the body than the same carotenoid pigments in fruit and vegetables such as oranges, kale and garden peas.
Studies also suggest eating eggs regularly can reduce the risk of developing cataracts by up to 18% and protect the macula from age-related degeneration. Eating several portions of eggs a week should be enough, as long as you eat the yolk as well as the white. Anyone who requires a low cholesterol diet should talk to their GP first before consuming lots of eggs.
Often dismissed the garden pea is an excellent source of those all-important lutein and zeaxanthin pigments and like, carrots, kale, oranges and red peppers , this legume is absolutely stuffed with eye-friendly beta-carotene. This makes it an outstanding food for good eye health, peas also contain a whole heap of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C and zinc, that support the eyes and help protect them from age-related damage. Lightly steaming or gently boiling your peas will help extract the most micronutrients.
Professor John Nolan of the Waterford Institute of technology in Ireland has carried out pioneering work looking at the effects of carotenoid pigments called lutein and zeaxanthin on the macula, a part of the retina that is crucial for detailed vision.
His research was featured recently on the BBC's Trust Me, I'm a Doctor show in which presenter Dr Michael Mosley concluded that a diet high in these pigments improves vision and may protect the macula from age-related damage.
Cooked kale is the best dietary source of lutein and zeaxanthin, not to mention beneficial vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, so upping your intake should in all likelihood enhance your eye health.
Like red peppers, oranges are high in lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids, and make for an excellent source of protective vitamin C to boot.
Most citrus fruit is also packed with beta-carotene, the pigment that gives it its characteristic hue, so you really can't go wrong with an orange if you're serious about looking after your vision and protecting your eyes from age-related damage.
Red peppers contain high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids, which have been shown to improve detailed and night vision, as well as protect the macula from degeneration.
Red peppers are also an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C, and a very good source of vitamin E, which studies indicate are all vital for optimum eye health. Again, it's worth remembering that heat releases more of the carotenoid pigments, while eating red peppers raw retains more vitamin C.
Seafood delicacies such as oysters and lobster as well as red meat, are high in zinc (especially Prawns). This essential mineral is important for eye health because it's one of the main components of the pigment melanin, which protects the eyes from UV-induced damage, and conditions such as AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration) and cataracts.
High in protein and low in fat, prawns are a healthy source of the mineral. If you are vegetarian, vegan or suffer from gout, leafy greens such as spinach and pulses like kidney beans and are the richest sources of zinc.
A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent dry eye syndrome, including the more serious forms of the condition such as blepharitis and meibomian gland dysfunction, which are more common in older people. Research indicates strongly that omega-3 reduces inflammation and has a regulatory effect on tear production, helping to moisturise the surface of the eyes.
Studies have shown that omega-3 can help prevent AMD, too. Opt for two to three portions a week of salmon or other oily fish like mackerel or sardines to reap the benefits. If you don't eat fish, you can get your recommended daily intake (RDI) of omega-3 from flax seeds, chia seeds and leafy greens.
These are links to supplements.
These products are available from http://www.mcateersopticians.co.uk