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Seeing Life More Clearly with Age
Aging is inevitable. The beauty is over time we can gain a greater perspective on life. But, when it comes to eye health can the food choices we make also help us see more clearly?
There is no way to stop Father Time, but perhaps we can slow the hands of the clock. The link between aging and eyesight health comes to light for many with the eventualization of needing reading glasses. Dry eyes, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma are all also possible as we get older. It’s never too early or too late to improve eye health.
Taking a Closer Look at the Menu
Bifocals or not yet, take a closer look at the menu for long-term eye health. Healthy menu planning should provide a plethora of nutrient dense fruits and vegetables to support the eyes for life.
Carrots and Kale for Vision Health
Take a cue from color. Three top food sources are bold, bright and ultimately rich in minerals and vitamins while abundant in antioxidants. The bright green of kale and brilliant orange of carrots light up the produce aisle with both colour and plenty of phytonutrients. Both vegetables are rich in light-absorbing pigments called carotenoids. Although there are more than six-hundred identified carotenoids, beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin are linked to eyesight support.
Carrots’ intense orange hue highlights their high beta-carotene content, which the body then converts into usable vitamin A. Carrots also help sharpen eyesight due to a form of vitamin A called retinal, which is also found in the retinas of your eyes. Don’t be fooled by the colour green in kale, it’s also high in beta-carotene. The yellow and orange are simply masked to the naked eye due to scads of chlorophyll.
Both kale and carrots contain lutein, an antioxidant, receiving regular press as an exceptional eye booster. The macular region of the eye is actually yellow in color due to several carotenoids, one being lutein.
Aging causes the macular layer to thin, resulting in age-related macular degeneration and ultimately can lead to blindness. Lutein rich, leafy greens, such as kale can help rebuild the macular layer. Whether you steam or juice, swap for lettuce in a salad or make kale chips, all are exceptional for eyes.
Carrots are high fiber, and with just 50 calories in a cupful they make for a splendid snack on-the-go. With cooler winter days ahead, carrots are a great add-on to soups and stews. Juicing junkies are on the right path, as one 250 ml cup of energy-producing carrot juice contains almost 5 times (25,000 IU) RDA for Vitamin A.
Garden greats are not limited to bunny favorites. Blueberries are also mini potent powerhouses of antioxidants helping neutralize unstable particles referred to as free radicals. Vitamin C rich blueberries may protect against the development of age related eye conditions. Blueberries also contain lutein. To recap, lutein is a natural compound related to vitamin A, promoting healthy night vision and preventing macular degeneration.
Helping Supplements in Sight
Mother Nature provides a bounty to fill our shopping basket, but not all are fridge favorites. Sometimes, supplementing is essential for eye health.
Bilberry is a nutrient rich relative of the blueberry and huckleberry. It looks quite similar on the outside but the pulp is a different story. Blueberries are light green while bilberries are rich red or purple. A long time favorite of health practitioners, bilberry helps support eye conditions, such as cataract disorders of the retina. Bilberry may also help improve vision in lower light environments. Bilberry may help slow the progression of eye disorders due to key antioxidant, anthocyanosides. Stay tuned, as bilberry jam is also slowly finding it’s way to the breakfast table.
Lutein, another favorite, is a carotenoid vitamin related to beta-carotene and vitamin A. Lutein is found as a color pigment in the human eye, functioning as a light filter while also helping guard eyes from sunlight damage. Lutein offers protection against macular degeneration, also helping reduce the risk of cataract formation. Adding 20 to 40 mcg of lutein daily may help slow aging of eyes. Keep in mind it’s best absorbed with a high-fat meal.
Last but not least, keep eye sight keen with vitamin A. Naturally, vitamin A comes in two forms. Preformed A or retinol comes from animal sources such as liver, fish liver oil, egg yolks and milk products. Provitamin A or beta-carotene is found in a wide variety of yellow and orange vegetables and fruits, as well as leafy greens. Various health conditions such as low thyroid or diabetes impact the conversion process; so, supplementing may be able essential. Vitamin A is needed for the formation of rhodopsin to maintain night vision. It also addresses dry eyes, helps eyes adjust from bright light to darkness and maintains health of the cornea.
Eyesight connects us to life on many levels. Life is too beautiful to miss a single moment. Being pro-active with eye health and helping prevent age-related eye concerns means making health conscious choices. It’s easy to incorporate eye boosting brightly colored farm fresh foods and maybe a supplement or two into any protocol to help promote healthy eye sight.
1) Grando F, Olmedilla B, Blanco I. Nutritional and clinical relevance of lutein in human health. British Journal of Nutrition 2003;90:00347-502.
2) Elson M. Haas, MD., and Buck Levin, PhD, RDm, Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine, 21st-Century Edition (New York:Ten Speed Press, 2006).
Mercedes Kay Gold is a personal trainer, graduating with honours in the Fitness Leadership program from Seneca College. She is also a certified nutritional practitioner, graduating from the Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Toronto. Mercedes is also certified as a Fitness Nutritionist with ISSA. Mercedes Gold currently resides in Toronto bringing holistic health to clients and spending time with her sons. www.mercedeskaygold.com