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Top 5 Foods For Maintaining 20:20 Vision

by | Feb 7, 2011

Photo by helgabj

Now you see me, now you don’t.

Today’s guest blogger Tim Harwood is a UK based optometrist who also writes for

Top 5 Foods For Maintaining 20:20 Vision

by Tim Harwood

If you are lucky enough to have perfect vision, don’t assume it will last forever. As we get older the chances of us developing an eye disease increases dramatically–10% of people over the age of 65 have macular degeneration, and that increases to 30% over the next 10 years.

To preserve perfect vision, first you have to cover the basics:

  • Get regular eye tests: Have your vision tested at least every 24 months, as early detection increases the likelihood a disease can be treated. Although not all diseases are treatable (e.g. macular degeneration), certain diseases such as glaucoma respond excellently to medication when detected early enough.
  • Don’t ignore visual symptoms: Regardless of how recently you have had an eye test, you should never ignore visual symptoms. If you see flashing lights, floating specks or blind spots in your vision these could indicate an eye disease that needs urgent attention.

How can food help me maintain perfect vision?

The macula is in the center of our retina and is responsible for central vision, reading and recognizing faces. As we get older our macula shows signs of wear and tear, a process known as macular degeneration. There is no effective treatment for this age-related degeneration, which is why eating the right foods is extremely important.

Within the macula there are 2 key pigments:

  1. Lutein
  2. Zeaxanthin

Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants found within the macula. These antioxidants reduce the amount of free radicals formed within our body as a natural consequence of our cells using oxygen (oxidation). These free radicals have degenerative effects on our eyes, which are thought to be the cause of macular degeneration. Lutein and zeaxanthin slow down this process and help preserve the macula.

Ophthalmologists are now recommending that people with early signs of macular degeneration take lutein and zeaxanthin supplements or change their diet accordingly.

What foods are high in lutein and zeaxanthin?

Here are the top 5 foods with the highest concentrations of these beneficial nutrients:

  1. Kale
  2. Spinach
  3. Peas
  4. Courgette / zucchini
  5. Brussel sprouts

Studies show that 6 mg of lutein and zeaxanthin should be eaten daily as part of your diet to provide the maximum benefit to your macula. This equates to about one large bowl of spinach or kale daily. Even if you can’t eat this amont every day, it is worth the effort to eat as much of these vegetables as you can manage.

Though these nutrients do not guarantee protection against macular degeneration, evidence suggests they at least slow the progression of the disease. In any case these vegetables are extremely healthy and may also protect against other conditions caused by oxidation such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

How’s your vision?

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Top 10 Food Facts Everyone Should Know

by | Feb 23, 2009

winter vegetablesIn honor of the food issue this week at Synapse, I compiled a list of ten essential diet and nutrition facts you might not know:

  1. “Vitamins” are not the same as whole foods. Instant ramen and a multivitamin is not a healthy meal. There is no substitute for a diet of whole foods rich in vegetables, beans, grains and fish.
  2. A healthy diet can prevent or even reverse four out of the six leading causes of death in the US. Evidence indicates that diet is more important than genetics in the vast majority of heart disease, stroke, cancer and type 2 diabetes cases.
  3. The thinnest, healthiest people in the world eat “high carb” diets. But they definitely do not eat the processed, refined carbohydrates that flood Western culture. If you want to lose weight and live longer without disease, eat more vegetables and whole grains.
  4. You get plenty of calcium. Americans consume more calcium than most countries on earth, yet still sport some of the highest rates of osteoporosis. This debilitating disease is more likely caused by insufficient vitamin D, not enough exercise and/or too much protein. Also, excess calcium is linked to prostate cancer and milk to ovarian cancer. Calcium does not support weight loss either.
  5. “Fiber” is not the same as vegetables and grains. Fiber supplements do not offer the same benefits as fiber-filled foods, and do not help with weight loss or protect against disease.
  6. The best sources of protein are plants and fish. It is relatively easy to get complete protein (i.e., all the essential amino acids) from a diverse diet. Protein from red meat offers more risk than reward. (Yes, pork is red meat.)
  7. Fruits and vegetables protect your vision. Both cataracts and macular degeneration are strongly tied to diet.
  8. Fats from factories are dangerous. Processed oils and trans fats (not total dietary fat) are associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and obesity. Replacing them with natural oils could save your life.
  9. Fats from plants and fish are essential. Mono- and polyunsaturated fats protect against heart disease, type 2 diabetes and memory loss. In moderation they can also aid in weight loss, since they increase the satiety you feel after a meal.
  10. You can lose weight on any short-term diet, but you will probably gain back more than you ultimately lose. This is often true even if you stay on the diet. Focusing on long-term health is the best strategy for sustained weight loss, but it requires patience.

What are other common myths about diet and nutrition?

UPDATE: For more information on the health value of oils from fish, please read my answer in the comments section.

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