More than 13 million people in the U.S. suffer from macular degeneration, and about half of all Americans over the age of 80 have cataracts. Learn to dramatically reduce your risk by practicing the following healthy lifestyle habits:
Reduce your risk for macular degeneration
If you smoke you should stop, and if you’re overweight, take steps to lose the extra baggage. Also, everyone should wear a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses that block 100% of UVA/UVB rays when out in the sun for prolonged periods of time.
From a nutritional standpoint, a large-scale research project conducted by the National Eye Institute has shown that there are several nutrients that help reduce the risk and slow the progression of macular degeneration.
The most important foods for preventing macular degeneration are ones that are rich in zinc, beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein and zeaxanthin and omega-3 fats.
- Beta carotene-rich foods: carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, cantaloupe, apricots and cherries.
- Vitamin C-rich foods: bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, oranges, strawberries and kiwis.
- Vitamin E-rich foods: wheat germ, almonds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, peanut butter and avocados.
- Zinc-rich foods: oysters, ostrich (a very lean meat), turkey, pumpkin seeds and chick peas.
- Lutein-Zeaxanthin-rich foods: Occur together in spinach, Swiss chard, watercress, corn and persimmons.
- Omega-3 fats: wild salmon, sardines, Atlantic mackerel and omega-3-fortified eggs.
Reduce your risk for cataracts
As mentioned with macular degeneration, stop smoking if you smoke, and regularly protect your eyes from the sun. Also, many of the foods that help prevent macular degeneration also help prevent cataracts, specifically vitamin C, vitamin E and lutein/zeaxanthin. Research has also shown that a diet rich in two B vitamins — riboflavin (B2) and niacin (B3) — may also help reduce your risk of cataracts.
- Riboflavin-rich foods: skim milk and low-fat yogurt, eggs, mushrooms and almonds
- Niacin-rich foods: chicken and turkey breast, wild salmon, kidney beans and natural peanut butter
Another interesting research finding was that tea — green or black — reduced glucose levels in diabetic rats, and the tea-drinking rats had fewer cataracts than their “non tea-drinking” counterparts! I’d love to see human studies, but I still think it’s worth having a cup or two of tea per day in the meantime.
Try my smoothie recipe for a great big blast of eye-fighting nutrients — vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein and beta carotene:Recipe: Citrus "Smooth-See" (on this page)
Joy Bauer is the author of “Food Cures.” For more information on healthy eating, check out Joy’s Web site at www.joybauernutrition.com.