Author: Cristin Marandino
Excerpt From: Vegetarian Times
Sadly, millions of Americans suffer some degree of vision loss due to such common eye diseases as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration. In fact, it’s become almost an accepted tenet that our eyesight will deteriorate with age. In spite of the rapid technological advances in eye surgery, your best means of defense against vision loss are still regular eye exams, protective eye wear and, most important, proper nutrition.
“We now know that the risk of eye disease can be reduced by controlling one simple factor in our lives: nutrition,” explains Richard Firshein, D.O., in his book The Nutraceutical Revolution. “New medical research indicates that specific antioxidants can lower the risk of eye disease and prevent macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma.”
“The brain and visual system use up to 25 percent of your nutritional intake,” notes Dr. Anshel. While a well-balanced diet rich in antioxidants and minerals is essential, specific compounds can nourish the eyes and defend against vision loss. Jeffrey Anshel is a California-based optometrist and author of Smart Medicine for Your Eyes.
We’ve heard about free radicals and the damage they cause in the body. The same goes for your eyes. That’s why antioxidants, compounds that neutralize free radicals, are a vital component of eye health. While they won’t cure eye diseases, they can help to delay onset and slow progression. Be sure to follow label dosages.
Beta-carotene, a carotenoid with antioxidant properties that’s found in vegetables like carrots and spinach and in fruits like apricots and cantaloupes, is one of the most widely recognized nutrients for eye health. It is converted into vitamin A, which is responsible for the transmission of light through the retina.
Other members of the carotenoid family that play a role in maintaining vision are lutein and zeaxanthin, two compounds that make up the yellow pigment in the retina The presence of both has been shown to lead to lower levels of cataract formation and also protects the macula, helping to prevent degeneration.
Vitamins E and C, the mineral selenium and flavonoids all help defend the eyes against free radical damage. Vitamin C also reduces eye pressure, making it especially helpful for those suffering from glaucoma. Also important for eye health are the B vitamins, vital in maintaining the nervous system. They should be taken together in a B-complex supplement or obtained from foods like whole grain cereals and brewer’s yeast.
Zinc is the most common trace mineral in our bodies and is highly concentrated in the eye. Because many older people are zinc-deficient, whether due to poor diets or low absorption, Dr. Anshel recommends taking a zinc supplement to replenish these stores.
Taking care of your eyes from the inside out will pay off in the long run. Firshein explains: “By taking a full complement of supplements, not to mention eating a healthful diet filled with leafy greens and juicy fruits, you can keep your eyes alert and strong enough to see into beautiful old age.”