Eating for your Eye Health

Did your mom ever tell you that eating carrots were good for your eyes?  Well guess what? She was right…to some degree. There are two types of carotenoids, known as lutein and zeaxanthin, that are responsible for giving your eyes a boost.  Both are found in the retina and lens of our eyes where they absorb damaging, high-energy blue and ultraviolet light.  As amazing as our bodies are, they cannot make either of these two carotenoids.  So where should we get them? Foods of course, delicious wholesome fruits and veggies! Foods naturally high in lutein and zeaxanthin include: carrots, squash, cantaloupe, tomatoes, spinach, oranges, kale, collard greens, red and orange peppers, broccoli, corn eggs and zucchini.  The most bioavailable source of lutein is from egg yolks.  Orange peppers are particularly high in zeaxanthin.  In order to absorb the most lutein and zeaxanthin from fruits and veggies, it is helpful to pair them with a healthy fat, like olive oil in a salad.  This is because they are both fat-soluble substances.  Also, lightly cooking your vegetables may also help your body absorb these eye protecting antioxidants. In addition to kicking up your intake of these amazing fruits and vegetables, there are many supplements targeted for improving eye health.  If you would like to purchase supplements, or already have some at home, make sure that it includes both lutein and zeaxanthin.  The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) demonstrated that beta-carotene had little to no effect on age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or cataracts, but the combination of lutein and zeaxanthin had beneficial results in reducing the risk of developing advanced AMD. For more information about the AREDS study please check out the AREDS Results Press Release.   Elaine P. Secilmis, RD,CD.

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