“Eat your carrots if you want to have good vision!”
I’m sure you all remember your mom saying this to you when you were growing up. I sure do. Perhaps you were like and me and ignored that statement, chalking it up to another one of mom’s crazy sayings.
However, it turns out mom wasn’t crazy at all…she was right! Carrots are one of the healthiest foods for your eyes.
I’ve always been concerned about maintaining my vision. I come from a family with a history of macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is when the macula deteriorates and the centre of your field of vision becomes blurry. It’s the leading cause of legal blindness in Canada. Sounds scary! So if there is anything I can do to help prevent it, count me in.
May is Vision Health Month in Canada, and the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) wants us to take action to maintain our vision health. Seventy-five percent of vision loss can be prevented or treated, and one of the ways we can do this is by eating the right foods. Consuming eye-healthy foods in conjunction with foods rich in protective nutrients, has been shown to promote eye health and protect against preventable eye conditions. Some of these nutrients and their food sources are listed here:
1. Omega-3s: Studies have shown that a high intake of omega-3 fatty acids can lower the risk of AMD (age-related macular degeneration.) So where do we get omega-3’s from?
- flax seeds
- fatty fish such as salmon
An easy way to add flax seed to your diet is to add it to a smoothie. Just throw in a Tbsp of flax seeds and blend away. You won’t even know they are in there. I also like to add walnuts to our salad at dinnertime. Not only do they add a nice crunch, but they also add a nice flavour to the salad.
2. Beta-carotene: Beta-carotene, commonly found in carrots, is a nutrient that the body converts into Vitamin A and can offer protection against advanced AMD progression and cataracts when combined with other antioxidants.
My kids love those little baby carrots. I like to serve them at dinnertime with a side of hummus for dipping.
3. Lutein and zeaxanthin (zee-ah-ZAN-thin): These two very important eye nutrients may reduce your risk for macular degeneration and cataracts. They work as an antioxidant in your body to reduce the damage done by free radicals. Foods that contain high levels of these nutrients are leafy greens and brightly coloured produce such as squash, corn, and orange peppers.
An excellent way to add these nutrients to your diet is through a smoothie. The great thing about smoothies is that you can’t taste the “greenery” in them. I like to add a handful of kale to my smoothies. Check out this smoothie recipe to help maintain your eye health! Or, if you’re not into smoothies, try making these Chicken Almond Wraps which are loaded with nutrients such as lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, and zinc.
4. Fiber: Foods that are high in fibre have a low glycemic index (GI) – a measure of how quickly carbohydrates raise blood glucose levels. Foods with a high GI, such as white bread and potatoes, can increase the risk of AMD and cataracts; whereas low GI foods such as oat bran, lentils, beans, and barley work to promote eye health.
I love to eat oatmeal for breakfast. It keeps me full for hours because it’s loaded with slow digesting fiber. Another way I like to give fiber to my kids is by sneaking it into my baking. I’ll add oat bran to their muffins or banana bread. It’s so mild tasting that they don’t even know they are eating something that’s good for them and their eye health.
Eating the right foods, such as the ones listed above, along with other simple lifestyle changes like exercising regularly and quitting smoking, can go a long way to helping you prevent avoidable but serious eye diseases. I personally try to encourage my family to eat eye healthy foods. If there is anything I can do to help prevent us from getting serious eye diseases, I’m going to do it!
If you are looking for more eye healthy recipe ideas, check out the cookbook: Eyefoods, A Food Plan For Healthy Eyes by optometrists Dr. Laurie Capogna and Dr. Barbara Pelletier.