Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 26th 2013 Contents NUTRITION & DIET
Good vision is a prized possession,
one that many take for granted until
actual changes in vision begin to
occur. Research shows that we must
be proactive in order to protect the
health of our eyes. Dietitian Kandice
Mitchell R.D advises that nutrition is
one thing we can actively change to
maintain our quality of vision.
"Eating a balanced diet and maintaining
healthy habits is a must, explains Kandice. "Re-
search has also identified some key nutrients
that promote eye health and may reduce the risk
of eye disease."
These nutrients are:
Carotenoids: These are organic pig-
ments produced by plants and include:
Beta carotene -- this is converted into Vitamin
A, which can then be converted into retinal; a
substance used to carry out the visual cycle.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin:
these compounds have light absorbing proper-
ties, and filter harmful blue and ultra violet light,
in order to protect the muscles surrounding the
eye. These two are the only carotenoids that are
deposited in high quantities in the retina of the
The above substances also act as antioxidants
helping to protect and maintain healthy cells in
the eye. Beta carotene is found in carrots, sweet
potatoes and spinach, while sources of lutein and
zeaxanthin include egg yolk and green leafy veg-
etables such as broccoli and patchoi (pak choi).
Be careful when cooking green leafy vegeta-
bles as lutein appears to be sensitive to heat.
With respect to supplements Kandice suggests a
supplement with 10mg of Lutein and 2mg of
leaxanthin per day.
"However, if your diet is rich in green leafy veg-
etables you do not need a supplement, and in-
creased supplementation may lead to reduced
levels of other carotenoids such as beta
Vitamin C: An antioxidant that is used
to support the health of ocular blood vessels in
the eye. Foods such as citrus fruits, tomatoes,
guavas and apples all contain high levels of vita-
Kandice insists this is why fruits and vegeta-
bles are so important and we should always en-
sure to eat more than enough.
Vitamin E: This vitamin can be found in
nuts and seeds like almonds and sunflower
seeds. Vitamin E protects eye cells against ultra
violet light and free radical damage.
Omega 3 fatty acids: DHA (do-
cosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic
Acid) and are important for proper visual devel-
opment and retina function. DHA is found in
highest concentration in the retina, suggesting it
has an important functional role in vision. EPA is
needed to make DHA.
Zinc: This plays a vital role in transporting Vita-
min A from the liver to the retina to produce
melanin, a protective pigment in the eyes. A defi-
ciency in zinc can lead to poor night vision and
cloudy cataracts. Zinc is found in red meat, seafood,
poultry, eggs, wheat germ and black eyed peas. Be
careful with zinc supplementation as this can inter-
fere with copper absorption.
Although specific nutrients have their benefits, a
balanced diet and healthy habits such as exercise,
moderate alcohol consumption and non-smoking
also reduce the risk of developing age related eye
conditions such as cataracts, age-related macular
degeneration and vision loss.
These habits are also important in reducing the
risk of developing and controlling Diabetes - a condi-
tion that can affect eye health. In Diabetes, high
blood sugar levels pull fluid from your tissues, in-
cluding the lenses of our eye.
Over time this can cause new blood vessels to
form in the retina, as well as damage established
vessels. If left undetected and untreated, this can
lead to vision problems or vision loss.
There are so many things we can do to keep our
eyes healthy and reduce the risk of chronic eye dis-
ease. Our diet and lifestyle choices along with regu-
lar visits to your eye care professional are the best
options in keeping your vision healthy as you age.
"Beta carotene is found in
carrots, sweet potatoes and
spinach, while sources of
lutein and zeaxanthin include
egg yolk and green leafy
vegetables such as broccoli
and patchoi (pak choi)."
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