Quick PSA: You're not paying enough attention to your eye health.
More than 10 million Americans suffer from macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the country, according to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF). The eye disease is caused by the deterioration of the retina—the inside back layer of the eye that records the images we see—but most of us don’t take notice until it’s too late.
Luckily, one of the best ways to take care of your eyes is through your diet. In order to support eye growth and development, you need nutrients like lutein, zeaxanthin, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, C, D and E, zinc and carotenoids, the AMDF says.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants found in the eyes, but they need to be regularly replenished by food sources. Great sources of the nutrients are dark, green vegetables like kale, spinach and broccoli, bright orange and yellow produce like oranges, corn, carrots and pumpkins, and deep red fruits like tomatoes. Omega-3 fatty acids support eye development, so you want to consume fatty fish like sardines, salmon and mackerel, and plant foods like walnuts and squash. Vitamin C is another powerful antioxidant that can protect against macular degeneration; aside from citrus fruits, you can get a good amount from peppers, green cabbage, and cauliflower.
Although most research isolates foods by their specific nutrient profiles in relation to their effects on our overall health, there are food combos that are simply more powerful than the sum of their parts. For instance, the AMDF says, vitamins in food are better absorbed when eaten with some natural fat. Vitamin C-rich grapefruit should be eaten with vitamin E-rich avocado, and lutein and zeaxanthin found in dark green vegetables like broccoli rabe are better absorbed when combined with natural fats contained in pine nuts. It's thought these combos may help boost the pigment in the retina for age-related macular degeneration protection.
To make things simpler for us all, the AMDF put together recipes that combine all these nutrients and foods. Their cookbook Eat Right For Your Sight, a collaboration including cookbook author Jennifer Trainer Thompson and ophthalmologist Johanna M. Seddon, M.D., features simple, tasty recipes that can help reduce your risk of vision loss from macular degeneration. Now you can eat with your eyes and for your eyes. Here are 11 recipes you can make today.