January 28, 2005

Foods to Keep Bright Eyes

A HEALTHY diet can encourage good eyesight and help reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts, according to a national chain of opticians.

While people often start watching their waistlines at this time of year, or consider their heart or cholesterol levels and eat accordingly, few people think of their eyesight when planning their dietary requirements.

Shane Canning, principle optometrist and nutritional advisor at Specsavers in Birkenhead, says: "The macula is the part of the retina that enables our most acute and detailed vision for tasks such as reading, driving, recognising faces and watching television, so it is important to protect it. It has been proven that eating a diet rich in antioxidants, especially carotenoids, is particularly beneficial. "

A study by America's National Institutes of Health found that people eating the highest amounts of carotenoids have a 43% lower risk of developing macular degeneration than those who have very low amounts in their diet.

Studies have also shown that people with higher than average intakes of antioxidants - beta-carotene, lute in and vitamins C and E - appear to have a reduced risk of developing cataracts. Foods such as pepper, broccoli, sweet potatoes, citrus fruits and dark green leafy vegetables, like spinach and kale, are rich in these antioxidants.

Independent dietitian and author of Super Nutrients (Dorling Kindersley, 2001), Lyndel Costain, says: "Cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) are the leading causes of impaired eyesight in the UK.

"Lutein and zeaxanthin, along with other antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamins C and E, work to neutralise potentially cell-damaging molecules called 'free radicals' which are thought to harm the eye's lens and macular. So for your health and your eyesight's sake, enjoy a variety of fruit, vegetables and whole grains every day. "

top 10 foods to feast your eyes on 1 Carrots - it's not entirely a myth that eating carrots can help you see in the dark as they are high in beta-carotene, which the body can convert to vitamin A.

2 Dark green leafy vegetables - these contain beta-carotene and vitamin C. Preliminary data shows that vitamin C can help slow cataract progression. 3 Peppers - peppers contain lute in that scientists believe protects the sensitive retina from light-induced oxidation damage.

4 Broccoli - contains beta-carotene and lutein.

5 Brussel sprouts - contain lutein. 6 Pumpkin, yams, squash and sweet potatoes - contain beta-carotene and lutein.

7 Citrus fruits - contain beta-carotene. 8 Apricots - contain beta-carotene.

9 Sardines - contain zinc and vitamin E. Zinc is beneficial for wound healing and maintaining the immune system. The body needs zinc to form certain antioxidant enzymes in the eye.

10 Nuts - Contain zinc, vitamin E and selenium, another antioxidant.