We all know that eating junk food can hurt us in the battle of the bulge. But now there’s a new reason to control our intake of these highly processed foods: They may cause eye problems. According to a study by Harvard Medical School’s Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, fatty snack foods may lead to macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision impairment for Americans over 55.
The key to eliminating junk food from your diet is to replace them with healthier alternatives. The good news is there are plenty of healthy foods that contain vitamins that actually promote eye health. Carrots, beef, chicken, cantaloupe, mangos and sweet potatoes all contain beta-carotene (vitamin A), which has been proven to positively affect both night vision and day-to-day eyesight. It also aids in cataract and macular degeneration prevention. Pork, liver, whole-grain cereals and breads, wheat germ, potatoes and legumes contain thiamine (vitamin B1), which prevents lens deterioration. Vegetable oils, egg yolks, milk fat, green leafy vegetables and nuts contain vitamin E, which also aids in lens deterioration prevention. And tomatoes, citrus fruit, strawberries, cabbage, green leafy vegetables and sweet bell peppers contain vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps prevent glaucoma.
There also are other nutrients that support your eyesight. The National Eye Institute states there may be evidence that lutein — a carotenoid antioxidant available in spinach, kale, collards, mustard greens, amaranth, spirulina and red paprika — could reduce eye problems. The Institute states definitively that zinc, found in shellfish, eggs, legumes, herring, liver and milk reduces the risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration and associated vision loss. Additionally, fish, such as salmon and sardines, contains omega-3 fatty acids that are known to promote healthy retinas.
It’s easy to incorporate foods that protect your eyesight into your diet. Carrot sticks, citrus fruit, mangoes, and even sweet peppers and tomatoes make great portable snacks. Fresh carrot juice packs a concentrated dose of vitamin A in every glass and is easy to make if you have a juicer. Or you can try the healthy recipe below, which is designed to taste good while giving your eyes a boost:
Makes 8 servings
- 2 6-oz. containers of low- or non-fat pineapple yogurt
- 2 T. low-fat mayonnaise
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1 head of cabbage, thinly sliced
- 4 carrots, shredded *
- 1 small sweet bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
1. Whisk yogurt, mayonnaise and salt together in a large bowl.
2. Chop cabbage, sweet bell pepper and onion; shred carrots. Add to the bowl with the yogurt mixture and toss well. If not serving right away, cover and refrigerate.
* It’s best to scrub carrots instead of peeling them. Some of the vitamins and minerals lie near the surface and can be whisked away with the peels.