Macular degeneration is an eye condition that typically affects older adults. It results in vision loss because of damage to the retina. Although damage to the eyes is irreversible, you can take steps to prevent additional damage. Several large medical studies have found that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may decrease your risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Here are four nutrition tips to maintain healthy eyes:
Fruits and Vegetables
The nutrients in fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants, which can help maintain healthier eyes. Fruits and vegetables also provide protection because the nutrients in such foods provide antioxidants that our bodies cannot synthesize.
For example, lutein and zeaxanthin are important antioxidants that help prevent degeneration in the lens and retina. Eating a diet rich in these carotenoids helps reduce the risk of AMD by fighting oxidation in the cells of the eyes.
Foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin are typically dark-colored fruits and vegetables, including:
- collard greens
- yellow corn
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Eating fatty fish, like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines, that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids also helps lower the risk of AMD. Omega-3 fatty acids are rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is important for eye health and visual function. People with dry eye syndrome (i.e., low tear production) can benefit from a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids because dry eye is linked to low levels of DHA.
However, studies from the age-related eye disease study (AREDS2) have found that omega-3 fatty acid vitamin supplements did not provide protection. That means it’s better to eat the fish than take omega-3 supplements. It’s important to note that heavy consumption of fish can contribute to high mercury levels.
You can also find omega-3 fatty acids in plant-based sources, such as:
- seeds (flax seeds and chia seeds)
- dark, leafy greens (romaine, arugula, spinach)
Higher levels of B vitamins may lower your risk of developing AMD. Foods that are high in vitamins B6 include:
Food that are high in vitamin B12 include:
Eating more red meat may increase your risk of AMD because red meat is higher in iron. The iron can accumulate in the retina and increase oxidative stress.
Weight and Diet
Having extra body fat can increase your risk for AMD because obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes, have a negative effect on eye health. Diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids can help maintain a healthy weight, which may lead to better eye protection.
Consider large salads as your main course for lunch and dinner, adding relatively small amounts of animal protein, if desired, as garnish. You also can opt for low-glycemic foods, such as whole grain breads and pastas, which can lower the risk of AMD by stabilizing blood glucose levels.
Remember that eating a healthy diet is not only good for your body, it’s also great for your eyes.
This content was last updated on: October 28, 2019