When I was growing up, most people I knew must have had pretty good vision. I say that because contact lenses weren’t the norm like they are today. If a person couldn’t see well, that person wore glasses. And most of the people I knew didn’t.
Sure, my grandparents wore glasses, as did the lady at the front desk of our library, and probably a couple of teachers. Come to think of it, my parents both wore glasses. But they were, you know, OLD. And old people wore glasses right? Wrong! Failed my 5th grade eye exam…twice.
Today, I can honestly say that I know more people who wear contact lenses or glasses than people who don’t. Why is that? I suppose that one could argue we spend much more “screen” time than we ever did…TV’s, phones, Ipods, computers. After all, we live in a fast paced society where we want our news, music and other entertainment, you know, fast. Who wants to look at a newspaper or magazine or book without a digital screen?
But that got me thinking. Information isn’t the only thing that we want fast. We also want our food fast. Why else would Domino’s Pizza have had the “30 minutes or it’s free” guarantee (which I’m told they no longer have)? And if we are eating fast food, then we probably aren’t eating good food. You know…food that takes time to wash and prepare? So I decided to see if there was a correlation between the food we eat and the condition of our eyes. Here is what I found:
Lutein is an example of a “phytochemical”. Phytochemicals are those nutrients in plants (fruits, vegetables and even nuts and beans) that will have a positive effect on the health of the person consuming them. Lutein is actually a nutrient found in the retinas of your eyes and comes from the yellow pigment in certain fruits and vegetables. When there is too much sunlight in nature, lutein absorbs it so that the plants are not damaged. According to Gary Heiting, OD, lutein works the same way in the eyes, keeping damaging light from reaching under the retina, which could lead to macular degeneration.
How can you add lutein to your diet? Lutein can be found in tomatoes, cooked spinach, cooked carrots, egg yolks and raw romaine lettuce.
Vitamin A is actually a group of antioxidants that plays an important role in eye health. It protects the cornea (as well as other parts of the body) from infection by providing a barrier to keep out bacteria and viruses.
Vitamin A is actually derived from both animal and plant sources. Vitamin A from animals is referred to as retinol and comes from liver, whole milk and cheese. But if you’re looking for a less “fatty” way to obtain Vitamin A, you might want to opt for the plant version. Once the body ingests the Vitamin A from plants, it is converted to retinol. Remember when Mom told you to eat your carrots for good eyesight? Turns out she was right. Carrots are a great plant source of Vitamin A, as are spinach, sweet potatoes and cantaloupes.
We all know that Vitamin C is great for keeping the common cold at bay. That same antioxidant power is also great for the eyes as well. Did you know that humans are not able to produce their own Vitamin C, while some other animals can? Dr. Gary says that Vitamin C is important for maintaining the delicate capillaries of the retina and the collagen of the cornea. In fact, his studies suggest that long-term intake of Vitamin C can aid in the prevention of cataracts. Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is found in strawberries, citrus fruits, sweet green and red peppers and broccoli.
Omega 3’s are essential fatty acids that are critical for helping our cells, nerves, muscles and organs to function. Like Vitamin C, our bodies are not able to produce Omega 3’s, so we need to obtain them from the foods we eat. Several studies have suggested that diets rich in Omega 3’s helped to prevent macular degeneration, as well as what I now see on TV as “dry eye syndrome”. Most Americans think they get enough fatty acids in their diets when, in reality, they are taking in Omega 6 fatty acids, which can be found in certain meats and processed foods and are considered very unhealthy.
Essential Omega 3 fatty acids can be found in cold water fish, such as herring, sardines, salmon and tuna. It is believed that the wild caught varieties of fish are much healthier than “farm raised” varieties.
So, go on. Continue to Skype with your family members who live across the country. Update your Facebook status and Tweet your latest thoughts…even sit down and type up your next blog post. As long as you’re eating these nutrition dense foods, you should “see” great results!