If you’ve ever missed the ball, struggled with night driving or have difficulty seeing a pedestrian walking on a dimly lit street, your diet may be to blame. Almost of half of Americans do not consume sufficient amounts of critical nutrients to keep their eyes functioning well. Unless adjustments are made, you can expect your body to outlive your eyes. Blindness or partial blindness diminishes your quality of life and also the possibility of leading an independent life. Are you one of the 133 million Americans who may be placing themselves at risk for future eye disorders such as age-related macular degeneration?
Critical carotenoids must come from the diet.
Critical dietary components believed to be involved in eye health include the carotenoids – lutein and its sister molecule, zeaxanthin. These carotenoids are found naturally in dark green leafy vegetables, corn, a few citrus fruits (oranges, tangerines) and eggs. Humans can’t make these valuable compounds so they must come from the diet. Obtaining these essential nutrients can improve visual function and performance which makes them vital for younger populations not just elderly who are already alarmed about eye dysfunction. Over half of Americans don’t consume adequate amounts of the vital nutrients needed to keep eye disease away. The average daily intake of leutin and zeaxanthin in the United States is estimated to be less than 2 mg. far below what is needed to reduce the risk of age-related eye conditions.
There is no reference daily intake (RDI) for most carotenoids although some researchers believe they should be ingested daily. In the macula of the eye, lutein and zeaxanthin act as a pair of “internal sunglasses.” They act as light filters, neutralize free radicals and reduce damage to eye tissues. Over time daily exposure to sunlight, indoor lighting and environmental pollutants can lead to changes in the eye such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Results from a recent study showed that when diets were supplemented with 10 mg. of leutin and 2 mg of zeaxanthin daily for 6 months, improvements in eye glare tolerance and photo stress recovery time improved significantly. Both of these are related with increases in macular pigment – serving as a biomarker not only for predicting future eye disease but also for assessing visual function and performance. Take a look at the chart below to see how much food you’d need to consume to reach the desired 10 mg of carrotinoids per day. Unless you like greens, you probably fall short.
Food Amount needed for 10 mg of essential carotenoids
Kale, cooked 0.42 cups
Turnip Greens, cooked 0.82 cups
Collard Greens, cooked 0.68 cups
Spinach., cooked 0.49 cups
Spinach, raw 2.7 cups
Broccoli, cooked 5.8 cups
Corn, cooked 4.5 cups
Orange 58 oranges
Green beans, cooked 11 cups
Peach, fresh 11 peaches
Corn on the cob 14 ears
Carrots, raw 55 carrots
Eggs 58 large eggs
Vision, like strength and speed are important for athletes who wish to perform at the top of their game. Anytime you can reduce recovery time from glare and enhance visual function, this helps provide a competitive edge. It is believed that athletes with high levels of macular pigment in their eyes can see about 30 percent farther in comparison to those with little or no macular pigment. Another study showed macular pigment enhanced visual contrast. Individuals who had the highest levels of macular pigment were able to better distinguish objects in low light conditions. This could be useful for someone attempting to hit a baseball or volleyball in low light conditions.
The average American consumes about 2 milligrams (mg) of lutein through food, but studies show that we need 6 to 10 mg per day—a great reason to take a closer look at your daily lutein intake. If you haven't given it much thought before now, you may still be able to improve you vision. In another study at North Chicago, Illinois' Department of Veterans' Affairs Medical Center Eye Clinic, 90 people with AMD who consumed 10 mg of lutein daily for a year saw vision improvements of one full line on a vision chart. Wouldn’t it be great to visit your eye doctor one year from now and when he tests your eyes you actually improve? Perhaps you are an athlete hoping to stay at the top of your game, or a soccer Mom just hoping to drive the team to the next practice unscathed. Healthy eyes can help you be a safer driver and a also a better athletes.
Here is a great tasting way to get your lutein and enjoy lunch at the same time.
2 tbsp butter
1 finely chopped onion
1 tbsp minced ginger root
1 tsp crushed coriander seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 small sliced hot pepper
1 bag (10 oz) fresh spinach
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp water
1/4 tsp pepper
Cook, without stirring, for about two minutes longer or until top is almost set and bottom is golden. Slide onto large plate. Invert pan over plate and invert again to turn omelette. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cut into quarters. Makes 4 servings.