Everyone should be aware of the role a good diet can play in preventing Macular Disease (MD), the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in Australia. Eating a healthy well-balanced diet, high in antioxidants, vitamins and other nutrients can help keep your eyes healthy. The following nutrients are particularly beneficial:
Antioxidants are found in many foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as coffee, tea and red wine. When your cells turn food and oxygen into energy they also produce free radicals. Free radicals are thought to be a contributing factor in MD and other degenerative diseases. Antioxidants neutralise free radicals before they can cause any damage, and have anti aging qualities.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in high concentrations in a healthy macula, and are particularly beneficial antioxidants for the eyes and for preventing cardiovascular disease. You can find Lutein and Zeaxanthin in dark green leafy vegetables. Spinach, silver beet, turnip greens, cos lettuce, sweet corn and capsicum all contain these antioxidants.
Citrus fruits, broccoli, capsicum and tomatoes are all examples of foods that contain vitamin C. Vitamin C is required for the normal function and structure of connective tissue.
Another free radical-neutralising antioxidant, you can find vitamin E in nuts, wheat germ, whole grains and green leafy vegetables. Vitamin E also is important to the immune system and is necessary to repair DNA.
Zinc assists in wound healing, cell growth and immunity. Zinc is found in meat, seafood, seeds, nuts and whole grains. Oysters are a fabulous source of zinc.
Selenium enables antioxidants such as vitamins E and C to function more effectively, in addition to helping prevent cancer. Selenium can be found in nuts, especially Brazil nuts.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in high levels in a healthy retina and are involved in cell renewal and development. Oily varieties of fish such as salmon, tuna, anchovies and sardines are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, as are flax seeds. Research suggests that eating fish 2-3 times a week can reduce your risk of developing MD and may help slow down its progression.
For more information on nutrition and MD visit the Macular Disease Foundation.