Did you eat all your carrots as a child in the belief that, in doing so, you were bound to achieve some sort of 20/10 X-ray vision which would prevent you from ever wearing glasses? Well, that’s probably what mom wanted you to think, and may have thought so herself.
The myth about carrots improving vision began during WWII when the British did not want the Germans to find out about the new technology they had developed and created an explanation for the increase in downed German bombers. They invented a story about a Flight Lieutenant John Cunningham, a.k.a. “Cat’s Eyes,” whose night vision was so acute that he could spot enemies in the dark. The British attributed his ability to the love of carrots.
But before you call your mom to voice your complaints, keep in mind that, besides being extremely valuable to our health, carrots do offer some ophthalmological benefits. Beta Carotene may help reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts, although studies show that it would be difficult for the average person to consume enough carrots in his or her lifetime to obtain the level of intake required to do so. Research shows that Popeye rather than Bugs Bunny was really on to something when it came to healthy vision. Here are some of the foods that keep your eyes healthy.
1. Leafy Green Veggies
Dark leafy green contain the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, with spinach and kale taking the prize for richest in lutein, and Swiss chard, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and collard greens coming in a close second.
Carotenoids are also linked with lowering the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. Julie Mares, professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine reports, “By age 75, half of us will either have a visually significant cataract or already had one extracted….There’s strong, compelling evidence for a potential protective effect of these carotenoids…They’re nutritional powerhouses…..They’ve got gobs of antioxidants.”
2. Orange Peppers
A 1998 study in the British Journal of Ophthalmology revealed that orange pepper had the highest level of the 33 vegetable and fruits tested. Your body does not produce zeaxanthin on its own, so start eating those peppers!
3. Pastured Organic Egg Yolks
When it comes to those carotenoids, egg yolk may not have as much as veggies, but because the yolks contain protein and healthy fat, they are ideal for absorption. Research finds that adding two eggs to your salad will increase your absorption of lutein and zeaxanthin by 900%.
4. Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon
Omega-3 fat DHA is concentrated in the retina of the eye and gives cell membranes structural support. It protects the function of the retina and improves eye health, which may be a leading factor in the slowing of macular degeneration. It was found that, in a study conducted over a 12-year period, people who consumed the highest amounts of omega-3 fats were the least likely to develop advanced forms of the disease.
Although astaxanthin is found in wild caught Alaskan salmon, it may be difficult to eat enough of this antioxidant to receive optimal results, and, if eye health is a concern for you, you will want to receive optimal results. Evidence shows that astaxanthin is among the most effective nutrients for preventing blindness and is more powerful as an antioxidant than zeaxanthin and lutein. Dr. Mark Tso of the Wilmer Eye Institute at John Hopkins University says that astaxanthin can easily cross into the eye tissues and works safely and more potently than any other carotenoid without adverse effects. Dr. Joseph Mercola, MD advises taking a supplement beginning with 4mgs per day and increasing it as necessary.