Everyone knows which foods are touted as being good for our eyes (hello carrots!). But, are we aware of what foods aren’t so good? Can some of our everyday foods actually work against our vision?
There are probably more unhealthy foods than you realize lurking in your refrigerator or freezer right this second. Learn how what goes into our mouths can affect the health of our eyes and our vision below. Some of these foods just might surprise you!
What’s in Our Diet?
Before we go into the specific details of the foods that do not help our eyes and vision, let’s take a look at our daily eating habits. Think closely about everything you put into your body on a daily basis. Don’t forget to include snacks and drinks!
Let’s start with the door of the refrigerator. Most houses contain a door full of condiments, toppings, and dressing. Think mayonnaise (high in fats), salad dressing (even more fats), jelly (high in sugar), pickles (high in sodium), etc. Making a healthy salad full of vitamin C-packed green vegetables does not have the same nutritional benefit if it ends up drowning in salad dressing.
Next let’s think about everything we consume that is white. Foods like pasta, rice, white bread, and tortillas have no real nutritional benefit. They are simple carbohydrates that give us a sugar rush, only to crash later.
Also, most white foods have either been processed or bleached, virtually wiping out any real nutritional value. They do not supply any real sustenance for our bodies, including our eyes.
Of course we all know that most snacks such as potato chips, popcorn, and candy do nothing more than satisfy a craving and leave us hungry later. Cutting back on these foods is a no-brainer, but what are some better options to keep our eyes and waistlines healthy?
What We Can Do: From A to Zinc
A good rule of thumb when determining nutritional value is to think of a rainbow. If the color of your food is not in the spectrum of a rainbow, it probably does not have any real health benefits for our bodies, or our eyes for that matter. Instead of completely eliminating foods that you love, try making easy substitutions. Here are several examples to get started.
Substitute fatty red meat or sausage for omega-3 rich foods like salmon. Everyone has bought packaged deli meat in the supermarket. Not only is it super convenient, it seems healthy. Unfortunately, it’s mostly full of chemical preservatives, salt, fat, and cholesterol. Lean meats such as fresh turkey are full of eye-healthy zinc and protein.
Swap whole milk for lower-fat options, or even soy or almond milk. Also try ditching your salad dressing. Extra virgin olive oil (rich in omega-3) and balsamic vinegar is a much healthier option.
Margarine is marketed as a healthier alternative to butter, but it is actually stocked with trans fats that can send your cholesterol through the roof! Instead of cooking with fatty butter or margarine, try experimenting with heart-healthier versions like coconut, avocado or olive oil. Remember that a healthy heart means healthy eyes!
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Your Diet and Your Vision
Our eyes are vascular, so it is important to have a heart-healthy diet to keep blood vessels healthy. Minuscule capillaries provide the retina with nutrients and oxygen. The blood vessels that supply the eye with nutrients and blood are so small, that almost any fatty deposits can cause a blocked vein.
Cholesterol can break away from arteries and pass through the bloodstream and into your eyes. They will find a spot in one of the retina’s arteries. Remember that what you are putting in your body directly correlates to the quality of your eyesight.
By eating highly-processed, store bought foods that are high in saturated fats, like red meat, fatty dairy products and fried foods, we are putting our eyes at risk of developing macular degeneration. This is because saturated fats and cholesterol have the power to cause plaque buildup on the macular vessels and slow down the blood flow in the eyes.
So, eating a lot of monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats should be avoided. In addition to linoleic acid that is found in junk foods like potato chips, margarine, commercially-prepared cookies and cakes, also avoid French fries which can really damage your eye health and vision. It’s important to get the necessary healthy saturated fats that our bodies need; these can be found in fish, lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, and low- or non-fat dairy products.
For optimum vision, it is important at the end of the day to remember to not only eat healthy, but to get your crucial 17 vitamins, minerals and nutrients and be aware of the health of your eyes.