Cataracts and Your Diet Image

Cataracts and Your Diet

Surely you’ve heard the saying, “you are what you eat.” Researchers at Oxford University in London have found that while we may not actually be what we eat, what we eat can have a profound effect on our vision. Here’s what you need to know specifically about cataracts and your diet.

What the American Optometric Association Has to Say

Cataracts and Your Diet ImageOver two million Americans have cataract surgery every year. There are three main types of cataract divided by the part of the lens that they affect. Nuclear cataracts, cortical cataracts, and posterior sub-capsular cataracts are the three types most often seen.

Cataracts are the most common vision problem experienced by older Americans. Improving nutrition is one of the most promising ways to avoid or delay cataracts.

What Are Cataracts?

Cataracts are a growing problem in the United States as well as in other countries. A cataract is the result of cloudiness in the lens of the eye. This cloudiness is cause by the proteins in the lenses of your eyes becoming damaged.

When the lens becomes cloudy it limits the amount of light that can pass through the lens, leading to blurred vision or loss of vision. In most cases, once a cataract has occurred, surgery is necessary to correct your vision.

The research shows that less meat in our diet can actually lead to a lower chance of cataracts developing.

When you balance the options of cutting back on your meat intake versus the real possibility of eye surgery in the future, the choice is really a no-brainer.  The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published the results of a seven year study conducted on 30,000 participants.

The study broke the group down into six categories:

  1. Vegans: people who do not eat meat or animals products
  2. Vegetarians: people who do not eat meat but do eat dairy products or eggs
  3. Pescatarians: people who do not eat meat but do eat fish, dairy and eggs
  4. Low meat intake: people who eat less than 1.7 ounces of meat a day
  5. Average meat intake: people who eat 1.7 to 3.4 ounces of meat a day
  6. High meat intake: people who eat more than 3.5 ounces of meat a day

Now keep in mind that four ounces of meat is a normal serving in a restaurant. And the real shocker is that many people eat larger servings of meat during meals eaten at home!

The results showed a definite link between the amount of meat eaten and the risk of developing cataracts. Vegans who eat no meat or animal products had a 40 percent lower risk of developing cataracts than people in the group who ate 3.5 ounces of meat a day.

Just something to think about the next time you want to order the 12 oz. sirloin. But, as eye-opening as this is, eating meat is not the only thing that can raise your risk of developing cataracts.

People with diabetes, smokers, and those who fail to wear sunglasses are also at higher risk of cataracts.

Cataracts and Your Diet: The Good News

There are steps you can take, other than reducing the amount of meat you eat, that can help you to reduce or avoid the risk of developing cataracts. Foods containing antioxidants like vitamin C and E, lutein, and zeaxanthin have been shown to lower the risk of cataracts.

The National Cancer Institute and the U. S. Department of Agriculture recommend eating five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. If we could all follow this plan we would receive the optimal amounts of the antioxidants most likely to help prevent cataracts.

Let’s be honest. No matter how hard we try to stick with a plan like this, we are going to fail eventually. Don’t feel bad! You’re not alone! Studies show that the majority of people in America do not eat the amounts of fruits and vegetable that are recommended.

There Is Still Hope!

While the majority of us will not get the antioxidants we need from the food we eat, we can use an eye vitamin or supplement to provide the necessary antioxidants that are missing from our diet. Yes, modifying our diets to include these foods is really the best way to get the antioxidants that our eyes need. However, a supplement or eye vitamin is an acceptable alternative.

What to Look for in a Supplement

Make sure that the supplement you choose contains as many of these eye healthy ingredients as possible.

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Lutein
  • Zeaxanthin
  • Zinc
  • Omega-3

What Foods Contain These Naturally?

If you are interested in trying to improve your diet to include some of the foods highest in these vitamins and antioxidants this list should help. These foods will not only help your eye health they will improve your over-all health as well. Many part of you body can benefit from the antioxidants found in these foods.

  • dark green leafy vegetables like kale, chard, collard greens, and spinach
  • tangerines
  • orange peppers
  • green peas
  • tomatoes
  • strawberries
  • oysters
  • tuna
  • salmon
  • almonds
  • peanut butter
  • peanuts
  • broccoli
  • cantaloupe

The list of good-for-you foods could go on for a very long time. Most fruits and vegetable contain at least some of the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that your eyes need to stay healthy and avoid cataracts. Learning how to deal with cataracts and your diet is just a matter of retraining yourself to stock up on the fruits and vegetables instead of the easier prepared foods and fast foods that are so predominant on the grocery shelves.

About the Author

Avatar for Tyler Sorensen

Tyler Sorensen is the President and CEO of Rebuild Your Vision. Formerly, Tyler studied Aeronautics with the dreams of becoming an airline pilot, however, after 9/11 his career path changed. After graduating top of his class with a Bachelor of Science degree in Informational Technologies and Administrative Management, he and his brother decided to start Rebuild Your Vision in 2002. With the guidance of many eye care professionals, including Behavioral Optometrists, Optometrists (O.D.), and Ophthalmologists (Eye M.D.), Tyler has spent over a decade studying the inner workings of the eye and conducting research.

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3 responses to “Cataracts and Your Diet”

  1. Avatar for Melissa lancon Melissa lancon says:

    I recently had a vitreous detachment in my right eye . I am very nearsighted and wanted any info if you think eye vitamins can help ? Thanks

  2. Avatar for Loui Loui says:

    I was told I need a cararact operation – I’m 80 and they booked an appointment to measmu eyes next Friday – I’m deadly afraid to have this procedure even though the doctor comes highly recommended and is part of OCB Boston. Tyler, can you give me the stats on people over 80 having this done and what are my alternatives? Thank you for any help your able to tell me – Loui

  3. Avatar for Donald E Smith Donald E Smith says:

    Very Informative article!! Cataract is one of the most irritating conditions that I had met in my lifetime. Blurred vision and sensitivity had made my life dark. I’m a 62-year-old lady and planning to have my cataract surgery with the help of an expert in Evergreen eye clinic (Washington). I read that we should follow a healthy diet even after the surgery for our eye health. This article helped me to be more aware of this condition and to choose the best food after the surgery. Actually, I’m very much nervous about the surgery, but it’s a relief that I’m going to get out my vision problems soon.

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