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
Over 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:
- Vegans: people who do not eat meat or animals products
- Vegetarians: people who do not eat meat but do eat dairy products or eggs
- Pescatarians: people who do not eat meat but do eat fish, dairy and eggs
- Low meat intake: people who eat less than 1.7 ounces of meat a day
- Average meat intake: people who eat 1.7 to 3.4 ounces of meat a day
- 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
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
- orange peppers
- green peas
- peanut butter
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.