As you begin preparing your holiday dinner menus, make sure to add in a few foods that are rich in nutrients that keep your eyes and body healthy!
Get the most out of what you eat by choosing a variety of colorful produce that has a plentiful amount of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, and try to stay away from certain foods that are full of saturated fats and sugar (even though that can be difficult this time of year!).
We’ve put together a list of the top 10 foods that you should attempt to incorporate into your holiday meals for healthy eyes:
Carrots are rich in beta carotene and vitamin A. While eating carrots won’t help you see any better, there is a lot of truth in the idea that they can help protect vision by reducing the impact of macular degeneration and possibly even cataracts.
Add them to your salad this holiday season, or dip them in hummus for an appetizer!
- Bell Peppers
Bell peppers are also an excellent source of vitamins A and C; just 1 cup of the peppers will provide 100 percent of the recommended daily value of these vitamins. In addition to helping reduce the risk of eye disease (such as macular degeneration), they have also been shown to help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Plus, bell peppers are fat-free, low-calorie, and contain a healthy amount of fiber.
Bell peppers add great flavor to a side dish of roasted vegetables!
Blueberries are packed with antioxidants that are beneficial to not only your eyes, but to your overall health and wellness. Studies have shown that blueberries may help reduce the impacts of glaucoma, early cataracts, heart disease, cancer, and other conditions. Blueberries are also good for the brain as they have been shown to improve learning and memory capacity, and may even help fight the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.
Make a delicious blueberry cobbler for dessert!
- Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are one of the best sources of beta-carotene, which helps promote ocular health and can even aid in maintaining good night vision. In addition to its ocular benefits, sweet potatoes contain high levels of vitamins B, C, and D, iron, magnesium, and potassium, which have been linked to anti-aging benefits and cancer prevention. Plus they are fat-free, low in sodium, and have fewer calories than white potatoes.
Substitute sweet potatoes for white potatoes in your mashed potato recipe!
- Leafy Greens (Kale, Spinach, Collard Greens)
Just one cup of these leafy greens is packed with more than 20 milligrams of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. These two nutrients are the predominant carotenoids in both the lens and macula. They have antioxidant properties that help prevent cell damage and have been shown to reduce the risk of macular degeneration, and slow cataract formation.
Use these leafy greens in a salad, or mix up a low-calorie spinach artichoke dip and scoop it up with carrot and bell pepper sticks!
If you are not a fan of leafy greens (like myself), eggs are another excellent source of lutein and zeaxanthin. Additionally, eggs also provide healthy fat and protein, and while they have a lower amount of carotenoids than many vegetables, the carotenoids present in eggs are in a highly absorbable form. Recent research has shown that adding a couple of eggs to your salad can increase carotenoid absorption as much as nine-fold. Keep in mind though that once you heat egg yolks, the lutein and zeaxanthin become damaged and won’t perform as well, so cook your eggs as little as possible.
Prepare soft boiled or poached eggs for a healthy breakfast before the big holiday feast!
Legumes of all types (black-eyed peas, kidney beans, lima beans, peanuts, lentils, chickpeas, etc.) are great sources of bioflavonoids and zinc. Zinc is an essential trace mineral that is found in high concentration in the eyes, and may help protect the retina and lower the risk of macular degeneration.
Serve up a bean casserole as a tasty side dish with dinner!
- Nuts and Seeds
Pistachios, cashews, walnuts; whatever your favorite nuts or seeds may be, are rich in omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin E. Just one ounce of sunflower seeds or almonds will provide you with more than a third of the daily recommended value of vitamin E. Vitamin E has been shown to boost eye health by protecting cells in the eyes from free radicals, and may slow the progression of cataracts and macular degeneration.
Add nuts and seeds to any of your salads or side dishes for an added healthy crunch!
Tomatoes are full of carotenoids, including lycopene, which helps give tomatoes their red color. Lycopene protects tissues from free radical damage which contributes to several ocular diseases (such as macular degeneration). Cooking tomatoes helps make the lycopene they contain more beneficial. Tomatoes are also a very good source of vitamin A and C. These vitamins are also great vision protectors and help promote good ocular health.
Roasted tomatoes topped with garlic and cheese is an easy side dish to add to your menu!
- Fish (Salmon, Tuna, Mackerel)
Cold-water fish are rich in essential fatty acids that have been proven to do your whole body good, including your eyes. These fatty acids aid visual development, help retinal function by preventing or slowing macular degeneration, and protect against dry eye. Studies have shown that people with a high consumption of omega-3 fatty acids were 30 percent less likely to progress to an advanced form of macular degeneration over a 12-year period. I’m sure you have all also heard of the benefits that omega-3s have on the cardiovascular system, as well the positive effects they have on helping reduce anxiety, arthritis, cancer, depression, diabetes, etc. And don’t worry if you don’t eat seafood, you can get a good supply of omega-3s by taking supplements that contain black currant oil or flaxseed oil.
Make fish your main protein on the holiday menu this year!
Happy Holidays! Dr. Amanda Kay Dexter, O.D., F.A.A.O.