By Graham R. Stetson, OD, MS
As the year draws to a close marking a time of celebration, gatherings with family and friends become more frequent. With food playing a significant role in these festivities, it’s important to discuss nutrition and its impact on your ocular and overall health.
The connection between food and vision may seem like a stretch, but in fact the macula (responsible for sharp central vision) is the body’s most metabolically active area, requiring ample nutrients, oxygen, and nutritional support. Any deficiencies may manifest in the eyes before affecting other bodily functions.
Put simply, the best way to maintain ocular and systemic health is to consume a diverse diet of whole foods, focusing on vegetables, fruits, fatty fish, and healthy oils. Unfortunately, the reality is that most items available in grocery stores are highly processed and lack recommended nutrients.
Key principles for good nutrition include choosing foods with few ingredients on the label, avoiding items with unpronounceable ingredients, favoring wild-caught fish and pasture-raised meats, and opting for pesticide-free fruits, vegetables, nuts, and plant oils.
Eating fruits and vegetables of various colors is important as the pigment molecules in plants act as crucial antioxidants, safeguarding against inflammation and enhancing high-detail central vision. Macular pigments are vital for sharp vision and combating macular degeneration, including lutein (abundant in dark green vegetables), zeaxanthin (found in sweet potatoes, egg yolk, and yes, carrots), and meso-zeaxanthin (present in the skin of fish like salmon and sardines).
While whole foods are the best nutritional sources, you may want to consider adding some key dietary supplements like Omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, macular pigments, and vitamins C, D, E, B-complex vitamins.
Akin to nutrition, lifestyle factors also significantly influence ocular and overall health, especially exercise levels, smoking, alcohol consumption, environmental exposures, and stress.
There are many cases showing the visual benefits of good nutrition. For example, a patient who has wet macular degeneration recently told me that she can go twice as long between treatments when she eats according to the above recommendations. Prioritizing these nutritional practices can ensure the health and optimal performance of both our eyes and the rest of our body. Hopefully, you can incorporate these guidelines into holiday menus and beyond to keep all of your days merry and your vision bright. Happy Holidays!
For more advice or to schedule a comprehensive eye exam, call 781-352-4849 or come see us at 696 Washington Street in Norwood.
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