May 5, 2010

Eat Your Veggies…See Well

CMitzelBy Chrissy Mitzel, M.S., R.D., L.D.N.
Health Registered Dietician
(309) 793-0684

A majority of Americans don’t consider the foods they eat to have an effect on their vision, but you can eat your way to healthier sight. There are foods naturally designed to maintain eye health that may have an important role in keeping your eyes healthy and protecting them from age-related eye diseases.

As Americans live longer, vision-related problems affecting older Americans will increase. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects one in three people over the age of seventy-five and is the leading cause of blindness in older Americans.

Carrots are probably the first food to come to mind when thinking about foods good for your eyes. However, there are other vegetables rich in vision-enhancing nutrients that top the list.

One of the best food sources for lutein is spinach. Lutein and zeaxanthin may slow the progression of and even possibly improve AMD and the development of cataracts. Surprisingly, lutein in cooked spinach is absorbed easier than in raw spinach. Dark leafy green and gold foods, including spinach, kale, corn, collard greens, broccoli, squash and eggs, are where lutein and zeaxanthin are found.

Along with being a rich source of vitamin A and lutein, kale provides several other sight-saving nutrients, including vitamin C and vitamin B6. Kale is an excellent source of vitamin C, which has been shown to reduce the risk of cataracts and AMD. New studies have also found B vitamins, including B6, may help lower the risk of AMD.

Another super food for your eyes is winter squash, such as butternut squash. One serving (1 cup) of squash provides 300% of the daily value for vitamin A. Vitamin A has been found to help lower the risk of AMD and cataracts. One study reported up to a 43% lower risk for AMD in people who consumed a high intake of vitamin A. Try frozen squash, found in the frozen vegetable section, when squash is not in season.

Sweet Potatoes
If you eat sweet potatoes only at Thanksgiving, you might want to reconsider eating this eye-healthy food in your diet year-round. That’s because a sweet potato is one the best foods you can eat for vitamin A. In fact, one serving (medium-size sweet potato), gives you 360% of the daily value for vitamin A. When sweet potatoes are not an option, try sweet potato fries. Sweet potato fries are available in the frozen food section and one serving of these tasty fries gives you 100% of your daily need for vitamin A. Try the recipe below for a delicious dipping sauce to go with sweet potato fries.

In general, eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruits that are dark green, gold and orange in color to boost the nutrients known to help with vision health.

Sweet Potato Fries with Maple Dipping Sauce
Serves 6

All you need
1 (22-oz) pkg frozen sweet potato fries
1⁄4 cup light sour cream
1⁄4 cup Hy-Vee low-fat plain yogurt
2 tsp Grand Selections maple syrup
1⁄4 tsp ground cinnamon

All you do
1. Cook sweet potato fries according to package directions.
2. Meanwhile, for sauce, in a small bowl combine sour cream, yogurt, maple syrup and cinnamon.

Serve fries with dipping sauce.

Nutrition facts per serving: 205 calories, 8g fat, 1g saturated fat, 5mg cholesterol, 200mg sodium, 33g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 3g protein
Source: Hy-Vee recipe of month, Try Foods International

This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.