We all know the saying: ‘You are what you eat.’ We now know that all sorts of physical, emotional and health challenges could and should also be addressed nutritionally. Research has shown that the nutritional value of the following foods have certain benefits pertaining to vision.
1 – Salmon
Who ate the salmon? Salmon has an unusually high omega-3 fatty acid content. Omega-3 cannot be manufactured in the body. It has to be consumed in the form of fish, oils, nuts and other sources. Omega-3 has natural anti-inflammatory effects and may enhance mood and brain function (IQ). Omega-3, together with Vitamin A, has a positive effect on chronic dry eye. This study demonstrated that oral consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with a decrease in the rate of tear evaporation, an improvement in dry eye symptoms, and an increase in tear secretion.
Salmon contaminants are being addressed worldwide to bring healthy fish straight to the table. The Norwegian government has gone to great lengths to seemingly successfully improve the health standards of their farmed salmon industry. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon seems to be a favoured choice, as it is naturally low in contaminants. South Africans mostly eat the salmon that we find in the shops – Woolies has some nice oak-smoked and honeyed versions.
2 – Eggs
Eggs are a wonderful source of very affordable protein as they contain mostly all of the essential amino acids that the body needs daily. Proteins are essential for vitamin A absorption in the body. See The importance of vitamin A for the links between vitamin A, iron and protein.
Eggs contain two significant nutrients, lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin are two major carotenoids found as colour pigments in the human eye. Lutein is synthesized only by plants and zeaxanthin by plants and some micro-organisms. Both act to moderate light energy in plants during photosynthesis. Lutein is found in egg yolks and animal fats and gives it the yellow colour. The human retina accumulates lutein and zeaxanthin. Both lutein and zeaxanthin have light-absorbing properties and supposedly work to filter harmful blue light in the eye and prevent the production of free radicals.
Eggs contain vitamins B6 and B12, folic acid and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Egg yolks are one of the few foods naturally containing vitamin D. Eggs also contain calcium, copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus, selenium and zinc.
3 – Lamb or beef
Both these meats contain high concentrations of iron, zinc and vitamin B12. Zinc appears to play an integral role in normal eye function (Zinc and the eye). Vitamin A needs iron and proteins to be properly utilized in the body.
Vitamin B12 is only found in animal foods, such as beef, lamb, chicken, fish and eggs. This vitamin is important for normal growth and development in children as well as healthy functioning of the immune and nervous systems in the body. A vitamin B12 deficiency has been shown to cause optic neuropathy in selective eaters with autism.
4 – Bell peppers
Red sweet peppers or bell peppers have a very high Vitamin A content; in excess of 3000 IU per 100 gram serving. They contain lutein and zeaxanthin in good quantities.
5 – Blueberries
Blueberries have relatively high concentrations of vitamin K and choline. Choline is interrelated with vitamin B12. A B12 deficiency would likely increase the demand for choline as well. Choline is an essential nutrient for humans and is necessary for the normal function of all cells. It is important for the brain development of a fetus.
Blueberries are rich in anthocyanins. These have a free radical scavenging ability in the body. Anthocyanins may improve eyesight in various ways: They have been shown to act as a ‘sunscreen’, protecting cells from light damage. They temporarily affect the eye’s ability to adapt from light to dark. During World War II, apparently Royal Air Force pilots were encouraged to eat bilberries (the wild European form of blueberries) to improve their night vision. Studies exist to show improvement in retinopathy and weak eyesight (eye fatigue) after administration of some form of anthocyanins.
6 – Apricots
Apricots are rich in anti-oxidants, carotenoids and choline. They have a fairly high vitamin A content. Carotenoids may absorb blue and near-ultraviolet light to protect the macula of the retina. Apricots also contain catechins – very potent anti-inflammatory nutrients, as well as iron, magnesium and zinc.
It has been said that apricots may help strengthen the optic nerve.
7 – Dark chocolate
This sweet treat is chock-full of vital nutrients and has some amazing benefits. Good dark chocolate contains zinc, iron, magnesium, copper and vitamins A and K, as well as vitamin B12. Vitamins A and K are fat-soluble. This means that suspended in dark chocolate, they are already in a form that is easily absorbed in the body. Dark chocolate also contains phosphorus for strong bone and teeth formation and selenium, which is helpful for cognitive function.
8 – Melons
Also known as cantaloupe, melons have an interesting nutrient diversity. Melons contain a high concentration of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A. They have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and the seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids. Melons may improve insulin and blood sugar metabolism. 100 Grams of melon has an excess of 3000 IU of vitamin A. They contain a fair amount of vitamin C, lutein and zeaxanthin, copper, iron, zinc, and folates.
9 – Plums
Plums are a good source of vitamin K, choline, anthocyanins, lutein, zeaxanthin, and minerals like potassium, fluoride and iron. Yellow plums contain Vitamin A and beta-carotene.
10 – Pumpkin
Pumpkins contain zinc, iron, folates, magnesium, calcium and Vitamin A, among other nutrients. Pumpkin boasts these health benefits. It is one of the veggies that children eat more readily. I want to include a pumpkin recipe that is a big hit with most kids. This is a South African classic. Many people here know some version thereof:
Pumpkin Flapjack Recipe
1 Cup of cooked pumpkin
1 Cup of flour
½ Teaspoon of baking powder
1 Tablespoon of butter
¼ Teaspoon of salt
1 Teaspoon of sugar
Cinnamon and sugar to sprinkle flavour on top
Mix the dry ingredients together.
Add pumpkin and stir well.
Beat the egg into the mixture.
Melt the butter and add. Mix well.
If the batter is not soft enough, add a splash of milk.
Bake in a pan over medium heat until golden.
Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.