The eyes are spectacular. They allow us to take in our world, see friends, and experience life like it’s one big movie.
So why decide to talk about eye health this month? Well, because I felt like it really and because it’s one of those things that we can take for granted until it’s an issue, or sadly, gone.
So here’s my top advice if you want to really take care of the magical camera-balls in your head.
Reduce Sugar Intake
This is prevention 101. I thiiink I may have mentioned the danger of sugar once or twice before. But highly processed, refined sugar found in high concentrations in the western diet is incredibly inflammatory and puts you at higher risk of developing ocular abnormalities and decline.
Ever heard of AGE?
There’s more to it than “sugar is just bad” - it turns out the more sugary foods you consume (sweets, sugary frapa-craps, white breads and pastries, etc.) the higher the risk that sugars in your body will start binding your body’ proteins and fats forming AGE - advanced glycation endproducts, harmful compounds in the body. Ironic name huh? AGE’s are implicated in aging (wrinkles), diabetes, atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease, as well as ocular diseases.
Now with regards to AGEs, we can both consume them exogenously by eating foods heated at dry high temperatures (particularly barbequed meats), as well as form them endogenously when we have too much sugar in our bloodstream on a regular basis , increasing the chances of those sugars binding to our bodies’ proteins and fats, rendering them damaged. (1)
Our bodies can eliminate AGE’s naturally, but if they accumulate more quickly than our body can eliminate them (particularly as we age), that’s when problems arise.
AGEs can accumulate in various areas of the body, the eyes being one of them - and as a result they’re “ implicated in vision loss associated with macular degeneration, cataract formation, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma”. (2)
All refined sugar stinks, but Fructose is a Real Bad Guy
Refined sugars are always something to watch out for, but you really want to keep an eye on your fructose consumption, as recent findings have indicated that fructose is a big player in AGE formation in the body. (3)
I’m not talking about fructose found naturally in fruits, I’m talking about the cheapest, most common sweetener around: High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) (labeled “Glucose/Fructose if you’re in Canada).
Here’s a list of the TOP HFCS-rich foods to avoid at all costs to reduce AGE formation in the body.
Store-bought salad dressings
Candy (that one’s no surprise)
Support the Eye’s Antioxidants!
Oxidative stress is a major mechanism of age-related ocular disorders so the body, in its amazing way, uses a plethora of antioxidant enzymes to protect the eye from oxidative damage (the major ones being glutathione peroxidase, superoxide dismutase and catalase).
The best thing you can do from a nutritional standpoint is to include foods with the minerals and vitamins that help provide the building blocks of these enzymes.
Brazil nuts - super source of Selenium
Pumpkin Seeds - rich in Zinc
Sunflower Seeds - great source of Copper
Walnuts - hello manganese you little-known mineral
Raspberries, bell peppers, blueberries - all high in Vitamin C
All of the nuts above are also rich in Vitamin E, another key antioxidant player
Let’s make an Eye-Trail-Mix Shall We?
Buy these nuts in bulk and RAW, and combine them in equal parts to have on hand for a tasty trail mix that contains all the wonderful minerals to support the eyes’ antioxidants:
Brazil Nuts + Walnuts + Pumpkin Seeds + Sunflower Seeds + Dark Chocolate
Consume a nice handful every day for an afternoon, eye-boosting snack!
Vitamin C is a big player in Eye Health
Vitamin C is a huge one for the eye - Vitamin C helps boost glutathione in the body, the body’s master antioxidant. (4)
Vitamin C, along with bioflavonoids (chemical compounds that give plants their colour and serve as phytonutrient powerhouses) work synergistically to protect the eye. So include foods rich in colour - bell peppers, raspberries, kiwi, guava but especially . .
BLUEBERRIES!! These eye-healthy berries contain a high amount of anthocyanins — flavonoid pigments that are powerful antioxidants. Anthocyanins may help reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration and help maintain the health of the cornea and blood vessels in various parts of the eye.
**I highly advise supplementing with vitamin C if you are concerned about cataract formation (observational studies have shown that people who take Vitamin C supplements are less likely to get cataracts. (5) Look for one that has Vitamin C + Bioflavonoids so you get the superior synergistic effect of that combination.
Your eyes are magical. Support and protect them.
To avoid endogenously formed AGE, avoid processed sugars - especially High Fructose Corn Syrup
Support the eye’s antioxidants through mineral rich foods - make the eye-trail mix and have it daily.
Include vitamin C rich foods, especially blueberries
Consider supplementing with Vitamin C - it’s not expensive and can boost your antioxidant status!
To your magical eyes and all the wonder they see!
Till next time!