Eye health: Nutritionist reveals foods that protect your eyes
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The poignant phrase “you don’t know what you’ve lost until you’ve lost it” can be applied to many aspects of life. It takes on particular resonance when thinking about vision decline. Although age chips away at eye health, what you put into your body can have an impact too.
According to Shafiq Rehman, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at Optegra Eye Hospital Manchester and Yorkshire, alcohol can prove highly destructive.
“Alcohol – in large quantities – can be damaging to your eye health as well as other parts of the body,” warns Mr Rehman.
“People who consume too much alcohol can develop optic nerve degeneration that can affect eyesight – sometimes very severely and permanently.”
As the eye expert explains, the mechanisms are “complex but may involve direct toxicity as well as nutritional depletion – especially B vitamins with poor diet linked to high alcohol intake”.
The warning is a wake up call for Britons, many of whom are drinking too much alcohol.
Eight million people in England are drinking so much wine, beer or spirits that it is harmful to their health, according to data from the Government’s Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, with a large increase in the numbers drinking at levels considered to be dangerous.
Professor Julia Sinclair, the chair of the addictions faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, partly attributes this figure to drinking at home during the Covid pandemic, where drinking sessions sometimes lasted several hours longer than they would in a pub.
Figures based on YouGov surveys show 18.1 percent of adults in England were drinking at “increasing or higher risk” in the three months to the end of October 2021, which equates to eight million people.
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That is much higher than in February 2020, before the pandemic, when 12.4 percent or about six million people drank at these levels.
In October 2019, 11.9 percent, or about five million people, were drinking at this level.
What can improve your eyesight?
“When selecting food and drink, there are certain nutrients which are really vital to your eye health,” said Mr Rehman.
“In fact the trick is to follow the traffic light diet.”
The eye expert recommended the following “red” foods:
- Red peppers
- Red meat (in moderation)
The above items are rich in vitamin C, which has antioxidant properties that help prevent or delay cataract and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), explained Mr Rehman.
He continued: “Diets lacking in vitamin C can cause retinal issues and problems with the cornea, ocular surface disease.
“Red meat contains zinc which is important for the immune system and eye health. And salmon contains Omega-3 to help prevent dry eyes and AMD.”
According to the eye expert, “amber” foods to opt for include oranges, grapefruits, lemons, carrots and apricots.
As he explained, citrus fruits are full of vitamin C while carrots and apricots contain beta carotene – the chemical nutrient that assists with good vision.
Finally, pack “green” foods into your diet, such as kale, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, peas, avocado, Mr Rehman advised.
“These contain lutein and zeaxanthin which reduce the amount of damaging light to the eye which can help reduce AMD and slow its progression.”
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