(ARA) - Caring for eyes includes paying attention to nutrition, with recent studies showing a strong correlation between good nutrition and the prevention of age-related eye diseases.
Approximately 43 million Americans suffer from age-related macular degeneration or cataracts, the two leading causes of vision loss and blindness. By eating foods rich in six nutrients -- antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, essential fatty acids, vitamins C and E and the mineral zinc -- you can help protect your eyesight and vision.
"Basic and clinical research has shown that nutrients in eye-healthy foods can slow vision loss," says Dr. Stuart Richer, optometrist and the American Optometric Association vision and nutrition expert.
Together, the AOA and registered dietician Elizabeth Somer recommend eating a diet with a variety of foods loaded with key nutrients, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, for maintaining and improving eye health.
The AOA's 2008 American Eye-Q survey, which assesses public knowledge and understanding of issues related to eye health, showed that nearly half of all Americans -- 48 percent -- still believe carrots are the best food for eye health. While carrots do contain nutritional value by supplying nutrients essential for night vision, spinach and other dark, leafy greens prove to be the healthiest foods for eyes because they naturally contain large amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin.
The AOA recommends the following foods which contain the key nutrients for eye health:
* Lutein and zeaxanthin: Colorful fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale, corn, green beans, peas, oranges and tangerines.
* Essential fatty acids: Fleshy fish like tuna, salmon or herring, whole grain foods, lean meats and eggs.
* Vitamin C: Fruits and vegetables, including oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, papaya, green peppers and tomatoes.
* Vitamin E: Vegetable oils, such as safflower or corn oil, almonds, pecans, sweet potatoes and sunflower seeds.
* Zinc: Red meat, poultry, liver, shellfish, milk, baked beans and whole grains.
"Nutrition is a component of health for the entire body, including the eyes," says Somer. "There are some great, quick and simple recipes that promote healthy eyesight and vision."
Here's an example of a quick and easy eye-healthy recipe:
Whole Wheat Penne with Spinach and Gorgonzola
Ingredients: 10 ounces uncooked whole wheat penne pasta Olive oil cooking spray 1 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced (about 1 medium onion) 3 large garlic cloves, minced 1/2 cup chicken broth 3 Roma tomatoes, chopped 1 (6-ounce) bag fresh baby spinach 1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried basil Salt and pepper to taste 2/3 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese [or substitute 1/2 cup low-fat freshly-grated parmesan cheese] 1/3 cup pine nuts (optional)
Cook pasta according to package directions, without salting water.
While pasta is cooking, spray a large, non-stick frying pan with cooking spray. Heat over medium-high heat. Add onions, then stir and cook until slightly transparent, approximately five minutes. Add garlic, stir and cook for another minute. Add broth and let simmer for three minutes. Add tomatoes, toss, and simmer for two minutes. Add spinach and basil, cook and stir for approximately two minutes, or until leaves wilt. Remove from heat and salt and pepper to taste.
Drain pasta and add to spinach mixture. Thoroughly toss. Serve on a platter and top with gorgonzola (or parmesan) cheese and pine nuts. Makes six servings.
Courtesy of ARAcontent