At a recent visit to her eye doctor, my husband’s granny was told that new glasses would correct some of her vision changes, but macular degeneration was to blame for the rest of her weak vision and the glasses couldn’t help with that. Macular degeneration is a form of damage to the most important part of the retina in the back of the eye. It tends to impair the central field of vision, and if it progresses, it is one of the main causes of blindness in this country. At least 3 out of 10 elderly Americans experience some degree macular degeneration. To a great extent this is a preventable condition, but it is more challenging to treat once it has developed. I am hopeful that I will be able to help his granny and wanted to share some of what I told her with all of you.
The retina of the eye is made up of pigments that are derived from colorful compounds in vegetables and fruits known as flavonoids. For our long-term eye health, it is important to eat a diet that is high in vegetables, particularly the dark leafy vegetables like kale, collards, and spinach. These are some of the dietary sources of lutein, an important carotenoid for the retina. Supplemental lutein is also available for those who have already developed macular degeneration and need to help make up for previous dietary deficiency. Another important consideration when choosing your vegetables is to make sure they are organic like all of the produce we sell at Ozark Natural Foods. The pigments in the retina are very sensitive to oxidative damage. When we consume pesticide-laden foods, these pesticides have an oxidative effect damaging these important retinal pigments. It is also helpful to consume extra antioxidants from produce and supplements to further protect the retina from damage. Examples of supplemental antioxidants are selenium, mixed carotenoids, vitamin C and E. There are also broccoli supplements available for people who haven’t been eating enough vegetables.