Diet plays a major role in protecting eye health

Food As Medicine: Nutrients for Eye Health

DIET PLAYS A MAJOR ROLE IN PROTECTING EYE HEALTH

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.

Which of your five senses do you most fear losing? I know it’s my sight, and apparently 55 percent of other baby boomers feel the same way. Concerns about eye health are right up there with worries about heart disease and cancer according to a survey by the Ocular Nutrition Society done in 2011.

So why aren’t we doing more to protect our vision?

Nearly half of the survey respondents said they don’t typically have an annual eye exam and even fewer were aware of the ways to keep their eyes healthy. This is a problem we need to focus on (pun intended) since the National Eye Institute projects the number of eye health issues among Americans will double over the next 30 years due the aging of the population.

Nutrients That Protect Your Eyes

Four of the biggest causes of vision trouble – cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy – are linked to good nutrition. Do you know if your diet and supplements are meeting all of your visual needs?

Most people know that Vitamin A is important for good vision after hearing all those carrot jokes growing up. But three other equally important nutrients are less familiar: Omega 3 fatty acids, lutein and zeaxanthin.

The percentage of survey respondents not aware of the role of these nutrients in maintaining eye health were:

  • 60% for Omega 3 fatty acids
  • 66% for Lutein
  • 89% for Zeaxanthin

Omega 3 fats are the ones in oily fish, like salmon and sardines, and in walnuts and flax seeds. Lutein and zeaxanthin are plant pigments most abundant in leafy green vegetables, but also found in pistachio nuts, corn, and egg yolks. A diet including two 3-ounces servings of fish each week 2-3 cups of vegetables every day is a good way to get the needed amounts of each.

If your diet is not that consistent, a dietary supplement may be needed to fill the gaps. The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for Omega 3 fatty acids is 1.6 grams/day for men and 1.1 grams a day for women. The National Academy of Sciences has not established aDRIfor Lutein/Zeaxanthin, butcurrent recommendations are 6-10 mg/day for adults.

Other Ways to Take Care of Your Eyes

  • Wear sunglasses, safety glasses and protective sports lenses
  • Replace liquid and creamy eye makeup every 3 months and whenever you develop an eye infection
  • Look away from computers screens for 20 seconds every 20 minutes

At what age did you first need help to correct your vision?

 

 

 

 

Basic guidelines for how to eat healthy have not changed

Still Not Sure How to Eat Healthy?

BASIC GUIDELINES FOR HOW TO EAT HEALTHY HAVE NOT CHANGED

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.

Consumer surveys done over the last ten years have found more and more people feel there is too much controversy over how to eat healthy, so they have stopped trying. Are you one of them? I can understand your frustration because I read all of the food and nutrition news that is released every day to stay abreast of the issues, and I find it overwhelming. Yet no matter what I read, it rarely affects what I eat. That’s because the basic requirements for a healthy and balanced diet have not changed significantly in over 30 years.

It was 1980 when the first Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released. My diet has pretty much conformed to them ever since. The recipes I use have changed, but not the food. The 7 Guidelines at that time were:

  1. Eat a variety of foods
  2. Maintain ideal weight
  3. Avoid too much fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol
  4. Eat foods with adequate starch and fiber
  5. Avoid too much sugar
  6. Avoid too much sodium
  7. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation

Every five years since then the Dietary Guidelines have been updated, but they have not dramatically revised what Americans should eat, just how much. Unfortunately, those revisions have fueled endless debates over the details which have kept most Americans from getting started on the basics.

If you’re confused about how to eat healthy, maybe it’s time to get back to basics.

Basic Requirement of a Healthy Diet

The most important guideline in the bunch is the first one: Eat a variety of foods. It seems so simple, yet few people actually do it. Variety in the diet means you eat foods from each of the food groups every day:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Grains
  • Protein Foods
  • Dairy
  • Oils

Variety also means you make different choices within each food group from day to day and week to week throughout the year. That is always possible when you realize you can choose fresh produce some days and frozen or canned on others. Or you can include eggs, fish, beans, nuts, beef, chicken or pork in your meal for a good source of protein. Eating a variety of grains means you add barley to a pot of soup instead of rice sometimes, take the tabbouleh from the salad bar instead of pasta salad, or use a whole wheat bun on your burger instead of a white one.

How to Handle the Headlines

No matter what crazy claim is being made in the headlines, you have little to worry about if you are eating a wide variety of all the basic foods you need in the right amounts. That alone will provide you with a built-in safety valve against over consumption of any food that could be harmful if eaten in excess. It also delivers a huge dose of natural protection from whatever risks might lurk in the environment.

So before you lose any sleep over whether organically grown fruits and vegetables are better than conventionally grown, be sure you’re eating the recommended 5-11 servings each day.

Also check out these other posts on the topic:

  • Getting Motivated to Eat Right
  • Do You Worry About Pesticides in Produce?
  • 9 Good For You Foods That Get a Bad Rap
Processed food shouldn’t be blamed for unhealthy diets.

Can Processed Foods be Part of a Healthy Diet?

Food processing has many benefits that make choosing a healthy diet possible.

Do you think your diet is healthier as a result of using processed foods? If you answered yes then you have a good understanding of all that food processing involves. If you said no, you might be surprised to find out just how difficult it would be to have a healthy diet without processed foods.

The most basic definition of food processing includes any method that transforms raw foods and ingredients into another form before consumption. A more detailed definition includes washing, cleaning, milling, cutting, chopping, heating, pasteurizing, blanching, cooking, canning, freezing, drying, dehydrating, mixing, packaging or other procedures that alter a food from its original state.

From the moment a crop is harvested or animal is slaughtered, food processing begins. It is done to preserve the food, make it easier to store and transport, improve its digestibility and taste, enhance nutritional value, increase the variety, shorten preparation and cooking time and lower the cost.

While food processing has gotten a bad rap of late, it has been used since prehistoric times when it was discovered that the sun and salt could keep foods from spoiling. Applying heat from a fire soon followed, and cooking is now one of the most commonly employed forms of food processing used around the world today.

All of the advances made in food processing since the days of drying berries on a rock in the sun have helped to make our lives and our diets better. Yet many people object to the modern treatment our food undergoes. They view food processing with suspicion while welcoming technological improvements in every other area of their lives.

The irony is I’ve never met anyone who wants to eat raw whole grains as opposed to being able to eat bread, let alone anyone who wants to bake all their own bread from scratch! So like it or not, food processing does make our lives easier, more palatable and more nutritious if we choose our food wisely.

And that brings us back to the real heart of the issue. How well do we make our food choices amidst so many choices? There are some foods that have way too much salt and fat in them, but it is also possible to pluck fresh spinach from your garden and put too much salt and butter on it right in your own kitchen.

The key is to balance your food choices so they add up to a healthy diet at the end of the day. Processed food can help us do that, but we have you do our part, too.

For more on making the right food choices, read:

Imagine Shopping Without Nutrition Facts on Food Labels

Guess What? There Are No Junk Foods!

The Yin Yang Symbol Offers Path to a Balanced Diet

Are Superfoods the Key to a Healthy Diet?

The concept of Yin Yang can be applied to food selection for a healthy diet

The Yin Yang Symbol Offers Path to a Balanced Diet

How to use the philosophy of Yin Yang instead of MyPlate to make healthy food choices

The food world got a new circle in June called MyPlate. It was created to illustrate how we should proportion our food at each meal to balance the diet. It works pretty well if you can separate your food into individual piles of grain, protein, fruits, vegetables and dairy, but not if you’re eating a slice of mushroom pizza and a fruit smoothie.

Given the many ways food is combined to make it taste good – think lasagna, burritos, sushi – the strategically divided MyPlate is not the handiest tool for diet planning. But the ancient symbol of Yin Yang is. It represents the idea of balance by viewing everything in relation to its whole, like the complementary characteristics of day and night, sky and earth, fire and water.

Using the concept of Yin Yang at meals would encourage us to think about whether our choices harmonize well as part our daily diet, instead of trying to figure out into what food group each item on our plate belongs. I particularly like the way the symbol of Yin Yang invokes the importance of balance without making us feel like we need a scale to get it right.

Seeing the image of Yin Yang might gently nudge us to be mindful when eating and consider whether we have had enough whole grains for the day or possibly too many. In that way it could help us make healthy food choices without ever having to deconstruct a bowl of soup into its component parts.

The inclusive nature of Yin Yang also allows for all of our food choices, without judgment, as long as no food or drink dominates our diet or is neglected. This distinction of Yin Yang preserves the essence of cuisine that makes eating so enjoyable. In the harmonizing world of Yin Yang, food can be a little salty or spicy or savory or sweet. It can be hot or cold, liquid or solid, crunchy or smooth. All of the most highly personal to the most patently universal aspects of food selection can be accommodated.

In short, the Yin Yang message can be used to promote moderation and variety in the diet. And that’s pretty much all we need to know to achieve good nutrition. Why not conjure up the image of Yin Yang at your next meal and see what happens?