The Eyes Have It
Want another good reason to get your 5 or more a day? According to a US study of the diet and health of nearly 40,000 women (part of the Nurses Health Study), women who eat plenty of fruit and vegetables have a lower risk of developing cataracts.
A cataract is the cloudy patch that develops on the lens of the eye and is one of the most common causes of poor vision and blindness in the world. It begins as causing blurry vision, and if severe, surgery is often needed to replace the clouded lens with an artificial one.
In this study, women who ate the most fruit and veg (8 or more portions daily) had a 15 percent lower risk of developing cataracts compared to those who ate the least - an average of just 2.6 servings. This ‘small’ amount is actually the average intake in the UK!
Other studies have found stronger benefits from higher intakes of green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale. They are a rich source of antioxidants called lutein and zeaxanthin, which appear to help protect the eye from the damaging effects of UV light. Lutein and zeaxanthin actually accumulate in the lens and retina and are believed to mop up excess damaging free radicals triggered by the UV light.
This benefit also seems to help protect the eye from age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), a condition that affects central vision and is the most common cause of blindness amongst older people in the UK.
These studies are interesting because they show how important diet is for our overall health. Other studies suggest that nutrients such as vitamins A, C and E, zinc, selenium and healthy fats found in oily fish and nuts also play a key role in protecting our eyes and helping us to preserve good vision as we age.
A varied diet, with plenty of fruit and vegetables, fish, whole grains, low fat dairy, lean meat and some nuts and seeds, not only helps us stay in shape but provides the optimal mix of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and antioxidants to nourish our body from top to toe.
Using the tools in WLR will help you learn how to eat healthily and balance calories for weight loss or weight maintenance. You can keep an online food diary and access WLR's calorie and nutrition databases. Try it free for 24 hours.