Smith: Nutritious diet results in wholesome eyesight | Meals and Cooking

Jenna Smith

If you want to see well, you better eat your carrots. We were all told that anyway. While carrots are good for our eyes, they aren’t the only foods that are beneficial for eye health. Visual impairment affects more than 4.2 million Americans ages 40 and older. Age-related eye diseases are the leading cause of blindness and vision problems in the United States. The most common eye diseases include age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. While age is a leading risk factor that we cannot control, we can control lifestyle risk factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

Certain nutrients play key roles in eye health. Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals; These damage our body cells and lead to health problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and eye diseases. The body counteracts this damage with antioxidants such as carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as vitamins C and E. Carrots are known for eye health due to their beta-carotene content, which is converted into vitamin A in the body. In fact, all red, yellow, and orange products, like sweet potatoes and butternut squash, contain beta-carotene. Lutein and zeaxanthin can be found in dark leafy vegetables such as kale or spinach, as well as in other colorful products. Vitamins C and E are found in citrus fruits, berries, vegetable oils and nuts. Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, tuna, and walnuts help reduce inflammation in the eye. Protect your eyes by eating a variety of foods from the food groups today!

Sweet potatoes stuffed with tuna

1 (5 oz.) Can of white albacore tuna in water, drained

2-3 tablespoons of non-fat Greek yogurt

¼ teaspoon of garlic powder

⅛ teaspoon of black pepper

1 tablespoon of chopped chives

Wash hands with soap and water. Either roast potatoes in a 400 ° F oven or microwave on high until tender. Halve each potato with a knife. In a small bowl, stir together the tuna, yogurt, garlic powder and black pepper. Spread the tuna mixture evenly on the sweet potato halves. Sprinkle with chives.

Yield: 4 ½ potato servings

Nutritional information (per serving): 110 calories, 0.5 grams of fat, 150 milligrams of sodium, 14 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 12 grams of protein

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Basics of Vision and Eye Health, www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/basics

Sarah Klemm, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Foods for Eye Health, www.eatright.org

Smith is a Nutrition and Wellness Educator for the University of Illinois Extension, McLean County. Contact them at 309-663-8306.

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