You Are What You Eat

Save Your Sight

(Left) Eating New Zealand blackcurrants has shown to greatly encourage healthy eyesight

Eyes might or might not be windows into the soul, but they are certainly useful indicators of health. Our eyes reveal if we’ve been getting enough sleep, overindulging in alcohol, or have taxed livers. Similarly, the antioxidant levels in the body have a profound effect upon the eyes.

Vitamin A is an important fat-soluble antioxidant that serves as a light-gathering pigment in the retina. If a person is lacking vitamin A, it can be difficult for the eyes to adjust to darkness. This is often evident when we go from bright sunlight into a dark movie theater. If your eyes don’t adjust to the darkness with a few seconds, you’re probably lacking this key vision nutrient.

Cataracts and macular degeneration impair the vision of millions of Americans. Vision decline need not be your fate, however. Diet, through its effects on antioxidant status, plays a major role in eye diseases. For example, one study found that those who consumed fewer than 3.5 servings of vegetables and fruits per day had as much as 13 times the risk for developing a type of cataract compared to those who ate more servings. In another study, a daily intake of 6 milligrams of lutein, a carotenoid abundant in spinach, was associated with a 43-percent risk reduction for macular degeneration.

Bilberry, a berry related to the blueberry, has been used in Europe to treat a variety of eye ailments. During World War II, British fighter pilots found that eating bilberry jam before bombing raids improved their night vision.

According to new research, New Zealand blackcurrant is a fruit that trumps bilberry. An ingredient in the fruit showed specific activity in relaxing smooth muscles of the eye. In myopia (nearsightedness), these muscles cannot relax sufficiently to focus on distant objects. As computers become an increasingly necessary tool of modern life, growing numbers of people are suffering from computer-related eye problems, particularly eye strain. New Zealand blackcurrant, however, may help to relieve this kind of stress. Studies show that intake of blackcurrant concentrate improves subjective symptoms of eye fatigue during visual-display work.

Bottom line: To keep seeing clearly, don’t smoke (causes damaging oxidation); eat leafy green veggies, carrots, broccoli, and fish; snack on fruits and nuts instead of cookies or chips; lose excess weight; and take a multivitamin for insurance.