As we age, our bodies lose the ability to fight the effects of free radicals. These highly-reactive molecules break down cells in the body and lead to wrinkles, gray hair and degenerative conditions like cataracts. Since women are at greater risk for cataracts due to fluctuating hormones and longer life expectancy, it is important that they take action to prevent free radical damage.
Free Radicals and Antioxidants
Free radicals are found in chemicals, UV rays, pollution, cigarette smoke and unhealthy foods. Although free radicals cannot be completely avoided, one way to combat their effects and to ward off cataracts is to eat a diet that is rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants can lessen or prevent the effects of free radicals. No single antioxidant can neutralize all free radicals, so it is essential to obtain various antioxidants from a range of healthy foods.
Best Foods to Prevent Cataracts
Women can actively prevent cataracts by eating an antioxidant-rich diet full of vitamins A, C and E, lutein and zeaxanthin – all of which are found in colorful fruits, dark berries, fresh vegetables and whole grains. A study of more than 1,800 women found that those who adhered closely to the nationally recommended dietary guidelines had a 37 percent lower risk for nuclear cataracts, the most common cause of vision loss in the United States.
A 2014 Swedish study compared the total antioxidant capacity (TAC) of various foods. Fruits and vegetables had the highest TAC at 44.3 percent, followed by whole grains at 17 percent, and coffee at 15.1 percent (Healthline).
Omega-3 fatty acids are also known to reduce the risk of cataract development and progression. Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include shrimp, tuna, cod, salmon, halibut, trout, herring, walnut, flaxseed oil, canola oil and spinach.
Supplements Versus Diet
There is a supplement for every vitamin and mineral, but research shows that there is no substitute for getting nutrients from food. An eye-healthy diet for women includes:
- Five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day
- Three servings of 100 percent whole grains per day
- Two servings of fish per week
Eye Exams Help Prevent Cataracts
During May, which is Women’s Health Month, schedule your yearly appointment for a full eye exam with dilation. Many diseases like glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration have no symptoms in the early stages and can cause permanent vision loss. So make an eye appointment for yourself or a special woman in your life today.
For those who are already developing cataracts, there is no need to wait until your vision is compromised to have your cataracts removed. Cataract-related vision loss is reversible through cataract surgery, so click here to contact a board-certified ophthalmologist and schedule a complete exam today.