Eating to Prevent Cataracts



Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness today. Although the cause of cataracts is not known, doctors believe that oxidative stress damages enzymes and proteins in the lens, which causes the lens to become cloudy. What is oxidative stress? It is an imbalance between free radicals (highly reactive atoms which damage cells in our body) and antioxidants that neutralize them. Free radicals can originate from pollution, chemicals, UV rays, smoking or eating unhealthy food.

Oxidative stress damages fats and proteins in the lens of the eye and causes the lens to become cloudy and develop a cataract. There is no cure for cataracts, but some doctors suggest that a diet high in antioxidants and specific vitamins can help reduce the risk of cataracts or even delay cataract progression.

To reduce the risk of cataracts, you should treat yourself to 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, three servings of 100 percent whole grains every day and two servings of fish every week for maximum variety of vitamins and minerals. Choose dark leafy greens and a rainbow of vegetables and fruits, which provide beneficial antioxidants. Select various sources of dairy to boost your calcium intake, and consider taking a folic acid supplement.

Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to eye health and potentially reduced risk of cataracts. The best source of omega-3 fatty acids is flax seeds, offering 133 percent of the daily value (DV). Other good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are walnuts, fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, grass-fed beef, scallops, shrimp and tofu.

Vitamin C and combined intake of several antioxidants also appears to reduce the risk for cataracts. Vitamin C is one of the easier vitamins to find delicious and natural food sources in which to indulge. One of the best sources of vitamin C is not the orange but the guava, coming in at 380 percent of the daily value for a 100 gram serving. Coming in first place is the red or green chili pepper, at a whopping 404 percent of the daily value per 100 gram serving. Bell peppers come in third, and other top finishers are dark leafy greens, broccoli, kiwi and papaya.

There is also research on certain foods that seem to increase the likelihood of cataracts. One study published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science found that a diet high in carbohydrate was associated with the development of cataracts. After evaluating the eating habits of 1,600 adults, doctors discovered that the patients who were in the top 25 percent for carbohydrate consumption were three times more likely to develop cataracts (Source: AllAboutVision).