Have you ever noticed that people are often trying out different foods for the benefit of enhancing certain body parts (think hair, nails, even backsides), but we often don’t pay attention to diet as it relates to one of our most important features, our eyes.
Let's look at ways to support and look after one (or two!) of the most important organs of our body.
Eyes are our windows to the world but it's important to remember that windows can get dirty and need looking after if you want to see amazing views through them!
Eyes are a very delicate part of our body, but are in constant contact with the environment.
Ergo, they're susceptible to airborne pollution and other irritants.
Our eyes have two million parts and are very complex, second only to the brain.
In an average lifetime our eyes will register an absolutely staggering 24 billion images.
However, they can be affected by a range of conditions, such as conjunctivitis, blepharitis, hayfever, age-related macular degeneration, general strain and tiredness.
This is an uncomfortable condition where the protective membrane of the eyes (the conjunctiva) becomes inflamed.
The eyes can become sore, bloodshot and very watery.
This is characterized by inflammation of the eyelid, on either the inside or the outside.
It's an uncomfortable condition that can leave the eyelid swollen and sore and may be caused by bacterial infection or by sebaceous dandruff.
This can affect some people for the best part of the year depending on what they are reacting to.
Symptoms can include itchy, streaming and/or inflamed eyes, and sneezing for long periods.
Age-related Macular Degeneration
A condition that as the name suggests can affect people as they get older.
The macula in the central area of the retina begins to deteriorate resulting in blurred vision and blind spots.
Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) is a small plant native to Britain and Europe that has been used since the 17th century.
It helps to relieve inflammatory conditions of the mucous membranes and because of this it may be useful for a variety of eye-health conditions such as conjunctivitis, blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids) and itchy, irritated eyes due to hayfever.
It is astringent, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and anti-catarrhal (which makes it useful for noses as well as eye-health!)
Remember that the tincture should be used internally!
During the Second World War it is said that Black Currant was used to improve the night sight of fighter pilots!
Black Currant (Ribes nigrum) can be useful for eyestrain due to its antioxidant content and it is rich in flavonoid compounds called anthocyans.
Anyone who works with computers or who does a fair amount of driving as part of their job may benefit from it.
Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum) is a wonderful eye-health herb native to the Kalahari Desert in South Africa.
It has an anti-inflammatory effect within the body and may be of particular use to hayfever sufferers.
A fantastic combination of eye-health herbs, including Luffa operculata with its desensitizing, anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic action, can help ease uncomfortable symptoms such as itchy, watery eyes that make life a misery for so many people during winter and summer months.
If you're one of those people who always has a streaming nose and eyes, take this remedy to reduce your symptoms without risking getting drowsy.
Not Just for Colds!
Echinacea purpurea is a herb that many people will have in their cupboard ready to fight off colds and flu during the winter months, but, it may also be useful at other times of the year as well?
If you suffer from allergic rhinitis and are constantly sneezing your way through boxes of tissues, improve your immune function with Echinacea.
This may well strengthen your immune system to the point where it doesn't react to irritants like animal hair or house dust.
Making a Fruitful Choice
Antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin-C are also very helpful for eye-health.
Vitamin-C is water-soluble and therefore not stored in the body so it's important to make sure that the eyes have a good supply because of its natural antihistamine effect.
There's a group of substances called carotenoids that are also important for your eye-health.
These include lycopene, zeaxanthin and lutein.
The macula owes its yellow colour to its high concentration of lutein and zeaxanthin so these two carotenes play an essential role in protecting against the onset of age-related macular degeneration.
Your eyes are amazingly intricate machines but, like any machine, they need looking after.
There are a whole host of wonderful herbs and nutrients that Mother Nature has provided to help keep them in full working order.
Foods That Boost Eye Health
If you thought that eating carrots all day long would help, then you’re not aware of all the other foods that can help us to maintain the healthiest eyes possible.
Here are just a few.
Oysters are one of the best sources of zinc as just one oyster provides nearly all of your recommended daily value.
So how does this mineral preserve your eyesight?
Zinc helps the body manufacture melanin, a pigment that helps protect eyes from the harmful effects of ultraviolet light.
And there’s evidence that it helps slow the progress of macular degeneration if you’ve already been diagnosed with it.
Best bet: Stay away from raw oysters, which can be contaminated with potentially deadly bacteria.
Other sources of zinc: Crab, pork, beef, chicken, lobster
For a quick appetizer, bake oysters in their shells and top with salsa verde.
Yes, egg yolks get a bad rap for their cholesterol content, but they contain lutein, an antioxidant that helps protect your peepers against macular degeneration and vision-clouding cataracts.
Plus, it’s easier for your body to absorb lutein from eggs than it is from other foods containing the compound.
Best bet: Pastured eggs that come from hens allowed to roam freely are said to be higher in lutein.
You can find them at farmers’ markets and grocery stores.
Other sources of lutein: Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, collards and kale.
Poached eggs aren’t just for breakfast.
Serve them over bowls of soba noodles or brown rice and stir-fried vegetables, or eat them on corn tortillas topped with sauteed spinach and mushrooms, crumbled cheese and warm enchilada sauce.
Kale is rich in zeaxanthin and lutein, antioxidants that filter out high-energy blue wavelengths of light that can damage the retina.
People who get plenty of zeaxanthin and lutein in their diet have less chance of developing such age-related eye diseases as macular degeneration and cataracts.
Best bet: Choose a bunch of kale with firm, richly colored leaves and hardy stems.
For best absorption of lutein and zeaxanthin, cook it with a little bit of vegetable oil.
Other good sources of zeaxanthin for eye-health: Spinach, broccoli, green peas
Italian cooks saute kale.
Trim tough stems from kale, rinse and spin, or towel dry.
In a large skillet over medium heat, cook 1/2 cup chopped red onion or 1/4 cup shallots in olive or canola oil heat until golden; add kale and cook until just wilted.
Add 1/2 cup water; cover and cook 5 minutes.
Uncover and cook until liquid evaporates.
Season with salt, pepper and sherry, balsamic or rice wine vinegar.
Besides being heart healthy, the omega-3 fatty acids in salmon may enhance your eye-health by reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of legal blindness among older Americans.
Research also shows that a diet high in omega-3s from seafood may protect women from dry-eye syndrome.
Best bet: Wild salmon generally has fewer toxins than farmed salmon, so buy wild when you can.
Other good eye-health sources of omega-3 fatty acids for eye-health: Herring, halibut, mackerel, sardines.
Mix flaked salmon (canned or fresh) with chopped celery, minced onion, lemon juice, fresh dill and a splash of olive oil for a vision-healthy alternative to tuna salad.
You already know that milk’s good for your bones, but downing the white stuff may also cut your risk of Eye-health and age-related macular degeneration.
Researchers suspect that vitamin-D, which is an anti-inflammatory, may be what gives milk an edge when it comes to protecting eyesight.
Best bet: Opt for low-fat or non-fat varieties.
Yes, you want to safeguard your eyes and bones, but you also want a healthy heart.
Other sources of vitamin-D: Fatty fish, cod liver oil, fortified cereal, fortified OJ, egg yolks
To up the calcium and vitamin-D content of breakfast, make oatmeal with nonfat milk instead of water and sip a low-fat latte instead of your regular cup of java.
Mom was right: carrots are good for your eye-health.
They’re an excellent source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that converts to vitamin-A in the body and helps keep the cornea healthy.
Too little vitamin-A can lead to blurred vision and night blindness.
Best bet: Don’t overdo a good thing; too much vitamin-A can cause vomiting, dizziness and liver damage.
Other sources of vitamin-A: Milk, cheese, leafy dark-green vegetables, deep or bright-colored fruits
At lunch, nibble on crunchy baby carrots instead of chips; just a handful provides the recommended daily value for the vitamin.
Don’t save these seeds just for snacking.
Sunflower seeds are a great source of vitamin-E, which may help delay the onset of cataracts and slow the progression of advanced age-related macular degeneration.
Best bet: Choose unsalted seeds to keep your sodium intake at a healthy low.
Other sources of vitamin-E: Wheat germ, almonds, sunflower oil, safflower oil, hazelnuts, peanuts.
Cut down on the salt by roasting your own sunflower seeds.
Roast shelled seeds in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan frequently, until fragrant, about five minutes.
Sprinkle over salads, grilled salmon, stir-fries and breakfast cereals.
This fatty fish is king when it comes to omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3s were found to be essential to retina health according to a recent study.
Participants consuming food sources high in omega-3 fatty acids experienced a 37% reduction in age-related macular degeneration, an eye condition that can deteriorate the part of the eye called the macula over time and cause blindness.
In fact, macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in individuals over the age of 60.
While you may think that oranges are the only way to get lots of vitamin-C, there are some other options that are just as, if not more, healthy!
Researchers in a recent study found that vitamin-C was essential for eye-health and more specifically, the nerve cells to function in the eye.
Vitamin-C was also found to be protective of the retina of the eye as well.
In addition to its high content of vitamin-C, broccoli (as well as many other fruits and vegetables) has been associated with decreased inflammation in the body through its abundance of antioxidant compounds.
This, in turn, can affect overall eye health.
They contain carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, two compounds with big eye benefits when it comes to protection.
A 2009 study found that lutein and zeaxanthin helped to protect against UVA light hitting the eye.
Think of lutein and zeaxanthin as an army standing between you and harmful rays next time you’re out in the sun.
But don’t forget to wear sunglasses with UV protection to protect your eyes from the sun’s damaging rays.
Foolproof Combo to Protect Your Eyes: Brussels Sprouts and Olive Oil
Lutein, found in Brussels sprouts, lowers the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness, making it one of the most beneficial nutrients out there for your vision.
When you add olive oil to the sprouts, the oil’s healthy fats enhance the amount of the lutein that your body can store and absorb, providing a combination that’s bursting with flavor and health benefits.
When considering getting all of these fabulous nutrients into your diet, remember that getting them through food is almost always preferable to getting them in supplement form.
The only exception to this may be with vitamin-D, where the supplement is best absorbed by the body.
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