Did mother or grandmother tell you to eat your carrots because they are good for your eyes? Mine did. Did I believe them? Not really. Sounded like some old wives tale to me. Turns out, I was wrong again, and that perhaps there is wisdom in some of the old tales…perhaps they were adapted from some wise council of women that existed around the time Thomas Edison’s wife finally got the light bulb to work.
So, why do carrots actually help us see better? They contain carotenoids, an important phytonutrient responsible for their bright orange pigment. Here, in Tennessee, orange may be a popular color (think sports teams) but orange needs to become a popular color everywhere! Turns out carotenoids are not only in carrots! This is great news because they not only improve vision and skin, they also contain powerful cancer-fighting antioxidant benefits as well as anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits. Vitamin A, beta carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin are the carotenoids that are typically studied. The latter two, are the only two found in the retina, and have been proven to slow down the development of cataracts and macula degeneration, the primary causes of blindness as we age.
Here is a list of carotenoid-rich foods. All of these are foods that should already be included in our diet. The knowledge that the most colorful fruits and veggies help to stave off vision loss is yet another reason to eat a rainbow of colors every day!
1) Sweet potatoes
3) Spinach, Kale, collards
5) Butternut Squash
7) Red bell peppers
Studies have demonstrated that eating the above foods, rather than taking dietary supplements is highly protective from macula degeneration a major cause of blindness in people over 65. Dr Matzkin, my husband, and practicing ophthalmic surgeon, suggests people consider eating whole plant based foods throughout life rather than waiting until manifestations of mac deg and other diseases present clinically.