Macular degeneration (also known as AMD, age-related macular disease, or AMD) can cause vision loss. This is due to changes to the macula, the eye area in the middle where your vision is sharpest. AMD is the leading cause of blindness among people over 55. AMD can be slowed down by eating certain foods that help your eyes stay healthy. You should also avoid certain foods that can increase your risk of developing AMD. These are the foods to avoid and what to look for.
1. Choose leafy or colourful vegetables
Your macula contains antioxidants–carotenoids–red and yellow pigments that protect the cells (photoreceptors) necessary for vision. Vegetables rich in carotenoids (mainly lutein or Zeaxanthin) can increase the amount of protective pigment around the macula and help prevent or slow down AMD. You can increase your intake of carotenoid-rich vegetables by choosing dark green, bright yellow, and red varieties. You have many options:
- Kale, spinach and collard greens
- Carrots and red and orange peppers
- Sweet potatoes and corn
2. Consume: High-Vitamin Fruits
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a vitamin that helps build collagen. This creates strong blood vessels in the eyes as well as elsewhere. Vitamin C is essential for vision. Your eyes are quick to process nutrients, so it’s important to get enough vitamin C. Vitamin C may slow down the progression of advanced AMD in people at high risk. Citrus fruits are the best source of vitamin C. Citrus fruits, such as bananas, apples, and peaches, are rich in vitamin C.
3. Consume: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty acids
Although experts disagree on the benefits of omega-3s found in fish oils, evidence suggests that they could reduce your risk of macular degeneration. High levels of omega-3 fatty acid are found in salmon, albacore tuna and mackerel. These fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and can help reduce the number of blood vessels clogged in your eye.
4. Avoid Processed Snack Foods (Saturated Fats).
Junk food is often made from monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, linoleic acids, and other chemicals. These foods lead to a buildup of cholesterol-containing plaque in blood vessels, including those in your eyes. Plaque can damage blood vessels and prevent nutrient-rich, oxygen-rich blood from reaching the eyes. The worst culprits are cookies, cakes, peanut butter, chocolate, French fries, soft drinks, and potato chips. This can increase your risk of developing the advanced macular disease, which causes severe vision loss. Consider eating a piece instead of a cake.
5. Avoid ‘Bad Fats’ in Your Cooking
Avoid oils high in partially hydrogenated fats like coconut oil or palm oil when cooking. These unhealthy fats can cause macular degeneration in the same way as foods high in saturated fat and sugar. Instead, choose olive, flaxseed, and canola oil. Monounsaturated oils can have anti-inflammatory properties, and they won’t obstruct your blood vessels (or any other part of your body).
6. Eat eggs in moderation
Egg yolks contain one of the highest major carotenoids, lutein and Zeaxanthin. This can help protect your macula. Because of their high cholesterol content, some people avoid egg yolks. If your diet is healthy in other ways and your cholesterol levels are normal (about one egg per day), you might be able to see a difference with moderate amounts of eggs. They can also lower the risk of developing cataracts. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure about eggs and your health.