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Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category

Carrots CAN keep your eyes healthy but won't eliminate your need for glasses

I can’t count the number of times I have been asked by patients if carrots really can improve their eyesight. I think most people are looking for carrots to be a magical ‘cure’ for their refractive error. They want to eliminate their need for glasses and want carrots to make them have perfect 20/20 vision. While proper nutrition is necessary to maintain healthy eyes and can even help slow the progression of certain eye conditions and illnesses such as cataracts and macular degeneration, consuming a certain type of food can not ‘cure’ your need for glasses. HOWEVER, in recent studies it has been shown that what you eat CAN affect the sharpness of your vision! Say what, Dr. Murphy? Let me explain.

A study was recently conducted at the University of Reading where they measured the visual awareness and detection skills of 30 healthy young subjects two hours after they consumed either dark chocolate (which contains antioxidants called Cocoa Flavanols or CFs) or white chocolate (since white chocolate does not contain CF, this acted as a placebo).

*Yum! Chocolate!* Where do I sign up for this experiment again? Whoops, sorry. Back to the blog.

All kidding aside, the study set out to examine the effects of cocoa flavanols on vision and cognition. The experiment went like this, the 30 people were divided into two groups. One group consumed dark chocolate, the other consumed white. Then they were given a series of tests two hours later, when the CFs would have been releasing their physiological effects on the body. The tests given measured the subjects’ visual contrast sensitivity, motion sensitivity and direction detection and cognitive performance through visual spatial memory and a choice reaction cognitive task. They recorded the results and then a week later, they actually did the same experiment again with the same 30 subjects with one difference, they swapped sides! The white chocolate subjects now consumed dark chocolate and vice versa.

What they found, both weeks, was an improvement in visual and cognitive performances of the subjects who consumed the dark chocolate. The subjects who consumed the white chocolate had no real enhancement in their testing performance. This demonstrated that CFs really can temporarily improve your vision and cognition skills in as little as two hours, the effects of which are temporary. Researchers think that CFs increase blood flow to the eyes and brain and that this is what leads to enhanced functioning of those structures. They state that, “the results of the current study demonstrate for the first time that performance on tests of visual system function in healthy young adults can be improved by the acute consumption of CF.” (source)

More studies need to be done in this area to find out what this all means and how we could benefit from this knowledge but oh what fun that research will be! MMmmmm! =)

Dark Chocolate contains Cocoa Flavanols which can temporarily increase visual contrast sensitivity and visual detection.

Now I am not saying dark chocolate is better for you than carrots. I am not saying to eat dark chocolate everyday and substitute it for fruits and vegetables or your regular meal. I am not even saying that dark chocolate will cause improvements to your vision that you yourself will notice. I am bringing up this topic just to remind you that what you eat affects your body, sometimes in ways we haven’t even learned yet. So stick to a healthy, well-balanced diet. And a little indulgence consisting of a small amount of dark chocolate as a dessert every now and then is probably a very good thing.

(Source)

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Photo by C. Murphy

Photo by C. Murphy

April Showers will soon have us seeing green. Flowers will be sprout, the grass will be thickening and the leaves on the trees will begin to bud. As we watch this wonderous rebirth and growth in nature, why not begin our own rejuvenation by pledging to eat healthier foods and sticking to that pledge once and for all. When it comes to the eyes, just like the rest of the body, they have to be well nourished in order to function efficiently and protect themselves against harmful environmental factors and the body’s natural aging process.

Getting the right amount of vitamins and nutrients may not eliminate the need for glasses but they will help you to maintain the clearest and highest quality vision possible by optimizing the health of the retina and the lens of the eye. Vitamins A,C, E, zinc, copper, lutein and zeaxanthin, along with UV protection, can help prevent and treat macular degeneration and cataracts in the eyes. Vitamin E, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Fish oil and flaxseed can help patients suffering from Dry Eyes by giving your body the building blocks it needs to produce a higher quality tear film layer.

There are so many vitamin supplements out on the market, it can be confusing for patients to determine what they are actually used for and which ones they should take. The following list will give you a brief summary of the vitamins and minerals that can be highly beneficial to your eye health and how to get them onto your plate and into your everyday diet!

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Vitamin A- found in carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, cantaloupe, pink grapefruit, apricots, broccoli, spinach, and most dark green, leafy vegetables. The more intense the color of a fruit or vegetable, the higher the beta-carotene content.

Vitamin C- found in blueberries, orange juice, grapefruit juice, oranges, spinach, tomatoes, bananas, apples, peaches, lemons, limes.

Vitamin D-found in cold water fish (red rockeye salmon, sardines and cod liver oil), vitamin D fortified milk, sunlight exposure (“approximately 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 is produced by one hour of midday summer full-body skin exposure for Caucasians living at southern latitude.” source)

Vitamin E-found in peanuts, peanut butter, sweet potatoes, almonds, fortified cereals, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds.

Omega 3-Fatty Acids: DHA and EPA (Docosahexaenoic Acid and Eicosapentaenoic Acid)- found in salmon, tuna, mackerel, anchovy, trout, halibut, scallops, snapper.

Zinc-found in beef, lobster, pork, oysters, yogurt, salmon, milk, eggs, tofu, black-eyed peas, tofu and baked beans.

Copper- Zinc supplementation has been known to interfere with copper
absorption, so 2 mg/day of copper is strongly recommended for
individuals supplementing their diet with zinc.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin- found in spinach, broccoli, kale, collard greens, turnip greens, green beans, corn, romaine lettuce, eggs and oranges.

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When it comes to taking vitamin and mineral supplements, it is best to seek advice from your health care provider and eye care professional so that they can recommend the safest and most effective supplements based on your individualized needs. Remember, the correct amount is different for everyone based on age, the medications you are taking, existing health conditions you may have and your family medical history. “More isn’t always better” and taking too much of certain vitamins can make you sick (for example, always be weary of taking too much of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Stick with what your doctor recommends)! Being well-informed is essential before making any big changes to your diet. The U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health have an excellent website, MedlinePlus which contains helpful indexed information including USRDA and contraindications on vitamins and minerals.

Do you see a common theme to the list of vitamins and minerals above? Yes, there are a lot of fruits and veggies in there, but specifically, Spinach is brought up time and time again! Perhaps Popeye had it right all along? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention thinks so too, their website is also an amazing source to learn all about why Fruits and Veggies Matter  or visit The Fruit and Veggie Guru for recipes and more!

Photo by C. Murphy

Photo by C. Murphy

Time and time again, study after study, article after article, researchers and scientists are coming to the conclusion that “an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure” and that many diseases stem from poor nutrition. Many studies recently published link specific vitamin deficiencies or lack of adequate amount of physical activity with certain forms of cancer. (source)  “Eating plenty of healthy vegetables and fruits help prevent heart disease and strokes, diverticulitis, control your blood pressure, prevent some types of cancers, and guards against cataracts and macular degeneration.” (source

 I am not expecting anyone to throw out everything in their fridge, but start to think before you eat. Make smart choices when available. Have a handful of blueberries, eat yogurt sprinkled with oats and flaxseed, add fish to your diet two more times a week than you eat it now. These small changes will add up, get you thinking and will help you to create healthy habits that will reward you in the long run! Be healthy, feel good and stay healthy by thinking green and eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day.

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