What to Eat When You Have Macular Degeneration?
Your diet has a huge effect on your overall health. Eating foods packed with vitamins is a great way to support your body’s natural defenses to illness and disease.
You may be surprised to learn that some foods can directly contribute to avoiding or preventing certain health conditions. If you have a health condition like macular degeneration (or you are concerned about developing it), you can also eat certain foods to slow down the progression of the condition.
What is Macular Degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease that directly affects someone’s vision. Ultimately, it can result in severe vision loss, including blurry vision, blind spots, and difficulty recognizing familiar faces. It is the most common cause of eyesight loss in those over the age of 50. In fact, AMD affects more than 2 million Canadians over the age of 50.
The cause of AMD is damage to a part of the retina called the macula. However, why that damage occurs is generally unknown. Experts believe that the cause is likely due to a mix of both genetic and environmental factors.
A diet high in saturated fat likely contributes to developing macular degeneration. Getting enough specific vitamins might help individuals avoid AMD or slow its progression.
What Diet is Best to Address Macular Degeneration?
Certain vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients will help prevent or delay AMD. In general, a Mediterranean-style diet, with various fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and seafood, is a good option for those concerned about AMD.
What Foods Should You Eat to Prevent or Slow AMD?
Certain antioxidants will help prevent cellular damage in the eyes, and high levels of some vitamins will also be beneficial. Below is a quick “go-to” list for nutrients that can help slow the development of macular degeneration. Incorporating these nutrients into your diet is generally a good idea for those who have a family history of AMD.
Vitamins and Antioxidants
Certain antioxidants contained in vitamins have been associated eye health and support. Vitamin A, C, and E will all help support eye health. Foods high in Vitamin A will also often have well-known eye support nutrients, such as lutein and zeaxanthin.
Foods high in Vitamin A (or provitamin A carotenoids) include:
- Leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, and broccoli
- Red bell peppers
- Squash and pumpkin
- Egg yolks and dairy products
- Citrus fruits
- Brussel sprouts
- Wheat germ oil
- Peanuts and peanut butter
- Sunflower seeds
- Red bell peppers
- Collard greens and spinach
The three types of Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA, and ALA) can be found in
- Fatty fish (like salmon and sardines)
These fatty acids help reduce inflammation, which experts believe contributes to the development and progression of macular degeneration. These fats also help reduce bad cholesterol, which is also associated with developing AMD.
Both Zinc and copper can help overall eye health. Your eyes contain high amounts of Zinc. In fact, zinc deficiency is sometimes associated with night blindness. Zinc also helps with cellular function regulation and allows the body to absorb Vitamin A better. Good sources of Zinc include
- Whole grains
- Red meat
- Baked beans
Copper can also help antioxidant function in the eyes. You can find copper in
- Whole grains
- Legumes (like peas and green beans).
Foods to Avoid to Slow or Prevent Macular Degeneration
Although researchers are not sure what causes AMD, they do know it is associated with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a diet high in saturated fat. Obesity is also generally linked to AMD as well. That means that your diet can be a huge factor in whether you develop AMD. If you have a genetic predisposition and a diet high in saturated fat, the likelihood of developing AMD is even higher.
In general, it is a good idea to avoid foods high in saturated fats, including:
- Heavily processed foods
- Lard, margarine, and vegetable shortening
- Palm oil
- Fatty beef, pork, and lamb
- Sweets and sugary drinks
Getting the right amount of vitamins and nutrients can be extremely difficult, especially in today’s fast-paced environment. Cutting back on high-fat foods and incorporating a health supplement can be a good way to increase your overall health and prevent or slow macular degeneration.