By Naini Setalvad
Naini Setalvad prescribes a diet that not only keeps your eyes healthy but can also heal them of ailments like macular degeneration
If you want to have healthy eyes, or have been diagnosed with eye problems such as macular degeneration, don’t despair. Partaking of a wide variety of brightly coloured vegetables can keep your vision healthy and arrest macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in people over 55. What you need to do is increase your intake of anti-oxidants, especially Vitamin A, lutein, zea xanthin, and Vitamin C, switch to good quality fats, and add Omega 3 in your daily diet.
Green, orange or yellow-coloured vegetables and fruits keep the eyes healthy. Lutein and zea xanthin are highest in pumpkin (bhopla), yellow corn (makai), yellow and orange bell pepper (shimla mirch), carrots (gajar), sweet potatoes and yams (sakarkandh, khand), green beans (funsi), spinach (palak), broccoli, lettuce (salad), green peas (matar), tomatoes (tamatar), avocadoes, musk melons (karbuz), peaches (adu), grapes (angoor), oranges (santra), mangoes (aam), and dried apricots (sukhi khubani) watermelon (kalinger), and kiwi fruit.
Did you know that your eyes also contain antioxidants called ‘lutein’? Lutein is the only antioxidant present in the retina and lens of the eye, and it is called the eye vitamin. Lutein protects the eyes from the strong anti-oxidation damage caused by ultraviolet rays. Lutein can be found in the back of the eye where the retina is located. When Lutein levels in the eyes decrease with age, cataract formation takes over. To ensure that you don’t get early cataracts, eat plenty of lutein and other antioxidant-rich foods.
Because lutein is most abundant in greens, try and get at least three servings of dark, leafy greens every day. The darker the green, the higher the lutein content. So use your imagination and make sure you consume leafy greens like spinach (palak), fenugreek (methi), parsley (ajamoda), mint (pudina), green coriander (hara daniya) and broccoli every day in some form or the other. You can mix the cut leaves in soups or dal, boil and puree them, and add to atta to make chapattis, or simply stir fry in vegetable dishes.
Lutein is also available in edible stalks such as celery (ajavain ke patte) and fennel (saunf). It is present in some edible skins, like that of cucumbers (khira), bottle gourd (dhoodhi) or zucchini (turai). In future, don’t peel cucumbers. Eat them with the skin and simply toss the well washed and unpeeled veggie in salads.
Pumpkins and carrots are excellent eye foods as they have a good amount of beta carotene so try to include them in some form everyday either in a soup, salad, vegetable, raita or even as juice.
Carrots and pumpkins are very high in vitamin A too, which is essential for our eyes. A deficiency of this vitamin can lead to night blindness. Turmeric (haldi) is a very valuable spice for the eyes. You can add it to your vegetables and lentils in powder form, or eat the fresh root chopped in salads or cut it into pieces marinated in salt and lemon. Antioxidants can be found in practically all fresh vegetables and fruits. Pomegranates (annar) and all kinds of berries (strawberry, blueberries, blackberries, jamuns) are highly antioxidant-rich.
In addition, step up your intake of Vitamin C. You can get this wonder vitamin not just from citrus fruits like oranges (santra), lemons (nimboo) and limes (hara nimboo) but also from red and yellow peppers, pumpkin, papayas, all berries, mangoes (aam), pineapple, watermelon (kalinger) and, of course, our Indian gooseberry (awala). Even guavas (amrood) have tons of Vitamin C. Remember it’s best to have Vitamin C in the raw form since it’s very sensitive to heat.
Cook in good quality fat such as cow’s ghee, or oils high in monosaturated fats such as sesame, coconut or mustard oils. Garnish food with coconut (narial), snack on seeds like sesame, or flax seeds, and add walnuts (akhrot) and pistachios to your diet. You should also control some risk factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol intake, obesity and eating a diet high in salt, refined sugar and oil or butter. Smoking is believed to destroy antioxidants in the body. Sugar leaches important vitamins and minerals from our bodies necessary to keep our eyes healthy, and too much fat from oil and butter interferes with the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
So start eating healthy and make sure your eyes serve you well to the very end. Finally, make sure you exercise moderately and keep away from smoky places. Always guard your eyes against harsh sunlight.
Yellow pumpkin with cluster beans (guvar)
200 gm red pumpkin
200 gm guvar (cluster beans)
2 tspns oil
1 tspn ajwain
1 tspn adrak and mirchi paste
Bio: Naini Setalvad is a nutritionist, specialising in lifestyle and immunity disorders. Her foundation, Health For You, throws light on healthy food habits.
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