Happy Thanksgiving 2020
This Thanksgiving, let’s be thankful for the nutrients in our Thanksgiving dinner that benefit the eyes. The following foods are common Thanksgiving dishes that have a positive role on eye health and vision.
Many families enjoy a carved turkey as the feature presentation in the center of the dinner table. This lean protein provides necessary energy to keep the body’s cells working. Turkey is also rich in zinc, which can decrease the risk of age-related macular degeneration. Since the body cannot produce all of the needed zinc, it is important to consume zinc through food sources and/or nutritional supplements.
The orange color of sweet potatoes is from a carotenoid pigment, called beta-carotene, which is also present in carrots. It is a necessary precursor for the body to make vitamin A. Vitamin A is an essential part of vision, as it is responsible for producing the proteins that the rods and cones use in the visual pathway. Retinol is a product of vitamin A, which is crucial for the tears to maintain normal growth and replacement of the top layer of corneal cells. Sweet potatoes also contain vitamin C, vitamin E, and potassium. The antioxidant properties of vitamins C and E are protective against early cataract formation.
Green Beans, Asparagus, Brussel Sprouts, & Collard Greens
Dark green vegetables are packed with lutein and zeaxanthin. These two nutrients are essential in protecting the retina against macular degeneration. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) developed a specific formulation of supplements to aid in slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration. The AREDS 2 formulation was altered to include lutein and zeaxanthin, which further decreases the risk of wet macular degeneration. While individuals who eat more dark green vegetables are less likely to develop macular degeneration, the standard dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin is not enough to have a clinical impact on those already diagnosed with macular degeneration.
Cranberries are an excellent source of antioxidants and vitamin C. Both antioxidants and vitamin C protect against inflammation that can lead to dry eye syndrome. Early cataract formation can be due to the presence of free radicals. Natural antioxidants in the eye “neutralize” these free radicals. Additionally, the oxidative damage of free radicals is less in people with antioxidant-rich diets.
Similar to sweet potatoes, pumpkin gets its orange color from beta-carotene. Pumpkin is loaded with vitamin A, making it a very eye-friendly food. The cornea, lens, and macula all benefit from the protective characteristics of vitamin A, so don’t feel bad about enjoying a slice of this vitamin-nutrient dessert.
Stay safe and healthy this Thanksgiving. All of us at Weber Vision Care wish you and your family a happy holiday season!