Whether you are in your younger or older years it is important to consider the nutrients for maintaining healthy eyes. Most of us don't think about our eyes very much until something goes wrong with them in our later years but it is important to be mindful of healthy eye health at all stages of our life.
Here are some nutrients and foods that nourish the eyes, keep them moist and help to maintain your vision.
First, so many people suffer from dry eyes. Dry eye, which affects 59 million Americans and is the most frequent complaint patients bring to their eye doctors, occurs when a coating over the eye's surface called tear film loses some of its protection, causing inflammation in the tear glands. An oily layer in this film acts like a biological plastic wrap protecting the moist layer beneath. It is a complicated system that keeps your eyeballs wet with tears, and if it fails the result is 'dry eye' which can be painful. Glands just above your eyes make tears. Other glands at the edges of your eyelids produce oils that float on top of the watery tears and slow down evaporation, so your eyes stay wet even in the desert. There are drain holes near the inner corners of your eyes, where 'used' tears flow into the nose. When you cry these drains overflow.
But when a person eats scant omega-3 fatty acids and too many omega-6 fats, it appears that the oily layer can't do its job as well, resulting in inflammation and the symptoms of dry eye. An overabundance of omega-6 fats (found in vegetable oils) can also produce inflammation in other areas of the body that increase risk for heart disease, stroke and dementia.
Aside from using eye drops to help out, the Omega 3 oils taken in foods or supplements will help keep our eyes moist. Fatty fish such as salmon, halibut, and sardines, eaten two or three times a week can be of benefit and give us the Omega 3 DHA and EPA that we need. Flaxseed and hemp seeds have an Omega 3 called ALA. The body uses various enzymes two convert ALA to other omega-3s, and the process is not very efficient, especially as one gets older. Estimates of the rate of conversion range from 5% to 25%. In order to make sufficient amounts of EPA and DHA, one needs to consume 5 or 6 times more ALA than if one relies on fish oil alone. Also, women convert ALA to the other omega-3s more efficiently than men, largely so they can meet the nutritional demands of their infants during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The COOP carries clean fish and Omega oils, flax and hemp supplements for meeting your Omega 3 needs.
Green vegetables are packed with lutein and zeaxanthin—antioxidants that, studies show, lower the risk of developing macular degeneration and cataracts. Try getting some greens your diet each day or you can also purchase supplements of these two antioxidants as well if you are not up to eating lots of greens.
Next, the yolk in eggs is a prime source of lutein and zeaxanthin—plus zinc which also helps reduce your macular degeneration risk according to various studies. Because I have lots of chicken here at the farm, I eat one or two eggs daily!
Vitamin C is another nutrient that helps reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration and cataracts. Citrus fruits and berries are loaded with vitamin c as are rose hips. You can grind up rosehips to a powder and add it to honey. Take a tablespoon of this honey blend and add it your tea each day or put it on toast. One tablespoon of rosehips has about 1000 mg of vitamin c. You can also purchase vitamin c supplements at the Coop as well.
Almonds are another food that helps with our eyes. They're filled with vitamin E, which slows macular degeneration, research shows. One handful (an ounce) provides about half of your daily dose of E. Do not over consume almonds though because, as with all nuts and seeds, they can be taxing on the digestive system if taken in excess.
Here is a Formula which you can get from HerbPharm products at the COOP. It is called "Traditional Support for Vision & Eye Function."
Bilberry fruit (Vaccinium myrtillus)
Goji berry (Lycium barbarum)
Chrysanthemum flower (Chrysanthemum morifolium)
Schisandra berry (Schisandra chinensis)
Ginkgo leaf (Ginkgo biloba)
These herbs have been used traditionally to nourish the eyes, clear heat and inflammation in the eyes and strengthen the system in general.
One dropper full of this blend can be taken in water or tea three times daily. (about 30 drops)
Next, the herbs and spices in this next blend are packed with antioxidants that help protect your brain cells from aging, nourishing your body and protecting your eyes.
Simply mix in equal amounts:
- dried rosemary
- dried sage
- dried mint
- garlic powder
- celery seeds
- oregano leaves
- sesame seeds
You can modify the amounts of each to your taste so there no need to measure these spices and herbs precisely, but I recommend using the spices dried and ground forms. You can use a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder (that you use only for herbs and spices) to grind these. Put the blend is a shaker and have it available on the table and in the kitchen for immediate use on your food. I usually add it to my cooked foods about one minute before I turn off the heat so as not to "burn off" the oils in the spices and render them less useful. Sprinkle in your soups, stir-frys, fish, veggies, eggs and other dishes.
I hope this gives you some ideas for keeping your eyes and your whole body healthy and vibrant.