Sight is priceless, perhaps never more so than when you have problems with it. That’s what happens when you get a cataract. You may find that you have a spot on the lens of your eye that blocks your vision, or you may “see” things in a hazy way, like through a fog. The size and location of a cataract determines how it impacts your sight.
Often you’ll experience a reduction in vision at first. You may need more light to read by or have difficulty reading street signs when you’re driving. You may get a cataract in one eye and not the other, and this will affect your depth perception. This is not what you want when you’re navigating; it can lead to missed steps and accidents.
Foods and Nutrients to Focus On
Since free radicals play such a large role in the formation of cataracts, you’ll want to include plenty of foods packed with antioxidants. This includes carotenoids, which are in orange and red veggies like squash and carrots. (Yes, Bugs Bunny did have it right!) It’s important to pick foods that are high in vitamin C and bioflavonoids (also high in antioxidants), too, like citrus fruits, berries, green tea, onions, and dark chocolate. You can also take a bioflavonoid supplement that contains quercetin, the most effective bioflavonoid in the prevention of cataracts. All of these nutrients help prevent cataracts by quenching free radicals.
Focus on Dark Green Leafy Veggies
Research in the Journal of Nutrition shows that lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants found in dark green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, collard and turnip greens, and broccoli, help protect the eye lens cells from exposure to ultraviolet light—one of the leading causes of cataracts. “Lutein and zeaxanthin reduced UVB-induced damage by 50 to 60 percent and provided protection against oxidative damage that can contribute to age-related cataract development,” says Joshua Bomser, a study co-author and associate professor of nutrition at Ohio State University. To reap the benefits, aim for the recommended nine servings (or 4.5 cups) of a variety of fruits and vegetables a day. Says Bomser, “Proper nutrition is important in maintaining ocular health.”
Foods to Lose
To eliminate even more free radicals, try to cut out fried and processed foods and saturated and hydrogenated oils. Avoid caffeine (green teas are the exception) and products that contain artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.
Ease up on your sugar habit, too, including refined carbohydrates, like white flour and pasta that quickly raise blood glucose levels. Nix “good-for-you” natural drinks that contain loads of sugar, like fruit juices. “Even milk sugar, or lactose, found in dairy products can contribute to cataract formation because it destroys vitamin C and glutathione in the lens,” says Dr. Grossman, whose website is www.naturaleyecare.com.
Try an Elimination Diet
Sensitivity to dairy foods can also make eye problems worse by causing sinus congestion, which can impair lymph and blood drainage from the area around the eyes. This means nutrients don’t reach the eyes, and toxins and metabolic wastes can’t be eliminated as efficiently. To see if dairy products are an issue for you, try doing a food-elimination diet for two weeks to see if you become less congested. Gradually reintroduce dairy products one at a time to identify your specific problem foods.