For most of us, the top of each morning begins with one simple action that ushers in a spectrum of information: we open our eyes and see the world around us. Yet for thousands of people over 65, this precious ability has been compromised by what is considered the leading cause of blindness in the United States—Macular Degeneration. Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a disease characterized by the disintegration of the macula, the central part of the retina that provides us our sharp focus. Early indicators include blurry vision, the perception that straight lines are wavy, and the emergence of dark or empty areas in the center of vision. AMD results in the gradual loss of central vision, threatening our ability to read, write, drive, and recognize faces. Studies show that women are particularly at risk for developing AMD as they get older, especially those with light colored eyes who have experienced long term sun exposure.
We take care to protect our skin from the dangerous effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays, mainly through the use of sunscreens and protective clothing. The retina’s macular pigment layer provides a similar protection for our eyes. It filters out blue and ultraviolet rays and prevents the build up of free radicals in the retina. Scientists believe it is the depletion of this pigment layer and the build up of free radicals that leads to the onset of AMD. When the eye is functioning optimally, macular pigment is responsible for transporting nutrients to the rods and cones of the macula. It correspondingly transports waste away from the macula. As we age it becomes increasingly essential that we replenish the specific nutrients our organs require. In the case of ADM, nutritional deficiency is linked to the loss of macular pigment. This diminishment of these cells slows down the delivery system of nutrients to the rods and cones and allows waste to build up in the macula. As the macula becomes starved of its necessary antioxidants, the free radicals from the residual waste and ultraviolet rays cause damaging oxidation to the rods and cones. A progressive deterioration of vision is the result.
While there is no known treatment that reverses damage to the macula once it has occurred, there are two nutrients that play a particular role in maintaining a healthy macular pigment layer: Lutein and Zeaxanthin. They are the nutrients that both neutralize free radicals and filter the ultraviolet light entering the eye. Studies have shown these antioxidants may slow or halt ADM in its early stages. Both are Carotenoids, a family of colored compounds found in fruits and vegetables that are essential to vision health. Beta-carotene is one such carotenoid. The human body’s highest levels of Lutein and Zeaxanthin are found in the macula, with the highest concentration of Zeaxanthin in the central macula and a correspondingly high percentage of Lutein at the perimeter.
Scientists believe a diet rich in these two carotenoids is necessary for replenishing the macular pigment layer. Lutein is found in dark, leafy greens such as spinach, collard greens, and kale. Okra, broccoli, green beans, lima beans, squash, green bell pepper, papaya, oranges, mango, peaches, sweet potatoes, red grapes, and egg yolks and also excellent sources of lutein. Zeaxanthin rich foods include yellow corn, squash, oranges, mango, kale, apricots, peaches, and orange bell pepper. Yellow corn contains the highest percentage of Lutein, while orange bell pepper tops the percentage of Zeaxanthin per serving. Egg yolk has the highest percentage of both carotenoids in one food. Other nutrients that support eye health include Vitamin C found in citrus fruits and strawberries, Vitamin E found in leafy greens, eggs and nuts, and Omega-3 fatty acids found in wild salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed. Also, adding a whole food supplement to your diet that includes the vision enhancing Bilberry fruit is also recommended.
Fortunately for us, we have these essential nutrients readily available in a convenient form if they are not easily accessible in your area – Catie’s Organic Greens (Original and Gluten Free formulas) and Whole Food Vitamin C provide your daily servings of green leafy vegetables – rich in Lutein and Zeaxanthin of course – and a whole food source of Vitamin C as opposed to synthetic formulas that over-saturate the market. Magnetic products are also effective in helping heal and repair various health challenges; in this case the Longevity Eye mask can move the electrons in the cells, thus increasing oxygen and often increasing much needed nutrition to the area that the magnet is over. It is a must for those with MD.
Catie’s Whole Food B Complex
Such fun, versatile foods make an excellent palate for some meals filled with eye sustaining antioxidants. Planning meals that draw from these foods will keep your healthy eyes on vision’s prize!
SALMON AND HORSERADISH MARINATED VEGETABLE SUMMER ROLL
- 1 ½ lb. skinless wild salmon filet cut horizontally into 1 in. strips.
- 4 Tbsp Olive oil.
- Juice of one lemon
- 1 Tbsp grated horseradish
- 2 med. Carrots sliced julienne
- 1 lg. English cucumber sliced julienne
- 1 lg. slack of celery sliced julienne
- 1 granny smith apple sliced julienne
- bunch of mint leaves finely sliced
- ½ Tsp salt and fresh ground pepper plus extra for seasoning salmon
- 4 dried rice papers
- black sesame seeds for garnish
Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large stainless steel pan on high. Season the salmon with salt and fresh ground pepper. Place the salmon strips in the pan and cook two minutes. Carefully turn the salmon and sear for another minute on low heat. Remove salmon. In a medium bowl, whisk the remaining olive oil, lemon juice horseradish, and ½ tsp salt & fresh pepper. Add julienned vegetables and mint. Toss to coat. Soak the dry rice paper in a large bowl filled with room temperature water for 10 seconds. Lay papers flat on a clean kitchen towel and place the julienned vegetables in the center of the rice paper forming a thin line leaving a 1 inch border on each end. Add the salmon on top of the vegetables then roll tightly. Slice at an angle and serve. Sprinkle with the black sesame seeds.
- Prep time: 12 minutes. Cook time: 6 minutes. Yield: 4 servings.
1. AMDF—American Macular Degeneration Foundation www.macular.org/nutrition
2. American Optometric Association; www.aoa.org
3. Eye Care America; www.eyecareamerica.org
4. Natural Eye Care; www.naturaleyecare.com
5. University of Maryland Medical Center; www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/macular-degeneration