Eating your way to healthy eyes – how to help prevent AMD through diet

healthy foodStudies have shown that adding foods low in Glycemic Index (GI) and high in omega-3 fatty acids to the diet will reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition which is rapidly becoming the leading cause of blindness in the world. But what are omega-3 fatty acids? And what makes a food low GI? Here’s what you need to know about creating an AMD risk reducing diet.

Omega-3 fatty acids

A polyunsaturated fat vital to maintain a normal metabolism, omega-3 fatty acids are also well known for their benefits relating to blood pressure and inflammation reduction. More recently it has been suggested that the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids may prevent AMD from developing, suggesting a link between the vision-destroying condition and blood pressure.

As an essential fatty acid omerga-3 isn’t naturally produced by the human body and therefore must be added into the diet.

The most commonly advertised source of omega-3 is oily fish, particularly species like mackerel, lake trout, and herring.  Other excellent sources are flax seed, walnuts, grass-fed beef, olive oil, and soy products (especially edamame and soybeans).

It is recommended that omega-3 rich foods are added into the diet as opposed to omega-3 supplements as foods also contain other essential nutrients. Additionally researchers have suggested that omega-3 is better absorbed from foods than supplements.

Low GI foods

The Glycemic Index is a numerical system, based off research by the University of Sydney, used to rate foods in relation to how quickly and high they raise the body’s blood sugar level. Typically, a food with a low GI will raise blood sugar levels moderately whereas a high GI food will increase these levels rapidly. High GI foods may also cause blood sugar to rocket above the optimum level.

Foods which have a high GI are those which release glucose rapidly, breaking down quickly during digestion. Such foods include sugary snacks like jelly beans and popcorn, ‘white’ carbohydrates like white bread and white rice, and sweeter vegetables like parsnips and pumpkin.

A food’s GI is calculated by estimating how much of each gram of available carbohydrate (carbohydrate minus fibre) in a food raises the blood sugar level after consumption, relative to pure glucose (which has a GI number of 100).

To deduce this affect you must calculate the glycemic load (GL) of your portion:

GL = (GI x grams of carbohydrates) ÷ 100

This test, however, is not completely accurate as cooking method and personal metabolism affect blood sugar levels. Thus GI only gives a food a rating, as opposed to an exact reading, of how it may affect a person.

Through being aware of the GI content of their diet people are able to control their blood sugar levels. This is particularly useful for diabetics but can also help prevent diseases like AMD, heart disease, and type-2 diabetes from developing. Additionally GI can be used as a method of weight control.

Healthy recipes for good eye healthTasty, eye-healthy recipes

Set your sights on this ‘Salmon, mango, broccoli, and citrus noodles’ recipe from Low GI Cooking, a site packed with other excellently eye-healthy meals.

BBC Good Food’s recipe for ‘Smoked mackerel with quick grilled ratatouille’ (pictured right) is a beautiful plate to behold.

Get an eyeful of this mouth-watering bowl, ‘Chilli con carne’ from Taste, low in GI and high in omega-3 if you use grass-fed beef.

Kalyn’s Kitchen creates a vision of green with this ‘Apple, celery, and walnut salad with lemon-mustard vinaigrette’ dish.

Other preventatives

Diet, of course, is not the only line of defence in preventing AMD. Experts also recommend regular exercise, wearing appropriate sunglasses, and cutting out smoking.

It is also vital that, in conjunction with these eye-healthy habits, you are regularly screened for AMD so that any developments may be caught as early as possible.

By seeking an optometrist with an MPS II macular pigment screener you will have accurate results within seconds, allowing your eye-care expert to give the right advice and medications without you having to wait for the tests to come back.

More information

To learn more about AMD visit the RNIB’s ‘Spot the signs’ campaign.

For more on the MPS II please see the Elektron Healthcare website.

[Picture credits: Women World, Children’s Hospital, and BBC Good Food]

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