Cataracts are a major debilitating eye disease that affects hundreds of thousands of Canadians on a day-to-day basis. Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgeries in Canada and the USA, and can often restore sight after the cataracts have developed. But how can we decrease our risk of developing them and prolong clear vision during our lifetime? There have been numerous studies that have shown that a healthy diet rich in antioxidants can decrease your risk of developing cataracts and in some cases slow the development of them by up to a decade.
What are Cataracts?
Cataracts occur when the lens, a focusing device behind the iris (coloured part of our eye), gets damaged as proteins change and become opaque making the lens cloudy and harder to see through. There are many things that can predispose our likelihood of developing cataracts early such as age, gender, family history and ethnicity while other modifiable factors such as avoiding UV damage, not smoking and eating a proper diet can help decrease our risk of developing this disease.
What can one eat to help increase antioxidants in our diet?
Foods rich in Vitamins C & E have antioxidant properties that have shown to be protective against the progression of cataracts. Early evidence from studies have also shown that the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, also antioxidants, are also protective.
Given the fact that evidence based medicine has shown the link between nutrition and cataracts, it only makes sense for people to increase the amounts of certain antioxidants in their diet. Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, as recommended by the National Cancer Institute, can give more than 100mg of vitamin C and 5-6mg of carotenoids. Furthermore, if one eats two servings of nuts and seeds daily, one can get 8-14mg of vitamin E.
The majority of Canadians and Americans do not reach their recommended daily intake of these essential vitamins. More than 50% of people don’t get their daily-recommended intake of vitamin C while nearly 90% don’t get their daily intake of vitamin E. If you find it difficult to increase the level of these in your diet, a multivitamin or eye health supplement containing these nutrients are available.
Below are good food sources that can help to increase your intake of vitamins C, E and Carotenoids.