If you are diagnosed with cataracts, you may worry you will go blind or experience serious limitations to your life, including not being able to beautiful scenery, read books, or drive.
While these may eventually happen, cataracts progress very slowly.
Studies suggest certain nutrients and nutritional supplements may reduce your risk of cataracts. Additionally, some very easy yet effective ways to prevent cataracts include avoiding excessive sunlight exposure, limiting alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, and eating plenty of fresh veggies and fruits.
Solve It WIth Diet
The more antioxidants you can get from consuming fruits and vegetables, the better your chances are of warding off cataract develop. The lens of the eye contains protective enzymes that ideally break down proteins that can clump together and form cataracts. By consuming more high-antioxidant foods, you protect your eyes from oxidative stress that contributes to cataracts. Antioxidants also help to maintain the enzymatic pathways that prevent cataract formation.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables — In general, fresh fruits and vegetables are excellent for eye health. Fruits and vegetables have high levels of important plant chemicals called phytochemicals. The phytonutrients are antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that have been shown to help prevent or delay the progression of eye disease, including cataracts. (11) Studies have also shown that vegetarians and vegans have a significantly lower risk of cataracts than meat eaters, predominantly in the elderly. However, the research does not show that eating meat promotes cataracts — rather that eating a lot of vegetables is protective to eye health. (12)
- Vitamin A (beta-carotene)-rich foods — Vitamin A has been shown to prevent loss of vision caused by degenerative conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration. A lack of vitamin A causes the cornea to become very dry, which can lead to clouding of the front of the eye, corneal ulcers and vision loss. Vitamin A deficiency can also damage the retina, which also contributes to blindness. (13) Carrots, sweet potatoes and dark leafy greens are some great choices to get more of this vision-improving nutrient.
- Vitamin C-rich foods — Vitamin C intake has been linked to a lower cataract risk, especially in people who tend to be deficient in this key nutrient. (14) Excellent vitamin C foods include peppers, citrus fruits, berries, tropical fruits, broccoli and tomatoes.
- Vitamin E-rich foods — Studies have shown that vitamin E reduces cataract formation. (15) The top 10 vitamin E food sources include almonds, spinach, wheat germ and sweet potato.
- Zinc-rich foods — According to the American Optometric Association, zinc deficiency has also been tied to cloudy vision and poor night vision since it helps bring vitamin A from the liver into the retina. (16) Grass-fed beef, kefir, yogurt, chickpeas and pumpkin seeds all rich in zinc.
- Lutein and zeaxanthin — These are the two carotenoids that have been most studied for cataract prevention. They are super antioxidants found together in many vegetables. They’re also found together in the lenses of the eyes. Lutein and zeaxanthin filter harmful high-energy blue wavelengths of light and help protect and maintain healthy eye cells. One study found that people with diets high in foods rich in zeaxanthin, particularly spinach, kale and broccoli, are up to 50 percent less likely to develop cataracts. Other foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin include eggs, collard greens, turnip greens and corn.
- Fish and omega-3 foods — Regularly eating fatty fish like salmon and other foods like chia seeds that are rich omega-3 fatty acid, has been linked to a potentially reduced risk of cataracts or their progression. (17) One study found that women who ate fish at least three times a week rather than less than once a month lowered their risk of cataracts, and overall, total fish intake was inversely associated with cataract formation.
Solve It With Supplements and Herbs
If you can’t get enough of any of the nutrients above in food, high-quality supplements are an option for natural cataract prevention and treatment. However, I highly recommend getting these nutrients from food as much as possible. The majority of studies qualifying these nutrients as helpful have been done with food rather than supplements.
There is no recommended daily intake for lutein and zeaxanthin, but most studies show benefits from taking 10 milligrams per day of a lutein supplement and two milligrams day of a zeaxanthin supplement. (19)
Bilberry is known for its awesome benefits to the eyes. Bilberry fruit contains chemicals called anthocyanosides (plant pigments that have excellent antioxidant properties) and vitamin C. Bilberry’s ability to scavenge free radicals makes it an excellent choice for multiple age-related ocular disorders. It’s shown protective effects against cataracts as well as macular degeneration and glaucoma. Bilberry standardized extract (80 milligrams two to three times daily) has been used traditionally to reduce the risk of cataracts.
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