These substances are classified as carotenoids, which are nothing but antioxidants that promote eye health.
Worried about eye related problems that strike with age? Does the fear of diminished eyesight haunts you with increasing age? Looking for an easy way to ensure normal eyesight even during old age? Well, it’s time to modify the diet that focuses more on eating foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin. So, what are these two substances that provide eye health promoting benefits? It is discussed below:
Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids (antioxidants) that are present in abundance in dark green leafy vegetables. The body converts these nutrients into vitamin A before using them. Synthesis of both these nutrients does not take place inside the human body and so one has to depend on external source in the form of diet.
Being antioxidants and on top of that their conversion into vitamin A, makes them good for health. Apart from counteracting the effects of free radical damage, these nutrients chiefly contribute in keeping eyesight normal.
When it comes to maintaining eye health, one can simply trust these antioxidants. Both these naturally occurring carotenoids in various vegetables can play a major role in keeping the eyesight sharp years down the line. To be more precise, both these antioxidants are concentrated in a specific part on the retina, known as the macula. The macula is a pigmented yellow spot that lies in the central region on the retina. Proper functioning of the macula is very important for healthy central vision that is used for various tasks such as examining a particular object in great detail and other mental activities like reading.
The unfortunate thing is that the macula’s ability to function effectively reduces with age. This is known as age related macular degeneration (AMD) and to delay or even stop it would be through adequate intake of these antioxidants.. There is ample evidence that shows that these two antioxidants protect eyesight from AMD. Studies aptly prove that eating vegetables and fruits high in these antioxidants minimizes the chances of occurrence of macular degeneration. Besides putting ‘speed breakers’ in the progression of AMD, these carotenoids also substantially alleviate the risk of cataracts.
They also protect the macula from the damaging effects of blue wavelength of sunlight as well as indoor light. Exposure to too much of blue light can also trigger the onset of macular degeneration. Studies have proved that these two antioxidants present in the macula act like natural sunglasses as they prevent 90% of blue light from striking the macula.
Besides improving eye conditions, these carotenoids also promote healthy arteries that supply blood to the heart. This in turn reduces the chances of cardiovascular problems that arise from atherosclerosis (narrowing of arteries because of hardened fatty deposits sticking to the arterial wall).
As aforementioned, dark green vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli, collards and green peas and beans are considered to be good zeaxanthin and lutein sources. Other than vegetables, these carotenoids are found in ample amounts in eggs, especially egg yolk and fruits like peaches, papaya, mango, oranges and prunes.
These nutrients are also available in supplemental form. So, can inclusion of supplements help to prevent macular degeneration of the eye? Currently, there is no strong evidence that suggests supplemental dosage of these nutrients will keep age related disorders at bay. Nevertheless, studies show promising results and so supplements may benefit to treat age related eye problems, as well as slow down the progression of cataracts. Supplements sold in the market are made up of extracts of marigold flower, a herb that contains around 80% of lutein and 5% of zeaxanthin. The dosage that has proved beneficial in reducing the likelihood of eye problems varies from 6 – 12 mg of lutein daily. However, those following a healthy diet may not require use of any kind of supplements.
To maximize benefits of these carotenoids, eating vegetables like spinach in raw form is often recommended. For instance, consuming just 2 bowls of raw spinach daily provides adequate lutein necessary to maintain sharp eyesight. Eating mildly cooked or steamed vegetables preserves their nutrient value. Hence, overcooking should take a backseat when it comes to making recipes healthier.