Macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss, is a condition where the central portion of the retina deteriorates, affecting one’s central vision. The role of diet in managing this condition is increasingly recognized.
Research suggests that specific dietary choices can influence the progression and risk of developing macular degeneration.
A healthy diet for macular degeneration focuses on foods rich in antioxidants and specific nutrients known to support eye health. For example, leafy greens like spinach and kale are high in lutein and zeaxanthin. These carotenoids, often called “eye vitamins,” accumulate in the macula and may help slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
They act as powerful antioxidants, protecting the eyes from damage caused by free radicals. A cup of leafy greens can also provide a significant amount of the daily recommended intake of Vitamin C, another crucial antioxidant for eye health.
As a Registered Dietitian with over a decade of experience I know how powerful diet choices can be in long term health. So keep reading if you want to learn about macular degeneration foods to avoid and choices to go with!
Foods to Include for Preventing Macular Degeneration
Incorporating specific foods into your diet can play a significant role in preventing or slowing the progression of macular degeneration. Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and broccoli are not just nutritious; they are also packed with lutein and zeaxanthin.
These carotenoids are critical for eye health, accumulating in the macula and offering protection against free radicals. One single cup of kale provides about 22.8 mg of lutein, far exceeding the daily recommended intake.
The inclusion of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as herring, wild salmon, and mackerel, is also beneficial. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for maintaining eye health, and regular consumption of these fish can provide long-term benefits.
One 3-ounce serving of wild-caught salmon can contain up to 1,500 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, contributing significantly to your daily needs.
List of Foods That Promote Eye Health!
|High in beta-carotene, a type of vitamin A that helps with night vision.
|Loaded with lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
|Rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, similar to spinach.
|Great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which enhance retinal health and prevent dry eyes.
|High in beta-carotene and vitamin E.
|Contain lutein, zeaxanthin, and zinc, which help reduce macular degeneration risk.
|Full of vitamin C, crucial for eye health.
|Rich in vitamin E, which slows macular degeneration.
|High levels of vitamins A and C.
|Contains vitamins C, A, and lutein.
|Provides lutein and high potassium content.
|Good source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E.
|Known for their antioxidant properties and can reduce the risk of cataracts and glaucoma.
|Low in glycemic index, reducing age-related macular degeneration risk.
|High in omega-3 and good for overall eye health.
|High in vitamin C and lycopene, an antioxidant.
|Excellent source of vitamin E and zinc.
|High in zinc, which helps with long-term eye health.
|Rich in zinc and B-vitamin niacin, which can protect against cataracts.
|Staying hydrated is essential for maintaining healthy eyes.
Foods to Avoid in Macular Degeneration
Certain foods can exacerbate the risk of developing or worsening macular degeneration and should be limited or avoided. Processed and ultra-processed foods, often high in unhealthy fats, sugars, and additives, offer little nutritional value and can harm overall health, including eye health.
Many processed snacks contain trans fats, which have been linked to a higher risk of AMD.
A high-salt diet is another concern for those with macular degeneration. Excessive salt intake can lead to hypertension, a known risk factor for AMD. Processed foods and salty snacks like crisps are common culprits of hidden high salt content.
It’s recommended to check the sodium content on nutrition labels and reduce the intake of such foods. For example, a single serving of packaged ramen noodles can contain over 1,500 mg of sodium, which is around 65% of the recommended daily intake.
List of Foods to Avoid for Eye Health
|High sugar content can lead to diabetes, affecting eye health.
|High in trans fats, potentially leading to free radical damage in eyes.
|Often contains trans fats that can harm eye health.
|Can increase the risk of diabetes, affecting eyesight.
|High sodium and preservatives may negatively impact eyes.
|High-Sodium Canned Soups
|Excess salt can lead to hypertension, affecting retinal health.
|Generally high in trans and saturated fats, and sodium.
|Refined White Flours
|Low in nutrients and may impact blood sugar levels.
|High sugar and fat content with little nutritional value.
|Some studies suggest they may indirectly affect eye health.
|High-Fat Dairy Products
|Excess saturated fats can be detrimental to overall health, including eyes.
|Butter-Heavy Baked Goods
|High in unhealthy fats.
|High in sodium and often contain unhealthy fats.
|Often high in fat and low in beneficial nutrients.
|Can contribute to cholesterol issues, affecting eyes.
|Excessive consumption can lead to toxic optic neuropathy.
|High in sugar and other chemicals, potentially impacting eye health.
|Often high in sugar, fats, and preservatives.
|High in sodium and often lack essential nutrients.
|High in sugar and fat, and generally low in nutrients.
Supplements and Vitamins for Eye Health
When it comes to macular degeneration, certain supplements and vitamins have been identified as beneficial for eye health. AREDS (Age-Related Eye Disease Study) and AREDS2 supplements are specially formulated based on extensive research.
They include key nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, lutein, copper, and zeaxanthin. The AREDS2 formula typically contains 500 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E, and 10 mg of lutein among other ingredients. These supplements are designed to reduce the risk of progression in people with intermediate-stage dry AMD.
Apart from these specialized supplements, everyday foods rich in specific vitamins and minerals can support eye health. Vitamin A, found in foods like sweet potatoes and carrots, is vital for vision. Vitamin C, abundant in citrus fruits, and Vitamin E, present in nuts and seeds, are powerful antioxidants that protect eye cells from damage. For example, one medium sweet potato can provide more than 100% of the daily requirement for Vitamin A.
Glycemic Index and Macular Degeneration
The role of the glycemic index in the diet is crucial, especially in relation to age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Foods high in glycemic index, such as white bread, can rapidly increase blood sugar levels.
These spikes in blood sugar are associated with the onset and progression of AMD. For example, white bread has a glycemic index of 75, considerably higher than whole-grain bread, which typically has a glycemic index around 49.
Shifting to a low-glycemic diet, which includes whole grains and complex carbohydrates, is advisable for AMD management. These foods are digested more slowly, leading to more stable blood sugar levels. Whole-grain bread, for instance, not only has a lower glycemic index but also provides essential nutrients like fiber and B vitamins.
Lifestyle Factors Influencing AMD
Lifestyle choices play a pivotal role in the risk and progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors for AMD. The harmful compounds in tobacco smoke can cause oxidative stress and damage to the retina, and they reduce the levels of protective antioxidants in the blood. Studies show that smokers are substantially more likely to develop AMD compared to non-smokers.
In addition to smoking, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are contributors to AMD. Being overweight or inactive can impair blood circulation, affecting the delivery of nutrients to the eyes and the removal of toxins. For instance, a study published in the British Journal of
Ophthalmology found that regular exercise can reduce the risk of AMD by up to 70%. Engaging in physical activities like walking or swimming is recommended for maintaining a healthy weight and promoting good blood circulation.
The key to managing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) lies in a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle choices. While it’s important to focus on foods to avoid, such as high glycemic, processed, and salty foods, it’s equally crucial to include nutrient-rich foods that support eye health.
Foods high in lutein, zeaxanthin, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins A, C, and E are particularly beneficial. For instance, incorporating a variety of leafy greens, citrus fruits, and fish like salmon can make a significant positive impact.
Remember, a holistic approach combining a balanced diet, regular exercise, and avoidance of harmful habits like smoking provides the best defence against AMD. Regular eye check-ups are also essential for early detection and management of the condition.
If you want to learn more about a low glycemic index diet, check out this website that is full of great low glycemic index diets!
Michelle Saari is a Registered Dietitian based in Canada. She has a Master's Degree in Human Nutritional Sciences and is a passionate advocate for spreading easy to understand, reliable, and trustworthy nutrition information. She is currently a full time online entrepreneur with two nutrition focused websites.