Nutrition for age-related macular degeneration
The right nutrition can optimise macular health, so an eye-healthy diet is important in reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It could also slow the progression of AMD.
Eating a healthy, well balanced diet, which includes eye friendly foods, will benefit your overall wellbeing, as well as your eye health.
An appropriate dietary supplement may help, if your consumption of eye health foods is inadequate.
It’s important to speak to your doctor before changing your diet or taking any supplements.
Some vitamins and minerals, whether obtained through food or supplements, can interfere with certain medications.
An eye healthy diet
Keep your eyes healthy by following this guide:
- eat dark green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit daily
- eat fish two to three times a week
- choose low glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates whenever possible
- eat a handful of nuts a week
- limit your consumption of fats and oils.
Nutrients for macular health
Lutein and zeaxanthin
Important antioxidants for eye health include lutein (pronounced loo-teen) and zeaxanthin (pronounced zee-ah-zan-thin). These are present in high concentrations in a healthy macula and help to protect your eyes.
Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and silverbeet are high in lutein and zeaxanthin. To a lesser extent, you’ll find these nutrients in other vegetables such as corn, yellow capsicum, peas, pumpkin and Brussels sprouts and eggs.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also important to eye health. All fish and shellfish contain Omega-3s. Oily varieties of fish – such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, and trout – contain higher concentrations of Omega-3.
Aim to eat fish or seafood (fresh, frozen or tinned) two or three times a week.
Other nutrients that support good macular health are:
- zinc (oysters, seafood, nuts, and legumes)
- vitamin E (nuts and grains)
- vitamin C (citrus fruit, berries, and tomatoes)
- selenium (nuts, particularly Brazil nuts).
Low GI carbohydrates
The glycemic index (GI) ranks carbohydrates in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels.
High GI carbohydrates produce a large, rapid rise in blood glucose. Low GI carbohydrates cause a lower, slower rise in blood glucose. Evidence shows eating more low GI foods lowers your risk of developing AMD.
Low GI foods include most fruit and vegetables, wholegrain cereals, wholegrain breads, and legumes. GI only applies to carbohydrates, so protein and dairy don’t have a GI.
People who have low GI diets tend to have a lower incidence of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and AMD. They also tend to have lower cholesterol.
If you’re not getting the nutrition you need from an eye healthy diet, dietary supplements may be appropriate. However, consult your doctor to discuss your options.