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Whether you have recently been diagnosed with macular degeneration or you are just interested in learning about which types of food are beneficial for your eyes, we've put together a guide on the subject of AMD and recommended foods for eye health.
When you develop macular degeneration, you are essentially experiencing changes to the macula - the small part of the retina that controls visual acuity - which causes problems with your central vision. The deterioration of your macula does not affect your peripheral vision. This means that AMD will not cause full loss of sight, but it will affect direct vision when you are reading or watching television.
There are two types of AMD: dry and wet. Wet AMD develops quickly, but dry AMD is a more gradual process and by far the most common. AMD is particularly common in those over 50, and affects women more than men.
With macular degeneration, your vision becomes increasingly blurred and you may experience some of the following in varying degrees:
You should seek help if your vision is gradually getting worse or if you suddenly notice blind spots or shadowy areas in your central vision. You may have to do some tests or get referred to a specialist depending on what your GP finds.
You may be able to help prevent AMD from getting worse by eating a healthy, varied diet and avoiding alcohol. Research suggests that smoking increases your chances of developing AMD significantly. While there is currently no way to treat AMD, it is commonly believed that including high amounts of certain vitamins in your diet may help to delay the process.
There are many ways in which you can help improve eye health by altering your diet. The antioxidant vitamins in dark leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale, contain high levels of lutein which is believed to benefit people with macular degeneration. Lutein and the antioxidant zeaxanthin can also be found in other fruit and vegetables such as peas, broccoli, peppers, beans, mango, sweetcorn and oranges.
While it is a very good idea to eat these foods, don't forget to keep a balanced and varied diet. Including too much spinach, for example, may be harmful to those who are prone to developing kidney stones. If you are concerned about your diet, consult your GP or a nutritionist.
Fruits and vegetables are not the only source of these antioxidants - eggs also contain both lutein and zeaxanthin, so are a great alternative. As well as regulating blood pressure and heart rate, it is believed that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish are also benefical to eye health. It is recommended that you try to include fish in your diet two to three times a week.
Although spinach is in season during spring, it is generally available throughout the year either fresh or frozen. Well known for its nutritional value, spinach is rich in iron and a fantastic source of vitamin K, which is important for maintaining bone health. Naturally occurring cartenoids, the plant pigments responsible for the bright colours of fruits and vegetables (especially lutein), are high in spinach making it a great dietary supplement for people with macular degeneration.
"Spinach is one of my favorite vegetables. You can buy it (in season) pre-washed in bags, then it just needs a few minutes in the microwave."
"Years ago I had a recipe for plaice and spinach bake. A sort of fish pie with grated cheese over a mashed potato topping. A few chopped spring onions with the fish and spinach."
"I put fresh spinach into the soup I make in the Morphy Richards soup maker that was recommended on here. It only takes about 20 minutes on smooth. It's a great gadget! I also put in fresh watercress and other vegetables. Delicious and nutritious!"
Despite being in season from late autumn to early spring, kale is often available throughout the year. Of the two types of kale, smooth and curly, the latter is most common. Another great source of lutein, kale also contains high amounts of vitamins K, A and C as well as vitamin B6 which is linked to the metabolism of carbohydrates.
"Try roasting the kale in the oven. Cut out the central stalk, spray or drizzle with a little olive (or any) oil and put into a hot oven on a baking tray for three to five minutes. Be careful as it's easy to burn it!"
"We don't like kale so I often put some frozen cubes in casseroles. You do not notice it."
"Kale and mushroom lasagne is excellent. I cannot eat carbs so my pasta layer is aubergine, but you can obviously use sheets of lasagne. You can also dry it and mix it in a bowl, in an oil of your choice, with things like garlic, chilli and crushed nuts."
Try these recipes recommended by gransnetters:
For more information and to get support if you think you're suffering from macular degeneration, visit the Macular Society's website.
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