Just as with the rest of the body, a balanced diet can help our eyes stay strong and healthy in later life. Here, we look at the vitamins and essential nutrients that can help combat macular degeneration.

The macula is the central part of the retina, which is responsible for the type of sight we need for detailed tasks such as reading and recognising faces. In Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), the cells in the macula gradually stop working, damaging central vision.

While no main cause or cure has been found for AMD, enjoying a healthy lifestyle can lower your chances of developing it – and slow the condition’s progress. Making some simple changes to your diet – such as increasing how much fruit and veg you eat each day – can make sure you get essential nutrients that support eye health.

But what are they, and what foods can you find them in? Read on to find out:

Vitamins A, C and E

It’s true what they say – carrots really can help you see in the dark (well, in dim light anyway). That’s because carrots and other colourful vegetables such as red peppers are rich in beta-carotene. This is what our bodies convert into vitamin A, which protects our vision and immune system. Vitamin A, C and E are also antioxidants, which combat age-related damage to our cells.

Foods include: sweet potatoes, squash, cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, asparagus, oranges, strawberries, raspberries and cherries. You can also get vitamin A from cheese, eggs and fish.

Why not try: Mini Goat’s Cheese & Sweet Potato Pasta, Chicken & Butternut Squash Pie, or Fish Pie, followed by Raspberries and ice cream or Eton Mess.

Lutein and zeaxanthin

These micronutrients are naturally found in the macula as pigments, where they act as a sunscreen and block harmful levels of blue light. Eating foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin can increase the density of the pigment and offer better protection for your retina – potentially reducing the chances of getting AMD.

Foods include: lettuce, broccoli, kale, green, red and yellow bell peppers, squash, sprouts, asparagus, kiwi fruit, red grapes and clementines.

Why not try: Smoked Salmon & Asparagus Gratin, Wild Mushroom & Butternut Squash Risotto, Lemon Pepper Chicken and Fruit Salad.

Zinc

Zinc is a trace element that helps our bodies with a whole host of things, from healing wounds to producing new cells and the enzymes that allow us to break down carbohydrates and proteins. It’s found in the retina, but levels tend to be very low in people with AMD. So one step to reducing macular degeneration is eating more foods that contain zinc.

Foods include: chicken, turkey, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, sunflower seeds and nuts.

Why not try: Chilli con Carne, Shepherdess Pie or Chicken Stir Fry.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The pigment cells in our eyes contain the omega-3 acid DHA, which protects light receptor cells against sunlight damage – and may help reduce macular degeneration. Fish is an excellent source of omega-3, and you should try to eat 2-3 portions a week.

Foods include: salmon, herring, mackerel, tuna, sardines and walnuts.

Why not try: Smoked Kippers, Tuna Quiche or Salmon in White Wine.

What else you could do to lower your risk

Just like a range of other health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure, doing some gentle exercise and keeping your weight in check can also reduce your chances of developing AMD.

You should also cut down on how much food you eat that has a high sugar or saturated fat content. This could include making sure you only eat around two portions of fatty meat, such as sausages and red meat, each week. And while it’s fine to indulge in sweet treats every once in a while, try not to rely on cakes and biscuits as snacks, and opt for things like fruit, nuts or raw vegetables instead.

At Oakhouse, we have plenty of low fat and low sugar options in our range of home delivered frozen ready meals, so there’s no need to miss out on your favourite meals. Just look out for the dietary symbols as you read your brochure, or search for the right meals in our online shop. If you need any advice, give us a call on 0845 643 2009. We’ll be happy to help.