The state of Britain's eyesight
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The macula is found at the back of the retina and is responsible for our central vision, most of our colour vision and the fine detail of what we see. Luckily to protect this, some foods contain lutein – a carotenoid that is found in the human eye. Lutein has powerful antioxidant properties which help to protect against macular degeneration.
Now to mark Macular Week (June 20 to 26), experts from eyesight charity Macular Society and Discover Great Veg have teamed up to explain how we can use diet to benefit our eyes.
Nutritionist Sarah Jones said: “Age related macular disease is the leading cause of blindness and vision impairment but there are things we can do to protect against it.
“Our eyes need a variety of nutrients for optimal health, a major preventative measure is to ensure we have a healthy, nutritious balanced diet that includes plenty of lutein-rich vegetables.”
As an example, she said: “Both kale and cavolo nero (a type of cabbage) are packed with lutein and these leafy green ‘super veggies’ are also high in vitamins K, A and C and provide folic acid, calcium, and iron.
“It’s important that we understand how to look after our sight, as it’s such a crucial sense for all of us and one that we sometimes take for granted.”
Aside from kale and cavolo nero, other foods that are high in lutein are:
- romaine lettuce
Chief executive of the Macular Society, Cathy Yelf, added: “Macular disease is the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK, affecting nearly 1.5 million people.
“It is a devastating condition, often leaving people unable to read, drive or recognise the faces of their loved ones.
“We know how much people fear losing their vision and yet many do not take their eye health as seriously as they should.
“That’s why this Macular Week we are encouraging everyone to protect their own and their family’s eyes.
“There isn’t currently a cure for macular disease, but there are things you can do to look after your eyes and prevent it getting worse, such as stopping smoking, exercising and eating well.
“All of the things that are good for your general health are also very good for your eyes.”
To make sure you get more lutein in your diet, Discover Great Veg has suggested adding kale and cavolo nero to a number of dishes.
These include adding them to a Bolognese sauce, stirring them into a veggie soup and mixing them into mashed potato.
They are also “perfect for topping savoury pies” or “to serve with sausages”.
The first sign of macular disease is often a blurred or distorted area in your vision.
According to the NHS, it can also make things like reading, watching TV, driving or recognising faces “difficult”.
Other symptoms include:
- seeing straight lines as wavy or crooked
- objects looking smaller than normal
- colours seeming less bright than they used to
- seeing things that are not there (hallucinations)
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