Protect your eyes with glasses and the garden

It’s time to find the sunglasses you didn’t need very often this rainy summer and protect your eyes from the glare of … What is that? The sun! The ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunlight can damage your eyes and are linked to cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD); two leading causes of visual loss and blindness.

That’s why the American Academy of Opthalmology recommends wearing UV-absorbent sunglasses that block out 99 percent of the harmful rays. Sunglasses also prevent you from squinting in bright sunlight, so they can help prevent wrinkles around the eyes. Now that’s a fashion statement no matter which frames you choose.

Eat for Your Eyes

They say we eat with our eyes, but we should be eating for our eyes, too. Nutrition researchers are gazing into our orbs to illuminate the link between nutrition and eye health. Advice goes beyond eating carrots to see well in the dark. Carrots still rank high on the eyesight-saving menu, but other foods, perhaps even more important, are emerging from the farm. Scientists have set their sights on green leafy and deep orange or yellow vegetables such as spinach, kale, zucchini, corn, tomatoes, carrots, collard greens and turnip greens.

That’s because these veggies contain two carotenoid plant pigments called lutein and zeaxanthin. These potent antioxidants protect the eyes against the damaging light waves that contribute to cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and AMD.

A study in the British Journal of Nutrition reports that lutein can reduce risk of cataracts by up to 40 percent, and a study in the Archives of Ophthalmology found that lutein may cut risk of AMD by 35 percent. Lutein is also found in eggs, especially the yolk.

Lutein is important for the development of eyesight in babies (attention, moms-to-be) and children’s vision (eat your vegetables, kids!).

Recipe note: Since lutein is a fat-soluble nutrient, absorption is increased when consumed with a little oil. So it’s good to know that olive oil drizzled on the season’s fresh vegetables is good for your taste buds and your eyes.

Other nutrients good for your eyes include beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E and the mineral zinc.

Focus on Foods:

Lutein/Zeaxanthin: kale, collard greens, spinach, turnip greens, broccoli, avocado, zucchini, peas, corn, Brussels sprouts, tangerines, dark leafy salad greens and eggs.

Beta-carotene: carrots, mangos, sweet potato, greens, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, cantaloupe, kale, and apricots.

Vitamin C: papaya, citrus fruit, strawberries, tomato, mango, green peppers, and berries.

Vitamin E: almonds, wheat germ, whole grain breads, avocado, and greens.

Zinc: oysters, lobster, beef, poultry, pork, lentils, and whole-grain bread.

Source: USDA nutrient database.

Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and co-author of “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!” E-mail her at