Most of us will remember the story we were told as children that eating carrots would somehow allow us to see in the dark. Unfortunately, this just isn’t true. But while eating lots of carrots won’t give you built-in night vision, this everyday veg is high in beta-carotene, a nutrient that is involved in maintaining good eye health. So the story was at least half-true!
Aside from encouraging kids to eat vegetables, the classic carrots/night vision story carries a very real warning. It’s no secret that eating a diet rich in a variety of veg is good for your health, but new research suggests that superfoods such as kale and spinach may help protect our eyes from issues caused by exposure to blue light.
Related reading: How To Use Kale For Detox
But what is blue light? It is the harmful form of light we are exposed to from the sun, and increasingly, from our mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, and it can cause our eyes considerable damage.
Within the human eye is a small area at the centre of the retina called the macula. This part of the eye is responsible for filtering out the harmful blue light, which over time, leads to macular degeneration – the leading cause of blindness in the west.
Age-related macular degeneration (which is commonly referred to as AMD) affects 1 in 10 people over 65, and 3 in 10 people over 75. Perhaps due to our longer life expectancy and increased exposure to blue light, AMD is a growing issue.
The new research into superfoods and eye health was conducted by Harvard University, who followed more than 100,000 participants over a 20-year period, which is the biggest study of its kind to take place.
Related reading: Why Detoxing Can Lead To Better Eye Health
They found that the participants who ate more lutein and zeaxanthin were 40% less likely to suffer from advanced AMD. Lutein and zeaxanthin are two naturally-occurring nutrients which are found in vegetables and plants. These nutrients are types of carotenoids (pronounced kuh-rah-teh-noids), which are essentially red and yellow pigments.
The study investigated the amount of lutein and zeaxanthin in a variety of vegetables, and found that a variety of superfoods contained the nutrients in high quantities.
While carrots do contain both lutein and zeaxanthin, confirming that our parents were right all along, a variety of other common veggies contain the carotenoids in even greater quantities.
According to the study, carrots (when cooked from raw) contain 0.7mg of lutein and zeaxanthin per 100g, while kale has a whopping 18.3 milligrams in comparison. These two helpful nutrients are also plentiful within cress (12.5mg), as well as raw spinach (12.2mg) and cooked spinach (11.3mg) too.
Making sure our diet is high in these two essential nutrients could have a huge impact in protecting our eyes from the increasing risks associated with AMD, with these findings really putting the ‘super’ in superfoods!
Image courtesy of Focus Clinics