Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Foods That Help Prevent Cataracts And Decrease Their Rate Of Progression - Recipe For Anti-Cataract Smoothie!

If you have eyes, read this post!

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Important Information about your Eyes
Even if your eyes are perfect right now, you should read this post. Why? Because the statistics on cataracts are shocking. 

* 20.5 million Americans age 40 and older have cataracts
* 50% of individuals 80 years and older have them.
* 3 million cataract surgeries are performed each year.

What Are Cataracts?
When the proteins in the lens of the eye are damaged, the lens can become cloudy making it difficult to read. Driving, especially at night, can also become difficult due to the increased sensitivity to light and glare. Vision can become blurred and clouded and the need for new eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions may be more frequent. This condition can eventually get bad enough to require surgery, a procedure where the natural lens is replaced and an artificial intraocular lens is implanted.  

My Personal Experience
Over ten years ago, during an eye exam, a doctor told me I was developing cataracts. I totally freaked out thinking I would soon be blind - and at such a young age (I was about 48 at the time). I probably developed these because, in my youth, I laid in the sun like a little salamander. I even smoked. But I didn't have any of the other risks such as diabetes, excess consumption of alcohol, family history of cataracts, high blood pressure, obesity or prolonged use of corticosteroids. I was, however, getting older and that certainly is a big risk factor.

I immediately started researching natural cures. I couldn't just sit around and wait for my lenses to become opaque. And even though cataract surgery is pretty common with a 98% success rate, the thought of someone cutting into my eyeballs sent chills down my spine.

The bad news is that once cataracts have formed, you can't get rid of them with diet but you can do a whole lot to prevent them or stop them in their tracks. But most doctors won't tell you that. Their advice is to wear sunglasses and stop driving at night. Gee, thanks.

But you can do more. Studies have shown a link between antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin C and vitamin E, and the prevention of cataracts as well as a decrease in their progression. In addition, the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin appear to have a protective effect. (In fact, lutein and zeaxanthin are the only two carotenoids found in the retina and lens of the eye). Research has linked the high consumption of foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin with a reduced risk of cataracts. 

Vitamin C
The RDA for vitamin C for women is 75 mg and it's 90 mg for men. If you smoke, add another 35 mg to the daily requirement. 

This vitamin is very easy to get from food. Fruits like guava, kiwi, papaya, strawberries, blueberries, lemons, oranges, and grapefruit are good sources of vitamin C as are vegetables such as bell peppers, mustard spinach, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and tomatoes. 

Vitamin E
The RDA for natural vitamin E, for adults, is 22 IU (15 mg).

Vitamin E is a bit harder to get from food but the best sources are sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, wheat germ oil and avocado. Other sources include kiwi, dandelion greens, peppers, butternut squash and parsnips. 

Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Although there is no RDA for lutein and zeaxanthin, experts suggest that a minimum of 6 to 8 mg be consumed daily to achieve health benefits. 

Getting sufficient lutein and zeaxanthin is easy if you eat your greens. A single cup of cooked or raw kale provides over 20 mg! Other great sources are spinach, collards and turnip greens. Broccoli, corn, peas, lettuce and Brussels sprouts also contain these critical carotenoids. But to increase their absorption, always eat them with some healthy fats such as cold-pressed flaxseed or hemp oil, extra virgin olive oil, raw nuts or avocados.

Note: Although carrots are great for the eyes, I left them out of this smoothie because they are high in beta-carotene. Recent studies show that beta-carotene can interfere with the absorption of lutein and zeaxanthin. So if it's lutein and zeaxanthin you are after, it may be best not to consume vegetables high in beta-carotene in the same meal. 

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This simple smoothie can give you your daily requirement of the antioxidant vitamins C and E and 20 mg of the critical carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin per serving.

Anti-Cataract Smoothie
Vegan, Mostly Raw, Gluten Free
[makes 2 servings]
Requires High Speed Blender (such as a Vitamix or Blendtec)

1 cup frozen blueberries
1 1/2 cups raw kale
1 orange, peeled, seeds removed
2 cups cold, Almond Breeze almond milk
2 tablespoons raw sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon cold pressed flaxseed oil

Blend all ingredients, except the flaxseed oil,  in a high speed blender until smooth. 
Add flaxseed oil and blend briefly to combine.
Serve immediately.

Anti-Cataract Smoothie

Per serving: 206 calories, 11 g total fat, 0.7 g saturated fat, 1,388 mg omega-3 and 2,513 omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 5 g protein, 26 g carbohydrates, 6 g dietary fiber and 203 mg sodium. It also provides 20 mg lutein/zeaxanthin, 97 mg vitamin C and 14 mg vitamin E.

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