Cataracts are unavoidable. They are a natural part of aging, so everyone will eventually get them if they live long enough. However, the process can be sped up by certain factors. One such factor is a poor diet. A poor diet can have all sorts of negative effects on the body, and the eyes are no exception. In particular, an effect that is known as “oxidative stress” can be the result of an imbalanced meal plan and may play a role in the formation of cataracts.
What is Oxidative Stress?
To understand what oxidative stress is, it is important to know what a “free radical” is. Essentially a free radical is an atom or molecule that steals electrons from healthy cells, causing damage on a molecular level. When this free radical takes an electron from a healthy cell, it sets off a sort of chain reaction in which the molecules continue to try and take electrons from each other in order to become stable. This reaction is called “oxidation”.
When oxidation occurs in the eye, it can impact the proteins in the lens and cause them to pile up. This buildup of proteins is what creates a cataract. A body with a significant amount of free radicals will suffer from this imbalance, putting oxidative stress on the body.
Changing Your Diet
In order to combat oxidative stress, regularly eating meals that include antioxidants is important. These antioxidants will help balance out the free radicals roaming in your body.
Fortunately, changing your eating habits can be easy! All it takes is a little research, an open mind, and strong will to commit. To help you with the research part of your journey, here are some good ideas for antioxidant-rich food that can help you stave off cataracts!
- Leafy Greens. You probably don’t need to be told at this point how important it is to eat your vegetables. In particular, vegetables with dark, green leaves such as spinach, broccoli, and kale have important vitamins like lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidants have been shown to have a significant effect on reducing cataract development— in one study of over 35,000 women it was shown that there was an 18% lower risk of cataracts for those that ate plenty of greens.
- Fish. Oily fish in particular, such as salmon, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can not only reduce your risk of cataract development, but they can also help lower your risk of heart disease, developing arthritis, and may even help with depression.
- Eat fewer carbs. While carbohydrates are an important part of a balanced diet, it can be easy to go overboard with your carb intake. Carbs turn into sugars, and if the sugars aren’t burned off with lots of exercise, they turn into fat. One study, in particular, has linked a high carb diet to a severe increase in cataract production— those who had a high carb diet were 3 times more likely to develop cataracts early.
Eating right, exercising, and eliminating destructive habits are all important parts of living a healthy and productive lifestyle. For more information on cataracts or other eye concerns, contact Loden Vision!