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  • Dr. Mercola

Can Spinach Save Your Eyesight?

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of 60. While it doesn’t always cause total blindness, macular degeneration slowly affects your central vision, the part that is crucial for recognizing faces and doing detailed work.

At first, you may simply have blurred vision or a need for more light when you’re reading. Then, straight lines may begin to appear crooked, and dark or empty spaces may begin to block your central vision, similar to a blindspot when you’re driving.

How Does Macular Degeneration Begin?

The macula is a small area just two millimeters wide, located in the back of your eye, in the middle portion of your retina. Your macula, which is made up of light-sensitive cells called cones and rods, is essential for central vision.

For reasons scientists have yet to pinpoint, parts of your retina and macula become diseased. As macular degeneration progresses, tiny, fragile blood vessels that leak blood and fluid begin to develop in your retina, causing further damage.

However, there is pigment in your macula that seems to act as a blue-light filter to protect your macular region against oxidation by light. In addition, this macular pigment can scavenge free radicals.

Lutein and zeaxanthin, two yellow-hued antioxidants found in leafy greens like spinach and kale, are the predominant pigments in this area.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin: Two Powerhouse Antioxidants for Your Eyes

Eating foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin can lower your risk of macular degeneration, so if you value your eyesight, listen up. To get the benefits of these antioxidants, some researchers believe you need to eat about 6 mg a day. But the amount of lutein and zeaxanthin needed to treat macular degeneration rises to about 11-12 mg per day.

Yet, most people are not getting nearly this much. Federal surveys have found that the average American consumes only about 2 mg of lutein daily.

What does the science say about lutein and zeaxanthin?

  • A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that diets higher in lutein and zeaxanthin resulted in improvements in both AMD patients and the control group.

  • A study in the Archives of Ophthalmology found participants who ate the most foods containing lutein and zeaxanthin had a 35 percent lower risk of developing AMD than those who ate the least.

And as the video above showed so clearly, eating lutein-rich spinach every day for six months was enough to improve the vision of people already suffering from AMD. So this is truly powerful information.

What is Your Best Source of Lutein and Zeaxanthin?

Lutein is found in high amounts in:

  • Kale and spinach

  • Turnip and collard greens

  • Romaine lettuce

  • Broccoli

  • Zucchini

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Peas

These are all great sources, however, your best source of these antioxidants is actually not on that list.

Egg Yolks are One of the Best Foods for Your Eyes

There is about 0.25 mg of lutein in each egg yolk -- in a highly absorbable nearly ideal form, especially if you don't cook it. Egg yolks also have zeaxanthin in an equal amount.

Quite simply, the lutein in egg yolks is superior because it is more easily absorbed by your body. A study in the Journal of Nutrition even proved this.

The researchers gave 10 volunteers different sources of lutein (spinach, eggs or one of two types of lutein supplements, each of which provided 6 mg of lutein per day), and the eggs were the best. Those who ate eggs as their lutein source had blood levels of lutein that were about three times higher than that of those who ate other lutein sources.

How to Get the Most Lutein and Zeaxanthin in Your Diet

No matter what source you choose, the absolute key to making sure you receive the benefits of the nutrients in these foods is to consume them RAW. Once you heat spinach or eggs, the lutein and zeaxanthin become damaged -- and they will not perform as well in preventing degeneration of your macula.

Additionally, the accessory micronutrients in the foods that enhance their action will also be damaged. So if you want to make sure your eyes stay healthy, add a few raw egg yolks and some raw leafy greens, according to your nutritional type, to your daily diet.

Finally, keep in mind that lutein is an oil-soluble nutrient. So in order for your body to absorb it, you’ll need to add some fat, like olive oil, butter or coconut oil, to your leafy greens.

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