Don't Overindulge This Holiday Season - Your Eyes Will Thank You
Your waistline isn't the only thing that may change if you enjoy too many holiday treats. Eating unhealthy foods could also affect your eyesight.
Why Healthy Eating Is Important for Good Vision
Need another reason to embrace healthy eating this holiday season? The foods you eat could lower your risk of developing several eye diseases and conditions that may cause vision loss.
Fats, carbohydrates, cholesterol, and sodium are essential for good health, yet eating too many of these nutrients, or eating unhealthy forms, increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, and obesity. Unfortunately many holiday foods, including appetizers, cakes, cookies, pies and casseroles, contain sugar, unhealthy carbohydrates and fats, or high sodium. Overindulging in these foods can increase your risk of:
- Diabetic Retinopathy. Foods high in sugar and carbohydrates increase your risk of developing diabetes and diabetic retinopathy, a disease that can affect people who have diabetes.
- Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). AMD damages cells in the macula, the central part of the retina. Damage to the macula means that electrical impulses sent from this part of the retina never reach the brain. As a result, blind spots or blurry vision affect the center part of your vision. Although macular degeneration is often related to aging, a poor diet can also be a factor.
- Central Retinal Artery Occlusion. This serious eye condition happens when an artery in the eye becomes clogged with clotted blood or cholesterol. Eating too many fatty foods increases your chance of developing high cholesterol and hardening of the arteries, conditions that increase your risk of central retinal artery occlusion.
- Other Eye Conditions. Health conditions caused by poor eating habits may also raise your risk of glaucoma, cataracts and optic nerve damage.
Choosing the Best Foods for Your Eyes
Many of the same foods that are essential for a healthy lifestyle are also good for your eyes. If you'll be hosting a holiday meal or attending holiday parties this year, these tips will help you select eye-healthy foods:
- Stay Away from Trans and Saturated Fats. Many tasty foods, including baked goods, potato chips, red meat, full-fat dairy products, fried food, fast food, and processed and prepared foods, contain trans and saturated fats. These fats are also found in butter, lard, shortening, coconut oil, and stick margarine. Eating too many of these fats increases your risk of high cholesterol and the health problems that can come with it.
- Use Healthier Fats Instead. Foods made with polyunsaturated or monosaturated fats offer a better choice. Use healthier canola or olive oils when you prepare your holiday feast instead of butter or margarine. If you'll be baking holiday treats, use skim or low-fat dairy products and replace some of the fats with pureed fruit.
- Fill Up with Fruits and Vegetables. When you nibble on fruits and vegetables, you won't have much room for foods high in unhealthy fats, sugar, sodium or carbohydrates. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), foods that contain vitamin C, like tomatoes, strawberries, citrus fruits, and green peppers, may reduce your cataract risk and slow AMD.
- Make Eye-Healthy Foods the Focus of Holiday Meals. Swap fatty and/or salty foods, like bacon, hot dogs, and red meat, for healthier selections. Salmon, herring, tuna, mackerel, walnuts, canola oil, and fortified milk and juice are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These acids help keep your eyes moist and may offer some protection against macular degeneration and glaucoma, according to All About Vision.
- Go Low Carb. Carbohydrates found in white flour, bread, rice, cookies, cakes, and pasta are converted into sugar by your body. In addition to increasing your diabetes risk, eating too many sugary or high-carb foods can lead to weight gain. Carbs found in whole-grain flour, bread and pasta offer a healthier choice. Other good sources of healthier carbohydrates include sweet potatoes, lentils, quinoa, brown rice, oats, chickpeas, black beans, apples, pears, blueberries, bananas, beets, and low-fat milk.
- Start Small. Once you fill your plate with food, you may feel guilty if you don't finish every morsel, even if you're full. Avoid that problem by using a smaller plate, or filling your plate half-full to avoid overeating. When you reach the dessert table, choose one cookie instead of three or opt for the smallest slice of cake or pie.
Do you have any concerns about your vision this holiday season? Contact our office to schedule a visit with our optometrist.
National Institutes of Health: Omega-3 Fatty Acids, 7/18/2022
All About Vision: Omega-3 and Your Eyes, 2/27/2019
American Optometric Association: Diet and Nutrition