Macular degeneration otherwise referred to as AMD, is one of the leading causes of vision loss. This is, especially for people who are older than 55 years. Although there is no cure for this condition, it can be managed and prevented from deteriorating rapidly.
One of the best ways to do that is by incorporating the ideal macular degeneration diet into your lifestyle.
So, below, we’re going to look at some of the best foods to eat for individuals with AMD. But before we do that, why don’t we look at what a change in diet can do to mitigate the condition?
What Can Your Diet Do For Macular Degeneration?
Different studies state that the right diet can reduce your likelihood of developing AMD. According to a 2018 study, the quality of one’s diet has a vital role in the management of age-related macular degeneration (1).
This should not come as a surprise considering that what happens inside of your body usually manifests outside.
That said, here are some of the foods you should consider if you are looking for the ideal macular degeneration diet.
Leafy Vegetables for AMD
The human retina (specifically the macula part) contains carotenoids and antioxidants that safeguard the photoreceptors for good vision. By eating colorful and leafy vegetables, you reduce your chances of developing AMD (2).
This is because such foods contain carotenoids, primarily zeaxanthin and lutein. These two carotenoids help increase the protective pigment around the macula. Consequently, this helps to slow or prevent AMD.
If you want to boost your carotenoid intake, you can opt for red, bright yellow, dark green vegetables. Some good options include sweet potatoes, corn, carrots, broccoli, and spinach.
Fruits Rich in Vitamin C
Ascorbic acid or vitamin C aids the body in producing collagen. This, in return, leads to the formation of robust blood vessels in the entire body and even the eyes (3).
You see, the eyes are designed to rapidly process nutrients. Therefore, it is extremely necessary to get enough dosages of vitamin C and other nutrients for vision.
Individuals at high risk of developing AMD can take fruits rich in vitamin C to reduce the chances of developing the condition. Likewise, persons suffering from the condition can take the same fruits to slow its progression.
Some of the best fruits that you can take include pomegranate, orange, grapefruit, apples, bananas, and peaches.
Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
There have been debates among experts about the benefits of omega-3 derived from fish oils. However, there is evidence suggesting that the same can reduce your chances of developing AMD or even decelerating its progress.
A 2012 study appearing in the Investigative Opthalmology & Visual Science Journal established that DHD prevented age-related vision loss in mice (4). DHD is basically a key component of omega-3 fatty acids.
Similarly, Dr. Ann Bajart from the Harvard Medical School points out that the results of this particular study likely also apply to human beings.
Some of the fish that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids include herring, mackerel, sardines, tuna, and salmon.
Antioxidants for Macular Degeneration
The role of antioxidants in the body is to fight cell damage caused by free radicals (5).
Vitamins A, C, and E are powerful antioxidants that can help you do that. For instance, vitamin A comprises carotenoids that have lutein and zeaxanthin to support your vision.
These vitamins can be found in seeds and their oils, nuts, and red-orange-colored fruits.
Zinc and Copper
Sometimes, the human body is slow when it comes to absorbing nutrients. Therefore, it could use a little help with that.
Zinc helps your body to absorb vitamins along with their antioxidant properties (6). It, therefore, contributes to better vision both directly and indirectly.
As for copper, all you have to do is consume plenty of leafy vegetables along with eggs, legumes, seeds, and nuts.
Vitamin D may have a positive impact on your vision and macular degeneration (7). It also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that protect you from age-related issues.
Of course, the easiest way to get it is by basking a few minutes in the sun regularly. However, vitamin D can also be found in many foods.
Additionally, vitamin D has anti-angiogenic properties that aid in inhibiting the production of blood vessels. Some of the foods rich in vitamin D include orange juice, cereals, milk, eggs, and fatty fish.
We bet you didn’t think that coffee could be beneficial for your eye health. But as it turns out, the beverage comes with some health benefits. According to the Coimbra Eye Study conducted in Portugal, caffeine may help protect against macular degeneration (8).
That’s likely because coffee contains antioxidants, which may help fight off the effects of toxins and free radicals in the eye.
The same study supports what other researchers have found out about the Mediterranean diet (that we will cover later). Apparently, the diet reduces the risk of developing AMD and slows down its progression in persons who have it already.
Macular degeneration is less common among individuals who take coffee, the equivalent of an espresso shot every day.
Foods to Avoid with Macular Degeneration
Just as there are foods to embrace if you want a healthy vision, there are those to avoid. This is because they can worsen AMD. Let us get into that, shall we?
Saturated Fats and Processed Foods
French fries and crisps are common go-to snacks, and they appeal to many people’s taste buds. However, they are not good for your body, and your eyes are not an exception.
You see, junk food is often prepared with heart-harmful saturated fats, which can significantly increase your risk of developing AMD (9).
Also, junk food alone can cause an accumulation of cholesterol in the blood vessels, including those found in the eyes.
Cholesterol not only damages blood vessels but also diminishes the volume of oxygenated and nutrient-rich blood from getting to your eyes.
Therefore, instead of succumbing to cravings and eating cakes, fries, and fizzy drinks, you would rather have a fruit or some wholesome nuts.
Bad Cooking Fats
For your cooking, you want to avoid using oils that have high partially hydrogenated fat content. This includes palm and coconut oil. As it turns out, these oils negatively affect the progression of macular degeneration (10).
To substitute such oils, you can use flaxseed, canola, or olive oil. These are monounsaturated oils and are thought to possess anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, they will not block the blood vessels in your body or eyes.
Too Many Eggs
Eggs are great, and they come with some benefits for the body. That said, you don’t want to overdo it with them. You see, egg yolk has a high constitution of zeaxanthin and lutein, which are key carotenoids that can safeguard your macula.
Most people avoid eggs because they are high in cholesterol. Nevertheless, your eyes can benefit from having one egg every day if your diet is clean.
Eggs taken in moderation can also diminish the chances of developing cataracts. But if you are unsure about taking them, always consult with a doctor.
Mediterranean Diet for AMD
All the foods we have talked about can be a lot to keep up with. As such, this may discourage you from implementing the ideal macular degeneration diet. The good news is that you can combine everything by using the Mediterranean diet.
Essentially, this diet is about a healthy pattern of food intake that includes fish, fruits, and vegetables. It is low on unhealthy foods that contain trans and saturated fats.
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, following the Mediterranean diet is likely to reduce the chances of AMD progressing to advanced levels.
How the Diet Works
Fortunately, the Mediterranean diet does not come with any special schedules or rules that need to be followed. Instead, it is more of a lifestyle change. Along with promoting eye health, this diet also reduces the chances of developing heart disease, obesity, and the risk of diabetes.
How Long Should the Diet Last?
Just as we have mentioned, this diet is more of a lifestyle change than a fad diet. It is, therefore, supposed to be a long-term decision. It can be adopted at any point whether before or after developing AMD.
What Does the Diet Include?
The Mediterranean diet incorporates an assortment of vegetables and fruits. This is, especially those that are rich in vitamin C, healthy oils, seeds, nuts, fish, and legumes. It also allows you to consume dairy products and poultry albeit in moderation.
This makes it the perfect AMD diet.
Final Thoughts On AMD Diet
At this point, you can see that your diet plays a major role in protecting your eyes from macular degeneration or slowing it down. However, that is only a part of the bigger puzzle.
According to CDC, you should maintain normal cholesterol and blood pressure levels, exercise regularly and avoid smoking if you want better eyesight (11).