How to Eat for Healthy Eyes
Diabetes, especially when blood sugar levels are not managed properly, can lead to eye disease, vision loss and blindness. Over time, elevated blood sugars can cause diabetic retinopathy and increase your risk of developing cataracts and glaucoma. Keeping blood glucose stable and within the levels recommended by your health care provider is the best way to prevent or reduce these risks.
When it comes to nutrition and eating well, there are no particular foods that can combat the threat posed to your vision by high blood sugars. However, research has shown that specific dietary habits can promote healthier eyes. In addition, if you have diabetes – what you eat can help to control your blood glucose, which is critical for long-lasting, quality vision.
Not sure what to eat? Plenty of nutritional resources for diabetes are available; read on for a basic outline of good food practices and remember to schedule your annual eye exam for diabetes.
Nutrition and Managing Diabetes
The definition of diabetes management is blood sugar management, and your food choices are an important part of this. While there isn’t one, perfect diet for diabetes, there are certain guidelines that are beneficial for most people. Sugar is allowed in moderate amounts, as long as it is part of a healthy, balanced diet, and it is wise to reduce cholesterol and salt intake. Every person with diabetes should consult with their personal doctor or dietitian for a customized meal plan.
When eating well for diabetes, it is recommended to become familiar with the concept of the food exchange list. This is a tool to help you plan your meals and snacks, and it allows you to substitute certain foods for others in the same category. For example, if your plan lists a fruit for breakfast, you can eat a piece of fresh fruit or exchange it for ½ cup unsweetened fruit juice. Or if you are permitted two starches for lunch, you can choose to eat a sandwich or exchange it for one cup of pasta.
Go for Green
Recent research has shown that diets high in green leafy vegetables may be helpful for people with diabetes. This includes veggies such as broccoli, spinach, collards and kale. All of these types of produce are associated with promoting healthy eyes and preventing the development of ocular disease, such as age-related macular degeneration.
The substances lutein and zeaxanthin, both carotenoids, appear to be responsible for the health benefits of green leafy foods. Both of these substances can also be found in a healthy macula. Generous consumption of lutein and zeaxanthin is linked to a 20% reduction in the risk of developing cataracts, and a 40% reduction in the chances of developing age-related macular degeneration. Keep in mind that since diabetes increased your risk of eye disease, eating green and leafy salads and sides as a regular part of a diabetes meal plan can only contribute to your long-lasting vision.
Nutrition Tips for Diabetes
- Follow your meal plan to keep blood sugar levels under control
- Eat five to nine servings of produce daily; brightly colored fruits and vegetables are best, including leafy greens
- Foods with vitamin C are important to include
- Fatty fish contains oils and fatty acids that are good for your eyes and overall health
For more information about how to make the right food choices, we’ll be happy to recommend additional nutritional resources for diabetes.
In addition to eating a balanced diet, it is critical to visit our Olathe eye doctor for an annual eye exam for diabetes. When detected early, many eye complications caused by diabetes can be treated with tremendous success.
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