Eating for Your Eyes: Mediterranean Diet & Macular Degeneration
Research shows we can optimize our eye health through what we eat. The Mediterranean diet has been linked to a longer lifespan and a reduced incidence of heart disease and cognitive decline. As it turns out, it can benefit your long-term eye health and vision, too. Numerous studies suggest that a Mediterranean diet is beneficial for everyone, whether or not you already have eye disease or are at risk of developing it.
WHAT IS THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET?
The Mediterranean diet encourages plant-based meals that are high in vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, and olive oil. Moderate amounts of seafood, dairy, poultry, and eggs are recommended, while limiting consumption of red meat.
To simplify, the basic structure of the Mediterranean diet is as follows:
Eat in moderation: poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt
Eat only rarely: red meat
Avoid: Sugar-sweetened beverages, added sugars, processed meat, refined grains, refined oils, and other highly processed foods
Fat gets a bad rap, but it’s just misunderstood; the truth is: not all fat is unhealthy. The Mediterranean diet encourages consumption of healthy fats in the form of olive oil, nuts, and seeds. These foods contain monounsaturated fat, which has been found to lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol levels.
Weekly consumption of fatty fish — such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and albacore tuna — provides polyunsaturated fat in the form of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce inflammation in the body, help decrease triglycerides, reduce blood clotting, and decrease the risk of stroke and heart failure.
HOW TO EAT THE MEDITERRANEAN WAY
Are you interested in trying the Mediterranean diet? These tips will help you get started:
Eat more fruits and vegetables. Aim for at least 6 to 7 servings each day (2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit daily).
Opt for whole grains. Aim for 5 to 6 servings each day. Switch to whole-grain bread, cereal and pasta. Whole grains include couscous, bulgur wheat, and brown or wild rice.
Use healthy fats. Use olive oil instead of butter or margarine. Avoid peanut, safflower, corn, and soybean oils.
Spice it up. Use garlic, herbs, and spices to season your meals and boost flavor.
Eat seafood weekly. Aim for one to two servings per week.
Limit red meat and poultry to one serving or less per week. If you eat meat, choose lean cuts and keep portions small.
Eat dairy in moderation. Eat low-fat Greek or plain yogurt and small amounts of a variety of cheeses.