The Visionary Diet
Years ago, people believed that the common causes of vision loss as we aged – cataracts and macular degeneration – were an inevitable consequence of getting older. Now we know there is much you can do to prevent, slow, stop, and possibly even reverse this damage by simply making a few changes in what you eat today.
Long-term exposure to air and sunlight generates little oxygen fragments, called oxidants, that damage the eyes. Choosing a diet rich in the anti-oxidant nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, beta carotene, lutein, and zinc, fortifies the eyes against this damage and helps protect against the development of both cataracts and macular degeneration. People with high levels of these antioxidants are at lowest risk of vision loss later in life.
For example, vitamin C is the antioxidant found in oranges, strawberries, and other fruits and vegetables. The eye naturally stockpiles vitamin C to levels 20 times and higher than those found in the blood. The high concentration of vitamin C in our eyes might be an adaptation that protects against the damaging UV rays in sunlight.
A host of other antioxidant-rich compounds, called phytonutrients, in colorful fruits and vegetables also are sight savers. Lutein is one of them, a phytonutrient in dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach. When people consume as little as 10 milligrams of lutein daily (the amount found in 1 /2 cup of spinach), their levels of lutein increase in the blood and eyes, and they are less prone to vision loss. If they do develop vision problems, the disease is less likely to progress to advanced stages.
Dietary fat also might play a role in the development of age-related vision loss. Saturated fats in meat and fatty dairy products might increase risk up to 80%, while the healthy fats, especially the omega-3s in fatty fish, possibly lower risk for both cataracts and macular degeneration.
The visionary diet is simple, just follow these 4 guidelines to stack the deck in favor of healthy vision throughout life:
1. Consume daily at least eight servings of colorful fresh fruits and vegetables (including two servings of lutein-rich dark green leafy vegetables and two servings of vitamin C-rich citrus fruits). Need ideas how to boost intake of greens and citrus? Try our Roasted Garlic and Kale Soup for a lutein-rich option or the Rum-flavored Kiwi, Pineapple, Orange Toss with Coconut and Chopped Nuts for a big dose of vitamin C.
2. Take a moderate-dose multiple vitamin and mineral supplement to fill in the gaps on the days when you don’t eat perfectly.
3. Limit or avoid saturated fat by reducing intake of meat and fatty dairy products; then emphasize the eye-healthy fats in fish. ( The Smoked Salmon Pizza with Dill & Lemon is rich in the omega-3s and a great lunch, dinner, or snack.)
4. Wear protective sunglasses year-round that filter out 100 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Just Do This Today
1. Include 2 servings of dark greens. Switch from iceberg lettuce to spinach for salads; layer greens into lasagna; steam, chop, and whip them into mashed potatoes; blend them with tofu for a vegetarian quiche; add them to a stir fry; add a 12-ounce box of frozen chopped spinach to scrambled eggs, soups, or stews; use large spinach leaves instead of tortillas as a wrap around leftover meat or beans; or saute them in a little olive oil and garlic. (Heating greens actually improves their beta carotene and lutein content, as long as you cook them quickly in a minimal amount of liquid.)
2. Eat more whole grains: Serve oatmeal or whole-grain ready-to-eat cereal for breakfast, use 100% whole wheat bread on sandwiches and instant brown rice or whole-grain couscous as a side dish at dinner, and experiment with novel whole grains, such as bulgur for pilafs or stuffings, quinoa in stuffed bell peppers, wild rice in salads, and amaranth in soups.
Hot Off the Diet Press
1. Vitamin D Fights Alzheimers: In a ground-breaking study from the University of California, Los Angeles, researchers identified how vitamin D might help block the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Blood samples were taken from Alzheimer’s patients and healthy controls and were analyzed for isolated immune cells, called macrophages, which consume amyloid beta and other waste products in the brain and body. Results showed that vitamin D activated certain genes and cellular signaling networks to turn on the immune system’s ability to clear amyloid beta, the main component of neuronal plaques seen in Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers conclude that these findings help, “….clarify the key mechanisms involved, which will help us better understand the usefulness of vitamin D3 [and the spice curcumin] as possible therapies for Alzheimer’s disease.” http://1.usa.gov/O18w8h
3. More Calcium, Please!: Women who consume diets low in calcium and water are at high risk for developing kidney stones, report researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle. Dietary intakes were compared to subsequent kidney stone occurrence in 78,293 women in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. Results showed that 1,952 women developed kidney stones, while risk decreased by up to 28% when women consumed calcium-rich diets and up to 31% with ample water intake. A high sodium intake increased risk up to 61%, and being overweight also was a risk factor. http://1.usa.gov/Nf2rcz
Food & Mood Tip
Lunch should supply a balance of quality carbohydrates (whole grains, starchy vegetables, or legumes) and protein-rich foods (lean meat, chicken breast, fish, legumes, or nonfat milk products). The carbs supply fuel your brain and body need throughout the afternoon hours, while protein helps you feel full longer, so you are less likely to visit the vending machine for a candy bar or bag of chips. Don’t make the mistake of focusing solely on carbs. A high-carbohydrate lunch, such as a plate of pasta with marinara sauce and a tossed salad, raises brain levels of the nerve chemical serotonin, which leaves you relaxed and perhaps a bit sleepy. Combine carbohydrates and protein and you curb the serotonin effect and raise levels of energizing nerve chemicals, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. This leaves you feeling mentally alert and ready to concentrate.
Eat Your Way to Sexy This Week – Move, Every Day
If you don’t challenge your muscles with vigorous activity, they start to weaken by your mid-30s. You’ll lose about 1% to 2% of your muscle mass every year after this point, which equates to a five to 10 pound loss of muscle every decade. By your 80s (if you make it that far), you will have a third the muscle you had at 40.
As you lose muscle, you gain fat. Metabolism slows with every pound of fat, so you need fewer calories to maintain your weight. Continue to eat like you’re a 20-something-er and your waistline will expand. Middle-age spread is a clear sign you are trading muscle for fat, which also is a red flag that you have sped up the aging process. Bones become more porous. Blood pressure, fats, and sugar levels rise. You become weaker and more sluggish. Your back goes out. Your knees hurt. Silently and gradually it takes more effort to do even simple daily tasks; consequently, you do less and less. If you don’t stop the process, you will end up on multiple medications, with dementia, and using a walker or a wheel chair.
In fact, sloth is the deadliest sin. According to a study from the Cooper Institute for Aerobic Research, the life of a couch potato is at least as risky as a 3-pack-a-day cigarette habit. The longer you sit, the shorter will be your life. So, get up and move, every day, and for at least a half hour. No excuses. Just do it!
Rum-Scented Pear Clafouti (from The Food & Mood Cookbook by Elizabeth Somer and Jeanette Williams)
A custard-like dessert with French origins, clafouti is a simple dessert that combines an easy batter with fresh fruit. Traditionally resembling a thin pancake, this low-fat version of the original is a deep-dish version laced with a bit of rum flavoring. It also is good with sliced apples or pitted cherries. Serve warm or at room temperature, or freeze in individual servings and warm quickly in the microwave for a quick treat later in the week. You can cut an additional 40 calories by using Splenda instead of sugar.
1 tablespoon butter
4 large Anjou pears, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
1 cup liquid egg substitute (equivalent of 4 whole eggs)
1 /2 cup nonfat milk
1 /2 cup fat-free half & half
1 /2 cup sugar (or Splenda)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon lemon peel, finely grated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1 /2 teaspoons rum extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cooking spray a 9″ deep-dish pie pan.
1) In a large, nonstick skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add pears and saute until somewhat tender and slightly golden, approximately 10 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
2) In a blender, add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
3) Arrange pears evenly in pie pan. Pour batter over the top. Place pan on a cookie sheet to catch any spills and bake for 1 hour, or until clafouti has set and begun to brown on top. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 8 servings.
Nutritional Analysis per serving: 175 Calories; 15% fat (2.9 grams); ~1 gram saturated fat; 12% protein; 73% carbohydrate; 3.2 grams fiber.
Answers to “Do You Know?” From Last Issue:
1. Which vegetable ranks #1 for inhibiting the growth of cancer cells and that does double duty by also lowering the risk for vision loss?
Greens. A study from Cornell University found that of all the vegetables studied, spinach had the highest score for inhibiting cancer cells. Greens are especially good sources of the phytochemical lutein, which lowers the risk for age-related vision loss. Generous intakes of spinach, kale, and other lutein-rich foods may reduce the risk of cataract and macular degeneration by up to 40%. It is almost impossible to meet all your nutritional needs without including dark green leafies in the daily diet. A one-cup serving of cooked Swiss chard supplies 150mg of magnesium, or 54% of a woman’s daily recommendation. Dark green leafies also boost your intake of fiber; vitamin C; folic acid, the B vitamin that lowers risk for heart disease, memory loss, and birth defects; vitamin K that helps build strong bones; and the minerals calcium, iron, and potassium. How much do you need? Each of us need 6 to 12 milligrams of lutein every day, but typically consume only a fraction of that. That’s because we average less than one serving of greens a week. You need at least one serving, preferably two, daily (1 serving = 1 cup raw or 1 /2 cup cooked).
2. Which nutrients are lost when wheat is refined?
Slice for slice, whole grains have 88% more fiber and magnesium, 62% more zinc, 72% more chromium, 96% more vitamin E, and 82% more vitamin B6 than refined grains. And, whole grains help prevent the same diseases that refined grains cause. Fiber-rich whole grains lower our risks for everything from heart disease and cancer to diabetes and hypertension. They help keep us svelte because their low glycemic score maintains a modest blood sugar level and their fiber fills us up without filling us out. Whole grains also come packed with phytochemicals, such as phenolic compounds and phytoestrogens, that lower disease risk. These health-enhancing phytochemicals are removed when grains are processed. How much do you need? At least half the grains you eat every day should be whole grains.
Do You Know?
1. What is America’s #1 source of vitamin C, and why this source is so good?
2. What dried fruit might help you sleep?
Check next issue for the answers….
Servings Per Container: This might seem obvious, but more than one person has picked up a frozen chicken pot pie and thought it was a meal. Make that mistake and you’ve just eaten for two and twice the calories as listed on the label. Or, drink the whole bottle of iced tea or coffee and you’ve wolfed down the calorie-equivalent of an order of hash browns. Also, check the serving size, since one brand of cookies might be lower in calories only because there are two, rather than three, per serving. It is easy to over do it on the calories, fat, and sodium if you aren’t vigilant about the portions.
The Daily Menu
Put know how into practice with this simple, nutritious meal plan. Eliminate the evening snack if you want to cut an additional 220 calories. And, with all the menus in my newsletter, feel free to tweak to your food preferences and choices.
Morning Soft Taco made with 2 corn tortillas, warmed and filled with 2 eggs scrambled using vegetable spray, 1 diced tomato, and salsa
1 cup calcium- and vitamin D-fortified orange juice
1/3 cup hummus
1 whole wheat pita bread
1 red pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1 cup nonfat milk
4 ounces salmon, grilled or broiled
1 cup steamed asparagus, drizzled with lemon juice
1 /2 cup couscous (made according to package directions)
Tossed salad made with romaine lettuce, red onion, and cucumber slices
Dressing: 2 tsp. olive oil, 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, and 1 minced garlic clove
1 serving Rum Scented Pear Clafouti
3 orange-essence-flavored pitted dried plums, 3 almonds, and 2 tsp. semi-sweet chocolate chips.
1 cup hot chocolate made with nonfat milk
Nutrition Analysis: 1,894 Calories 27% fat (44.8 g: 10.6 g saturated), 54% carbs (202 g, ~ 7 g added sugar), 19% protein (71 g), 34 g fiber, 1029 mg calcium, 674 mcg folic acid, 12.3 mg iron.