Nutrition and Glaucoma

In a world where the information we get seems to come fast and change even faster, some of the foods we’re now being told to eat, or not eat, may surprise you.

For instance, carrots were always thought to be good for protecting vision.

But, according to Steven G. Pratt, MD, senior staff ophthalmologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital and assistant clinical professor of ophthalmology at the University of California, San Diego - carrots may be good for you but they do not play as big a role in vision as once thought.

It turns out that carrots are high in beta-carotene, also an antioxidant, but one that is not usually found in the eye. So carrots’ ability to protect vision may actually be limited.

Spinach, on the other hand, contains high amounts of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin which are nutrients that are found in high amounts in your eyes, in fact, in higher amounts than all others.

It is believed that these two nutrients may be important for protecting your eyes against some of the bad effects that can be caused by oxygen.

That’s why they are called antioxidants. In fact, many doctors are beginning to tell their patients to eat more spinach and other green leafy vegetables and/or to take supplements rich in antioxidants to help with all kinds of problems, including cataracts and glaucoma.

There are also other nutrients thought to be good for protecting vision because of their antioxidant abilities, including vitamins C, E, A, and zinc. (See list below for foods that are high in these nutrients.)

Understanding Nutritional Supplements

As food has become more refined, and many of the important nutrients have been processed out, many Americans have started supplementing their regular diets. This practice has been common much longer in other countries.

For instance, Europeans have been regularly supplementing their diets for many years and the Chinese have been using herbal remedies for thousands of years. Now, in America, the supplement business has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry in the last decade.

Supplements are vitamins, minerals, or herbs that you can buy and take as a way of adding to the nutrition you already get from your daily diet. They usually come in tablet or capsule form but some are a powder that you can mix into a drink.

The American Heritage College Dictionary defines the word "supplement" as “something added to complete a thing, make up for a deficiency, or extend or strengthen the whole.” So the increase in use of supplements appears to be the result of what we have come to believe is missing from our diet.

There are about as many ways to purchase supplements as there are supplements themselves. Your local health food store will carry a wide choice. And many grocery stores, as well as your corner drug store, are likely to have a health food section where herbs and supplements can be bought.

Potential Problems and Too Much of a Good Thing

Just when we thought we had a healthy diet, we learn that it is possible to overdo it. There are dangers of taking too much of a given vitamin or supplement. For instance, too much vitamin A can cause you to have headaches, vision problems, nausea, vomiting, dry and flaking skin, or even enlarge your liver or spleen.

Too much Vitamin C may cause nausea, diarrhea, reduced selenium and copper absorption and increased kidney stone formation. Taking too much vitamin C could even cause you to have a false-positive reaction to diabetes tests. And some studies have shown that vitamin E (in supplement form) can actually raise your cholesterol.

Too much zinc in your diet could cause a mineral imbalance and too much chromium can result in iron deficiency anemia.

While vitamins and supplements may be good for you, you should treat them with the same healthy respect you treat any drugs you happen to be taking. Always check with your doctor and make sure you’re taking the proper amount.

How to be Safe and Healthy

Many doctors strongly believe that supplements are the best thing for their patients and advise their patients to take them. Others believe you can get everything you need by simply eating a healthy diet.

Some doctors are worried that since there is no governmental control over the supplement industry, there’s no way to be sure that what’s on the label is what you’re really getting in the bottle. All of this needs to be thought about when looking at your overall health.

The safest bet is to always eat a healthy, well balanced diet and talk to your doctor about what is best for you.

List of Foods High In Antioxidants

Vitamin C

  • Citrus fruits
  • Berries
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Cantaloupe

Vitamin E

  • Vegetable oils (wheat germ oil is especially rich in vitamin E)
  • Wheat and other cereal grains
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Egg yolk
  • Milk fat
  • Butter
  • Meat
  • Nuts
  • Organ Meats
  • Seafood
  • Avocados

Vitamin A

  • Liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Whole milk
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potato
  • Kale Turnip greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Pink Grapefruit
  • Broccoli
  • Cantaloupe
  • Apricots
  • Beet greens
  • Collard greens
  • Papaya
  • Red Peppers
  • Cheddar cheese

Zinc

  • Lean meat
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Soybeans
  • Peanuts
  • Whole Bran
  • Whole cereals
  • Cheese
  • Oysters

Lutein and Zeaxanthin

  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Spinach
  • Parsley (not dried)
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Lettuce
  • Green peas
  • Pumpkin
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Summer squash
  • Corn
  • Green beans
  • Green peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Green olives

Last reviewed on April 25, 2012

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