Paella for Eye Health

Last updated on 24th May 2011 09:46am

The Metro Newspaper reported yesterday that the traditional Spanish dish, Paella 'could hold the key to tackling eye disease'. The piece quotes clinical research showing that saffron (used in Paella) is proven to slow down age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

AMD is a disease that affects the retina, the sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that transmits images to the brain. The condition usually hits the over-50s and results in a gradual loss of vision which can advance into an inability to read, drive or recognise faces.

A leading eye surgeon, Dr Kim Julian is quoted in the report: ‘In the past, we had to rely on old wives’ tales for health advice, like eating carrots to improve vision but now clinical research shows us which natural remedies can lead to a healthier lifestyle,’ and he recommends a new Saffron health supplement which contains 20mg of the spice in each capsule.

The whole story

Previous research on eye health has delved into the protective action of vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, carotenoids (pigments found in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables), omega-3 essential fats, and low-GI foods. Low-GI means that the food’s carbohydrates raise the body's blood sugar levels more slowly and therefore have less impact on blood sugar fluctuations, which can cause damage to tissues.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoid pigments that are already widely recognised as important eye health ingredients to protect against the development of AMD. Lutein, which is found in foods including green leafy vegetables and egg yolk, has a ten-year history in the dietary supplement market as a nutrient to reduce the risk of ADM. A recent study from China published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that supplements of lutein may also protect against the detrimental effects of long-term computer display light exposure.

The Nutrition Guide to Peeper Protection:

Fill up on foods that are particularly rich in the carotenoid phytonutrient group

  • Dark green leafy vegetables - kale, spinach, watercress, rocket, savoy cabbage, spring greens, pak choi, chard
  • Orange and yellow coloured fruit and veg - squash, mango, papaya, peaches, apricots, carrots, yellow peppers and oranges

Eat plenty of good omega-3 fat sources

  • Cold water fish/oily fish – salmon, mackerel, herring, fresh tuna, trout, sardines
  • Nuts, seeds and their oils – flaxseeds, pistachios (contain healthy fats as well as eye-healthy green pigments), walnuts, pumpkin seeds (high in zinc and green pigments)

Eat a low-GI diet

  • Avoid all refined foods and those with added sugar – white bread, pasta and rice, processed foods, sugary soft drinks, cakes, sweets, biscuits, chocolate
  • Eat a portion of protein-rich food with each meal and snack to slow down the release of sugars into the bloodstream
  • Fill the gap with wholegrain foods – wholegrain bread, pasta and brown rice,

According to research, if you eat plenty of the protective nutrients and low-GI foods discussed above, you’ll be at the lowest risk for early and advanced AMD.

The added benefit of following this eye health advice is that you’ll be more likely to lose weight, have clear skin and be at a lower risk of developing other diseases such as diabetes.

Sources: Metro News, American Academy of Ophthalmology May 2009 Ophthalmology journal

By Claire Harper, The Nutrition Guide

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