The Eyes Have It! Nutrition for Eye Health
Bring Fall Colors to Your Plate to Decrease Risks for Age-Related Eye Disease
by Laura Stepp MA, RD, CDE at LMC
Fall is the perfect time of year to try new foods and new recipes. It’s the time of year that we gather with friends and family to celebrate our favorite sports teams and the holidays. It’s also the time of year for some of the most colorful fall foods. Like the changing of the leave,s red, yellow, orange and, yes, even green foods make up the colors we want to see as we take that fall drive and what we want to see on our harvest tables.
Which seasonal fall foods are best for our eyes and our health? Winter squash, of course. Types of squash include pumpkin (it’s not just for pie), spaghetti (great as a pasta alternative), acorn, butternut and delica. Winter squash is packed full of nutritional benefits. It’s a source of beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A. It’s also an excellent source of the carotenoids lutein and zeanxanthin, which help to protect the eye from ultraviolet and environmental damage. Vitamin A not only helps to keep our eyes healthy, but it also helps us to see better at night by adjusting to dim light. In addition to our eyes, vitamin A helps keep our skin healthy as well as the lining our mouth, nose, throat and digestive tract. Orange colored winter squash or other orange colored vegetables aren’t the only source of these important carotenoids; green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale and collards contain anti-inflammatory substances. Even dark green vegetables likes broccoli and Brussels’ sprouts are known sources of these healthy nutrients.
All of the above mentioned foods are also sources of vitamin C. Vitamin C has been found to be concentrated in eye tissue supporting the health of blood vessels. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruit, red bell peppers (orange and yellow too), tomatoes and spinach.
But what about protein foods? Zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E are all found in protein food sources. Zinc is especially abundant in seafood. Would anyone like oyster dressing? Zinc is also found in all animal meats as well as eggs and beans. Omega-3s are found in most seafood and some cold water fish. Other sources of omega-3s are walnuts, ground flaxseed, chia seeds and yes, dark green leafy vegetables. Vitamin E – which helps to protect the eyes and body from environmental damage by playing a role in stopping inflammation and tissue repair – can be found in nuts, seeds and vegetable oils.
Whole foods provide the combination of nutrients our bodies need to function effectively. Therefore eat a variety of foods – a full rainbow of colorful foods – to nourish, heal and power us to better health and better, healthier holidays.
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin (curry powder may be substituted)
1 (15 oz.) can pureed pumpkin (2 cups fresh may be substituted)
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, no salt added, drained
1 (15 oz.) can yellow corn kernels, no salt added, drained (1-1½ cups fresh or frozen may be substituted)
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, no salt added
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (vegetable may be substituted)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup plain, low-fat yogurt, optional
In large saucepan warm oil over medium heat. Stir in peppers, onion and garlic and sauté about 6 minutes until peppers and onion soften. Stir in cumin and continue to cook 1-2 minutes.
Pour in pumpkin, beans, corn, tomatoes and broth. Add 1 teaspoon cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to boil then reduce heat. Cover and simmer 25 minutes.
Divide stew among four bowls and garnish with cilantro and yogurt, if desired.
Makes 4 servings.
Per 2 cup serving: 301 calories, 5 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 57 g carbohydrate, 14 g protein, 14 g dietary fiber, 307 mg sodium.
Brussel Sprout Slaw with Cranberries and Walnuts
3/4 lb. Brussels sprouts
1 Fuji or Gala apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
2/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice (see Notes)
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Trim bottom from sprouts and remove any loose or bruised leaves. Place shredding disk or fine slicing disk in food processor, and using feeder tube, gradually shred Brussels sprouts; there will be about 4 1/2 cups (see Notes). Transfer shredded sprouts to mixing bowl.
Add apple, cranberries, walnuts, salt, pepper and lemon juice and stir with a fork for 1 minute to combine well. Add oil and stir well. Cover and refrigerate slaw for 3 hours to overnight. Re-stir before serving. This slaw is best served within 24 hours.
•If Meyer lemons are not available, use 1/4 cup regular fresh lemon juice.
•If your food processor does not have a shredding dish, quarter Brussels sprouts vertically and place in food processor fitted with a chopping blade. Pulse until sprouts are finely chopped, stopping several times to scrape down bowl. Take care not to leave big chunks or to turn sprouts into mush.
Makes 8 servings. Per serving: 1/2 cup
Per serving: 120 calories, 7 g fat (1 g sat fat), 16 g carbohydrates, 3 g protein, 3 g fiber, 130 mg sodium.