Remember those old cartoons, where the character who ate carrots suddenly had super-x-ray-vision? Well, carrots are great, but of late, research keeps pointing to Kale. Specifically, to the Lutein found in kale and other leafy greens.
I don’t know about you, but I really like being able to see. In recent years, I have watched my Mother go through eye surgery, multiple treatments, and a steady loss of vision. Her sister also suffers from vision issues, and the two of them undoubtedly share genes with me that will lead me down a similar path. But I have been seeing an opthalmologist for annual screenings, and I think I have a secret weapon in my diet. Greens.
The latest study, published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry,says that lutein may protect the DNA of photoreceptive cells in the retina from the harmful effects of strong light. This adds to previous research showing that lutein helps protect us from age-related macular degeneration. The American Macular Degeneration Foundation reports that research shows that supplementation can actually replace lost pigments in the eye, and they recommend getting a daily dose of 6-30 milligrams of lutein and zeanthin, another carotenoid that is often present in the same foods.
These results have fueled a market for lutein supplements, which are, curiously, made from marigolds. But as long as you are trying to protect your health, maybe you should just load up on the green stuff. The highest amounts of lutein in foods are in leafy greens of all sorts, as well as in other colorful foods, like egg yolks, corn and oranges.
If you are going to eat with an eye to getting lots of lutein, remember to eat some fat with it, since it is a fat soluble nutrient, and needs fat to be absorbed. A cup of cooked kale has over 30 milligrams, which would be in the range of a good days worth. A cup of cooked spinach has over 14 mg, a cup of collards has at least 16.
Oh, and a baby carrot has 35 micrograms. That means you have to eat alot of them to get any significant amount of lutein.
No matter your age, you need to protect your eyes from damage. I’m betting on a steady diet of greens to help keep my eyes in top form, for whatever genetic curve ball is heading my way.
So, how do we get our greens? In a previous post, I extolled the joys of the green smoothie. I like to start every day with a blender drink made from 5 ounces of spinach, 1 ½ cups of frozen berries, a banana and 1 ½ cups of juice or kefir. If you are using juice or fat-free dairy, add something with a little fat, like a tablespoon of almond butter, or a splash of coconut milk. It really tastes great, and I eat 55 mg of lutein before I leave the house.
Link to that post:
Kale is a source for other nutrients vegetarians need, like calcium and EFA’s, so it’s worth exploring. The simplest way to prepare it is sautéed in olive oil, with some garlic and chiles for an Italian flair. Stirred into soups, curried and pureed, or blanched and dressed for a salad, kale has a hearty flavor that is best with other strong tastes. Lately I like to finely shred kale into coleslaws, with vinaigrette dressing. Collards, turnip greens, and mustard are all from the same eye-loving family, so give them a try. Spinach is the sweetest and mildest of the lutein greens, so if that is easier for your palate, dig in.
I’ll be seeing you, thanks to my kale salad!
Here is a link to a simple kale chip recipe on Vegetarian Times’ Website: