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Nutrition and your vision

Vision acuity is measured on a 20/X basis, where the first number is the standard distance of 20 feet between the eye being tested and the eye chart. A person with 20/40 vision can see clearly at 20 feet what a person with normal vision would see at 40 feet.

Eyeglasses and contact lenses can correct many types of vision issues, including nearsightedness and farsightedness. However, “low vision” cannot be corrected with glasses.

Some of the main contributors to low vision include a poor diet, smoking, aging and uncontrolled diabetes. For example, low vision can result from macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy.

Those with low vision may lose the ability to see colours, adjust to glare and see in dark areas. If you or someone you know is experiencing issues with low vision, consider some ways to help yourself or that person with food preparation.

To decrease glare, install blinds over windows in the kitchen. Gooseneck lamps allow you to have light on your preparation area without as much glare as overhead lights.

Use measuring cups that contrast in colour with the item being measured. For example, use brown or black measuring cups to measure sugar or flour. To avoid cuts, use cutting boards that contrast in colour with the food being chopped.

To help prevent burns for someone with low vision, obtain oven mitts that cover to the elbow. If you have an oven with a dial, consider marking the common oven temperatures with a large dot of craft paint near the most common baking temperature.

Be sure to talk to your eye-care professional if you notice any changes in your vision. Have regular eye checkups.

Nutrition plays a key role in helping prevent macular degeneration, which is a leading cause of vision loss. Scientists have reported that lutein and zeaxanthin (natural colourants in food, especially fruits and vegetables) can help “feed your eyes.”

  • Eat dark, leafy greens, such as spinach, Swiss chard and kale. They are the best sources of lutein.
  • If you don’t like spinach, try these good sources of lutein: corn, egg yolk, romaine lettuce, zucchini, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peas, yellow/orange vegetables (not carrots because they have beta-carotene and are good for night vision) and kiwi.
  • Enjoy these foods high in zeaxanthin: corn, orange bell peppers, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, spinach, oranges and mango.
  • Try cooking vegetables to increase the absorption of lutein and zeaxanthin.
  • Choose healthful fats. Fat allows better absorption of lutein and zeaxanthin. Choose “oil and vinegar” type salad dressing using olive or canola oil instead of the fat-free types.
  • Enjoy some eggs. Eggs are a highly absorbable source of lutein and zeaxanthin.

About the author


Julie Garden-Robinson is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.

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