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Q & A WITH THE AUTHOR

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SANDRA YOUNG, OD

I have special dietary needs. Will I be able to use the recipes in Visionary Kitchen?

While all the foods used in Visionary Kitchen emphasize the nutrients that support the health and well being of ocular tissues, special attention was given to a variety of dietary preferences and requirements. All recipes are labeled indicating gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and vegetarian. Lists of ocular nutrient dense foods will help to personalize meals.

Macular degeneration (Age-related Macular Degeneration or AMD) and cataracts are two of the leading causes of visual impairment in Americans. Will diet and lifestyle really help their vision?

Yes. Recent studies have shown that proper diet and exercise have the power to alter the course of macular degeneration in many people. While there are hereditary components, nutrition and lifestyle play a role in decreasing the risk of visual impairment with age. Research has shown that the carotenoids: lutein and zeaxanthin, and the antioxidants: vitamins C and E, in combination with beta-carotene, zinc and the omega-3 fatty acids play a supporting role in maintaining good ocular health. Acquiring these nutrients in a whole food form creates a beneficial nutritional synergy for our eyes beyond what supplements alone can provide. Lifestyle can promote healthier eyes and better vision. A healthful “eye diet” promotes a level blood sugar and a healthy weight. This should be complimented with regular physical activity. Smoking is a risk factor for developing macular degeneration (AMD). Wearing quality UV400 protective sunglasses helps to lessen the stress ultraviolet light places on the macula. There are indications that these measures are also likely to delay or reduce the risk of cataract formation in many individuals.

Are there other health benefits associated with eating these foods beyond ocular health?

A diet that is good for the eyes is also good for several organ systems as well as overall health. The retina, a neurological layer inside the eye comprised of light receptors, is an “outcropping” of the brain. The brain and the retina both benefit from eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids regularly. A diet high in omega-3’s may slow the progression of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients and even improve mental skills. Omega-3’s and the antioxidants in an “eye diet” decrease the risk for certain cancers and chronic inflammatory diseases. The lower glycemic impact foods and complex carbohydrates decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. These same nutritional principles are considered beneficial for cardiovascular health.