Food, Diabetes and Eye Health
More and more we are understanding the direct and profound connection between diabetes, eye health and the foods we eat. Unfortunately, advice about nutrition and its impact on vision and eye health can be confusing and frustrating. One day a report tells us that a certain food or supplement is good for us; the next day another report tells us that it is not.
Drs. Vincent Penza and Kathy Morioka at City Optometry counsel their patients regularly on how their overall diet affects their eye health. “Our ancestors made good choices for their diet by eating a wide variety of plant and animal foods so that their diets consisted of healthy meats, fish, shellfish, eggs, fruits, nuts, seeds, berries and complex carbohydrates in the form of wild plants, roots, and vegetables,” reported Dr. Penza.
This healthy diet provides:
- The right balance of saturated and unsaturated fats for cell membranes and nerve function;
- Complex carbohydrates for fiber and the maintenance of stable blood-glucose and insulin levels (diabetes prevention);
- High quality plant and animal protein for enzymes, muscles and other body tissue; and
- An abundance of essential vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals to act as antioxidants and enzyme system catalysts.
But did you know poor food choices affects your vision too?
When you eat a balanced, nutrient-rich diet, it is good for your whole body, including your eyes and eyesight. The nerves and blood vessels inside the eye are tiny and very sensitive. Part of a complete eye exam includes examining your retina at the back of the eye. These eye exams are especially important for people with diabetes and hypertension.
“Our modern diet of processed foods with their high levels of refined grains, modern vegetable oils, sugar, salt and chemical additives, and low in important nutrients, is promoting inflammation (water retention) and chronic diseases,” stated San Francisco optometrist, Dr. Morioka. “Unfortunately, this modern diet can lead to such conditions as macular degeneration, cataracts, myopia, and diabetic and hypertensive retinopathy.” Diabetes and hypertension can lead to blood vessel and nerve damage. Since the retina contains tiny and sensitive blood vessels and nerves, it is more likely to be affected. Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common causes of vision loss that can't be fully corrected with prescription glasses.
As it relates to diabetes, we need complex carbohydrates that provide fiber and the maintenance of stable blood-glucose and insulin levels. Remove the refined grains, starches and sugars from your diet.
Green plants (a good source of healthy omega-3 fats) and the various fruits and non-starchy vegetables cause only a limited rise in blood sugar while providing needed fiber for good intestinal and digestive health. The carbohydrate content of fruits and vegetables is low compared to cereal grains, and contain far more vitamins and minerals.
Dr. Penza suggest that “an ideal diet contains a variety of protein including fish, poultry and beef making up, on average, about half of your food energy. Plants, vegetables and fruit should provide the remaining half of your food calories.” Diet is a major component of your current and long term eye health.