Plant A Garden That Excites And Nourishes Your Eyes

The snow is finally melting, so I have begun inspecting our landscape. I want to see if our perennial plants have survived the winter. Usually by this time, our rose bushes are budding, the tall grasses are growing and the lilies are sprouting. I think I see a glimmer of green sprouting, though.

As I admire the various shades of green in the spring, I can’t help but value my eyesight. As we enjoy the splendor of spring colors, remember to take care of your eyes so you can continue to enjoy nature’s colorful art throughout your lifetime.

I thought about a question that came in to our office. What should you grow in your vegetable garden to promote healthy eyesight?

You might think of carrots and their association with eye health. While carrots certainly are a colorful, healthful option linked to reducing our risk of night blindness, leafy greens more often are linked to vision protection.

Among the most debilitating eye diseases are glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. You can nourish your eyes with smart food choices.

Macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of blindness, and scientists have found that diet can play a role in preventing this eye disease. The “macula” is a region close to the optic nerve at the back of our eyes that allows us to see clearly and distinguish colors. It is composed of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are pigments also found in colorful fruits and vegetables.

Some good sources of zeaxanthin are kale, collard and spinach greens, orange bell peppers and corn. Some good sources of lutein are kale, green leafy vegetables, spinach, corn, peas, and yellow and orange vegetables. Egg yolks are another excellent source of lutein.

Consider your eyes when you plan your garden plot, peruse a farmers market or make your grocery list.

If you decide to plant a salad garden, sow the seeds for a variety of leafy greens in the spring, and consider planting a second crop later in the summer. Be sure to water the plants well because the crispness of the lettuce will vary depending on the amount of watering. Control the weeds through shallow cultivation and keep the soil loose around the plants.

You can begin harvesting your greens when the leaves about 2 inches long. Consider harvesting the outer leaves so your plants will continue to produce. Be sure to rinse the leaves thoroughly under cool water, and try a salad spinner to remove excess water. You also can use a clean paper towel to blot dry the lettuce.

Along with a healthful diet with leafy greens, peppers, corn, peas and other veggies, these are some tips from the National Eye Institute to take charge of your vision. For more information about healthy eyes, visit http://www.nei.nih.gov.

  • See an eye-care professional routinely. If you are age 50 or older, have a dilated eye exam annually or as recommended by an eye-care professional. Age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma can be detected through regular eye exams.
  • If you smoke, take steps to quit.
  • Get regular physical activity.
  • Maintain normal blood pressure. Do you know your numbers?
  • Wear sunglasses and a brimmed hat when you are outside in bright sunshine.
  • Wear safety eyewear when you are working around your house or playing sports.

See www.ag.ndsu.edu/nourishyourbody for information about nutrition and physical activity for adults, including a lot more information about nutrition and your eyes.

 

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Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.