Monday, October 7, 2013

Don't Forget About Orange Veggies

Carrots were historically hailed as the best food to eat for your eyes, so most people expect orange vegetables to top the list of foods that promote eye health. High in beta-carotene, orange vegetables are an important part of any diet focused on eye health. However, recent studies are raising questions regarding taking a beta-carotene supplement. So, what is the story with beta-carotene and our eyes?

Everyone should eat foods that are high in beta-carotene to help maintain healthy eyes and vision.

• Beta-carotene is made into vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is an important part of the visual pathway for both rods and cones. 
• Diets high in beta-carotene may reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration.(1,2)

People that smoke should not take beta-carotene supplements.

Taking beta-carotene supplements can increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers.(3,4) However, eating a diet rich in beta-carotene does not increase the risk of lung cancer.(5) 

Include these foods in your diet several times per week: 
Sweet potato, canned pumpkin, butternut squash, and carrots

In addition to being high in beta-carotene, these orange vegetables are a source of vitamin E, zinc, fiber, lutein and zeaxanthin and vitamin C. Sweet potatoes top the list as the number one orange vegetable because they are the best food source of beta-carotene. They also contain a significant amount of fiber.

1. Van Leeuwen R, Boekhoorn S, Vingerling JR et al. Dietary intake of antioxidants and risk of age related macular dgeneration. JAMA. 2005;294(24):3101-7.
2. Tan JS, Wang JJ, Flood V, et al. Dietary antioxidants and the long-term incidence of age-realted macular degeneration: the Blue Mountains Eye Study. Ophthalmology. 2008;115(2):334-41. 
3. Alpha-tocopherol beta-carotene cancer prevention study group. The effect of vitamin E and beta-carotene on the incidence of lung cancer and other cancers in male smokers. N Engl J Med. 1994;330:1029-35
4. Omenn GS, Goodman GE, Thornquist MD. Risk factors for lung cancer and for intervention effect is CARET, the beta-carotene and retinaol efficacy trial. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1996;88:1550-99.
5. Mannisto S, Smith-Warner SA, Spiegelman D. Dietary carotenoids and risk of lung cancer in a pooled analysis of seven cohort studies. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2004;13:40-48. Doi:10.1158/1055-9965. EPI-038-3.
6. USDA Agricultural Research Service. Nutrient data laboratory.

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