How Does a Vegetarian Diet Impact Cataract Formation?
If you speak with a doctor or health specialist, most will tell you the same thing: diet is important. What you eat is critical to your health. If your diet consists of mainly junk food and fast-food burgers, then you’re going to experience weight gain, joint pains, vision impairments, and other adverse health effects. Those foods may taste so very good, but they’re not healthy. Our bodies — and our eyes in particular — require more variety. They need more greens and colors — which means vegetables and fruits on a daily basis. A lot of us simply eat an apple once per week and call it a day. You should be eating healthier every day.
Recently, studies from Oxford University in London have discovered that a vegetarian diet may impact the formation of cataracts. Currently, there are over two million Americans who undergo cataract surgery each year. This number is growing significantly every year. It’s safe to assume most of these patients eat a meat-based diet. That could be their undoing.
What Are Cataracts?
There are three primary types of cataracts: nuclear, cortical, and posterior subcapsular cataracts. These ailments are the most common vision problem experienced in the country, especially in older individuals.
A cataract is a cloudiness in the lens of your eye. This cloudiness is often caused by proteins that have been damaged. In most cases, once a cataract has formed, surgery is the only surefire method to improve vision and reduce the clouded lens.
This new research as mentioned earlier points to diet as a primary factor for cataract formation, though. By cutting meat from our diets, we may lower the chance of cataracts developing altogether.
The recent study from Oxford University was broken into six categories:
- Vegans: People who do not eat meat or any animal product
- Vegetarians: People who do not eat meat but do consume dairy and eggs
- Pescatarians: People who do not eat meat but do consume fish, dairy, and eggs
- Low Meat Intake: People who eat under 1.7 ounces of meat per day
- Average Meat Intake: People who eat between 1.7 and 3.4 ounces of meat per day
- High Meat Intake: People who eat over 3.5 ounces of meat per day
For clarification, four ounces of meat is a single serving at a typical restaurant. Shockingly enough, most people eat bigger servings of meat while at home!
The results of this study showed a direct correlation between the amount of meat per serving and an increased risk of developing cataracts. Vegans, on the other hand, had a 40 percent lower risk of cataract formation than those who ate 3.5 ounces of meat each day.
Of course, those with diabetes, who smoke, or fail to wear sunglasses while outdoors are also at an increased risk for cataracts.
The Positive Side
Thankfully, the research leads to innovative ways to reduce cataract formation. Besides simply cutting meat from your diet altogether, you may substitute portions of your food with healthier options. For example, foods containing antioxidants, vitamin C and E, lutein, and zeaxanthin have been found to decrease the risk of cataracts.
According to the National Cancer Institute and U.S. Department of Agriculture, most people should be eating five servings of fruit and vegetables per day. That means eating healthy one day per week is a no-go!
If we can follow these diet regulations, the optimal number of antioxidants can be ingested and will help prevent cataracts.
Natural Foods to Try
Opting for a vegetarian diet is difficult for many. Most of have an ingrained love for meat products. Of course, if you’re interested in improving your diet altogether, there are specific foods found to be high in vitamins and antioxidants. These foods include:
- Green, leafy vegetables (such as kale, chard, and spinach)
- Orange peppers
- Green peas
- Peanut Butter
Honestly, the list of healthy foods that are also good for your vision could go on for quite some time. There are tasty, healthier alternatives to a burger or slice of pizza at lunch.