The beneficial effect of these vegetables seems to come from the pigments that produce their dark, green color. These pigments are the antioxidants known as lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein and zeazaxthin are both found in the retinas of the eyes, and help to lower the risk of both macular degeneration and cataracts. Macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in seniors, is caused by damage to the center of the retina, called the macula. A cataract is a clouding of the eye's lens. Both of these eye diseases seem to be caused by free radicals...lutein and zeaxanthin are chemicals that work to neutralize these free radicals.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also effective for protecting the eyes. Studies show that Omega-3 deficiencies in the diet may lead to problems with vision. Omega-3 fatty acids are not produced by the body, so they must be included in the diet. Good sources include fish, especially shellfish, walnuts and wheat germ.
Source: Women's Health Center, "Eat for Your Health: Diet and Eye Disease." Everyday Health, 18 Feb 2008.
Women's Health Center, "Eat for Your Health: Diet and Eye Disease." Everyday Health, 18 Feb 2008.