As the holiday that celebrates bounty, Thanksgiving is not a time to hold back at mealtime. Fortunately, there are foods that are as healthy as they are delicious. All of these options have nutrients that are beneficial for your eyes and delicious for your tastebuds.
You’ve heard “you are what you eat,” and this applies to eye health, too. Certain nutrients have been found to decrease the risk of age-related eye degeneration by 25 percent. In 2013, the original AREDS study (Age-Related Eye Disease Study) updated its original recommendations from 2001. Below are five foods that fit with the AREDS recommendations and might fit with your Thanksgiving menu.
1. Veggie Tray
Start your healthy eating with appetizers that include carrots and red bell peppers. Carrots may come as no surprise. Any orange food tends to have high amounts of vitamin A or its precursor, beta carotene. Beta carotene is a red-orange pigment that chemist W.H. Wachenroder first isolated from carrots in 1831. The body converts it into vitamin A, which is in turn a necessary ingredient in rhodopsin, a protein that helps the retina absorb light.
2. Spinach Salad
Get the meal off to a healthy start with leafy greens, which Medical Health Today points out “are rich in both lutein and zeaxanthin and are also a good source of eye-friendly vitamin C.”
For added eye-health benefits, toss some oranges segments into your spinach salad. Citrus is rich in the antioxidant vitamin C.
And for a boost of omega-3 and vitamin E, top with nuts or seeds, like chia, hemp, or flax.
3. Sweet Potatoes
While they are easily confused with yams, sweet potatoes are so much more common in the U.S. that most people probably have never seen a true yam. Sweet potatoes are much higher in beta carotene, and they also contain vitamin E, which can help slow age-related degeneration in cells.
Your sweet potato casserole will have a nice healthy crunch with walnut or pecan pieces on top. Nuts are another good source of healthy fats like omega-3s.
Hardboiled eggs make a good appetizer or can accompany dinner. You can use eggs in desserts such as bread pudding or egg custard, as well. Lutein and zeaxanthin are both found in large quantities in eggs. These two nutrients help preserve the health of the macula and prevent AMD (age-related macular degeneration), a common eye condition that accompanies aging.
5. Pumpkin Pie
The third orange vegetable on our list is pumpkin, and pumpkin pie is a classic way to end your Thanksgiving meal. Pumpkins deliver a high dose of zinc, which your bodies need to bring vitamin A from the liver to the retina to make the eye-protecting pigment melanin. Wash it down with milk fortified with vitamin A for a sweet treat for your eyes.