The eyes have one of the body’s highest concentrations of zinc—particularly in the iris and retina. Preliminary research suggests a link between low zinc intake and eye maladies such as color blindness, cataract formation and optic neuritis, the inflammation of the optic nerve. While the most traditionally cited sources of zinc include oysters, Dungeness crab and red meat, most vegetarians enjoy adequate levels of zinc, despite the absence of such animal proteins in their diet. Soybean products such as tofu, soy milk and soy cheese might well be the reason, as soy not only contains zinc but also has other compounds that aid the mineral’s absorption as well.
It should also be noted that findings from the Centre for Eye Research Australia in Melbourne indicate that despite the zinc content in red meat, carnivorous habits may significantly increase the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Researchers examined the diets and eye health of 5,604 men and women over the course of a decade and found that those who reported eating red meat more than 10 times a week had a 50 percent higher risk of AMD than those who ate meat fewer than five times a week. Those in the study who ate a lot of processed meats (e.g., salami and sausage) were the most strongly predisposed to AMD . But chicken intake showed no association with early AMD —and, in fact, actually appeared to be protective in a late form of the condition.
Other zinc sources include peanuts, peas, lima beans, summer squash, potatoes, corn, Napa cabbage and bok choy.
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