3 Ways to Beat Macular Degeneration

Medically reviewed in December 2022

If you've already blown out 60 birthday candles, it's time to get extra serious about protecting your eyes from age-related macular degeneration (AMD) -- by hitting the salad bar.

AMD is a progressive disease in the retina affecting people mostly over age 60. It gradually destroys sharp, central vision. But new research suggests that the nutrients you need to prevent it are all front and center at your local salad buffet.

Eye on Nutrition
AMD occurs in two forms: wet and dry. In the dry form, AMD may advance so slowly that people notice little change in their vision. In the wet form, the disease progresses faster and may lead to a loss of central vision in both eyes.

But newly published studies suggest that high dietary intakes of beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fats -- as well as vitamin D and zinc -- could reduce the risk of early AMD, especially in people with an inherited tendency toward the disease. So here are three eat-for-your-eyes salad bar tips you can use today to reduce your risk of AMD:

  1. Load up on the carotenoids. At the salad bar, that means lots of carrots and leafy greens for lutein/zeaxanthin and beta carotene -- nutrients associated with less AMD.
  2. Lay on the omegas. Get your omega-3 fatty acids by sprinkling crunchy nuts on top of your salads. And add a little tuna on top, too. Diets high in fish oils and nuts have been shown to reduce the risk of AMD. Plus, coldwater fish like tuna, salmon, and sardines also contain appreciable amounts of vitamin D3 -- another AMD stopper.
  3. Look into a supplement. Many AMD studies have used zinc supplements to reduce risk of the disease, but check with your doctor before taking zinc. If you'd like to get more zinc through diet, add sunflower seeds and kidney beans to your green salads. A supplement with B vitamins (folic acid, B6, and B12) may be beneficial as well.

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