Diabetes has been shown to lead to an increased risk of blindness and other vision-related complications. Diabetic retinopathy is a chronic, progressive condition that affects the retina and causes vision loss. Diabetic retinopathy can be halted or even reversed if detected early, but left untreated or detected too late, it can progress to cause irreversible damage to the retina and lead to blindness.
A healthy diet is one of the most important factors when treating diabetic retinopathy, which is why in this article you will find four food groups you should incorporate in yours if you suffer from the disease.
Vegetables contain antioxidants and phytochemicals that help ward off oxidative damage to the retina. These chemicals are particularly abundant in dark green vegetables, such as asparagus, kale, collard greens and broccoli.
Asparagus contains antioxidants — in particular, glutathione — which is beneficial for eye health and helps reduce the risk of macular degeneration. This disease causes the loss of vision due to damage to the central vision and is common among people with diabetes.
Broccoli contains high levels of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that fights free radicals. Eating broccoli can help reduce the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy.
2. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats. Their protective properties have been shown to reduce oxidative damage to the retina as well as prevent the damaging effects of high blood sugar levels. The best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, tuna, nuts and flaxseeds.
Salmon is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which slows down the progression of diabetic retinopathy and reduces inflammation in the eyes. Other fish that contain omega-3 fatty acids are mackerel, tuna, halibut, sardines and herring.
Nuts and seeds have a high concentration of unsaturated fats which help lower risk factors for diabetic retinopathy such as insulin resistance (reduced blood flow to the retina) and cholesterol levels in the blood. This includes walnuts, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, pecans, cashews and almonds.
Fruits also contain a large number of antioxidants, along with other flavonoids which help protect cells from oxidative damage. This is beneficial for the eyes as it prevents a number of retinal complications. Excellent sources of fruits that are good for your diabetic retinopathy include apples, oranges, bananas, berries and grapefruits.
Apples contain the flavonoid quercetin which has strong antioxidant properties. Eating apples helps to reduce inflammation in the eyes and reduces risk factors associated with diabetic retinopathy such as macular edema (swelling of the retina). Oranges are packed with vitamin C, which improves blood flow to the retina.
4. Whole grains
Whole grains are rich in beta-glucan, which has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. This reduces the risk of diabetic retinopathy. Whole grains include oatmeal, whole wheat bread, brown rice and quinoa.
Oatmeal contains vitamin E which protects cells from oxidative damage and is a strong antioxidant. Consuming oatmeal every day can help lower your risk of future complications associated with diabetic retinopathy.
Whole wheat bread is rich in Vitamin C, lutein and zeaxanthin, which are antioxidants that protect the retina from damage caused by free radicals. It also contains selenium, which helps fight oxidative stress in general.