Macular degeneration attacks the part of the retina called the macula, which is responsible for fine, detailed vision. The condition leads to a progressive loss of sight in the centre of the visual field. That means it becomes difficult to read a book, drive a car and recognize faces. The exact cause is unknown but risk factors include cigarette smoking, obesity and excessive sunlight exposure.
A diet low in fruits and vegetables is also linked with a greater risk of macular degeneration. Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables are thought to protect the retina from the harmful effects of free radicals, unstable molecules formed from cigarette smoke, pollution and ultraviolet light.
Research has found that people who consume higher amounts of three antioxidants in their diet – beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E – have a significantly lower risk of developing the eye disease.
So, yes, carrots could help ward off macular degeneration. Besides carrots, other good sources of beta-carotene include sweet potato, winter squash, peaches, cantaloupe, kale and spinach.
To increase your intake of vitamin E, add nuts, seeds, wheat germ, avocado, whole grains and kale to your diet. Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruit, kiwis, green peppers, broccoli and tomato juice.
Foods rich in a phytochemical called lutein are also are associated with a lower risk of macular degeneration. The best sources of lutein include kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, green peas, broccoli, Romaine lettuce, Brussels sprouts, nectarines and oranges.
Eating oily fish regularly has been shown to prevent developing macular degeneration in the first place and also help prevent the disease progressing to a more advanced form. One of the omega-3 fats in fish called DHA is necessary for the normal functioning of the retina. The best sources of DHA include salmon, trout, sardines, anchovies and herring.