When it comes to food, fall is the time to feast.
It’s not hard as you think to incorporate eye-healthy ingredients, starting with the star of October itself—the pumpkin.
This fall superfood is high in several vitamins and minerals:
- Zinc, which maintains your retinal health.
- Vitamin A, which protects the cornea.
- Vitamin C, which reduces the risk of developing macular degeneration and cataracts.
Pumpkin spice lattes, unfortunately, do not fit the nutritional bill.
Instead, try recipes that use the flesh of this vegetable. This pumpkin chili incorporates other eye-healthy ingredients such as kale and lentils.
Kale is a great source for carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that protect your eyes like natural sunscreen by filtering out UV light. Lentils, along with beans and other legumes, provide bioflavonoids that promote retinal health.
This recipe by Jenn Sebestyen is vegan and gluten-free. It’s featured on her website for plant-based whole-food recipes for the whole family.
While you have the bowls out from the pumpkin chili, you might want to try another fall favorite—butternut squash soup.
This version is also naturally gluten-free and vegan. Barcelona blogger Ali of the GimmeSomeOven.com created this delicious fall indulgence that’s as good for your eyes as it is for your taste buds. The recipe is easy to make in the slow cooker or crockpot and can be prepared on the stovetop as well. Butternut squash is the very taste of fall itself.
Besides vitamins A, C, and E, winter squash also provides omega-3 fatty acids, unlike their summer counterparts such as zucchini and yellow squash. Studies point to the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in preventing macular degeneration, dry eye syndrome, and even glaucoma, because of their role in promoting proper fluid drainage in the eye.
For an added health boost, garnish the soup with sunflower seeds for a satisfying crunch. Sunflower seeds, along with hazelnuts and peanuts, contain high levels of vitamin E for cataract prevention.
Something that sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and butternut squash have in common is their deep orange color. This color indicates that these vegetables all contain beta carotene, which is thought to reduce the risk of eye infections, night blindness, and even dry eye.
The body can turn beta carotene into vitamin A, which is best absorbed along with a little healthy fat such as olive oil. This sweet potato casserole uses pecans for that purpose. Nuts are another source of healthy plant-based fats. And not only does this recipe come from the experts at Epicurious.com, but it is also part of their series of dishes that can be made using only 3 ingredients (not including kitchen staples like salt and pepper or olive oil.) It is a favorite of senior food editor Anna Stockwell, and we think it might become a favorite of yours as well.
Greens & Legumes
This light take on a traditional carrot salad features yet another deep orange vegetable. And its collard greens and chickpeas are also super beneficial for the eyes. The salad recipe from Cooking Light is Paleo-friendly. Garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas) can be soaked overnight or bought canned and ready to go.
Antioxidants abound in dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and collard greens. It’s almost impossible to get too many greens in your diet. Incorporating them into soups and stews is a good strategy for fall in particular. When you want something fresh, the legumes in this salad will give the dish more protein to satisfy your appetite, as well as high levels of zinc to maintain retinal health.
Did we mention the importance of leafy greens? Here’s another idea for a fall dish that features those eye-healthy green vegetables. Brussels sprouts are back in favor, and this recipe by Bobby Flay for the Food Network proves why.
Not only do the greens provide lutein and zeaxanthin, but the hazelnuts also add healthy omega-3 fatty acids and zinc, and the pomegranate seeds in the garnish are excellent sources of antioxidants. All of these eye-healthy nutrients make for a winning combination and a fun and interesting take on the vegetable side dish.