Can Your Diet Prevent Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

By Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N.

Macular degeneration is deterioration of the retina which can cause blurred vision and even blindness in older men and women. It is the leading cause of blindness in the US for people over 50.  Four antioxidants which are effective in protecting your eyes are: lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E. Carotenoids are antioxidants that can attach to destructive free radicals in cells thus making free radical inactive & unable to destroy healthy cells.  Research has suggested that two carotenoids,  lutein and zeaxanthin, may help prevent and slow the progress of age-related macular degeneration.

Both of these carotenoids are present in the retina of your eye.


Best food sources for Lutein & Zeaxanthin: kale, collard greens, spinach, Swiss chard, summer squash (all varieties), pumpkin, Brussels sprouts, turnip greens, broccoli, yellow corn, green peas, orange and green  peppers, carrots, lettuce (butternut, Boston, Bibb, romaine), asparagus, okra, radicchio, green beans, persimmons and tangerines.   


Best food sources for vitamin C: oranges and juice, grapefruit and juice (pink & white), all colors bell peppers, strawberries, guava, pineapple, papaya, lemons, kiwis, cantaloupe, mangos, clementines, raspberries, blackberries, watermelon, tangerines persimmons, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, kidney beans, all varieties of cabbage, cauliflower, sugar snap peas, snow peas, mustard and turnip greens, red and green tomatoes, summer squash, okra and white potatoes (with skin).


Best food sources for Vitamin E: kiwi, mango, avocado, peaches, tomato paste, red bell peppers, turnip greens, asparagus, radicchio, collard greens, broccoli, Swiss chard, spinach, almonds, hazelnuts, peanut butter, peanuts, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, wheat germ and wheat germ oil, fortified whole-grain cereals, sunflower seeds, canola oil, olive oil, and flaxseed oil.



What is the Nutritional Bottom Line?

Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables each day is currently recommended by the National Cancer Institute and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This strategy can provide more than 100 milligrams of vitamin C and 5 to 6 milligrams of carotenoids, including lutein and zeaxanthin if you choose colorful fruits and vegetables daily.  In addition, eating two servings of nuts and seeds can provide 8–14 milligrams of vitamin E (11.9–20.8 IU).  Food sources of these nutrients are the best choice because they contain a wide range of other nutrients. By making better food choices, let your food be your medicine & help prevent blindness as you age.





Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N, is a registered dietitian who has been teaching healthy lifestyles strategies to consumers for over 35+ years. Barbara has a new health and wellness online magazine as well.


Foods that Contain Lutein*

Food Serving Milligrams (mg)
Kale, cooked 1 cup 23.8
Spinach, cooked 1 cup 20.4
Collards, cooked 1 cup 14.6
Turnip green, cooked 1 cup 12.2
Spinach, fresh 1 cup 3.8
Winter squash, cooked 1 cup 2.8
Corn, can or cooked 1 cup 2.2
Green peas, canned 1 cup 2.2
Broccoli, cooked 1 cup 1.6
Romaine Lettuce, fresh 1 cup 1.3
Carrots, cooked 1 cup 1.1
Green beans, cooked 1 cup 0.8
Egg 1 large 0.15
Orange 1 medium 0.2


Resource: American Optometric Association


Foods that Contain Zeaxanthin*

Food Serving Milligrams (mg)
Kale, cooked 1 cup 11 – 20
Spinach, cooked 1 cup 5.9 – 12.7
Collards, cooked 1 cup .37 – 5.1
Turnip green, cooked 1 cup 5.1 – 12.2
Spinach, fresh 1 cup 3.6
Corn, can or cooked 1 cup 2.8 – 3.1
Broccoli, cooked 1 cup 3.4
Green pepper 1 cup 1.7
Persimmons 1 cup 0.8
Egg 1 large 0.25
Orange juice 1 cup 0.34 – 0.2


*There is no recommended daily intake of either lutein or zeaxanthin, but research suggests that 10 mg/day of lutein and 2 mg per day of zeaxanthin would provide assistance in preventing macular degeneration.


Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N., is a registered dietitian with a Master’s Degree in clinical nutrition.  The former publisher of Kentuckiana HealthFitness Magazine, Kentuckiana Healthy Woman magazine and radio show host of Health News You Can Use, Barbara has over 30 years of experience in promoting healthy lifestyles to consumers.  Barbara worked as Nutrition Consultant to the Navy SEALs (8 years) and the University of Louisville Athletic Department (10 years). Barbara has private practice, DayByDay Nutrition,, where she counsels clients on weight loss, cholesterol management, performance nutrition and an array of other medical issues.  Visit Barbara’s new website which is an on-line health & wellness magazine, Barbara writes nutrition and health columns for as well as a weekly nutrition column for the Southeast Outlook. She also designs and presents employee wellness programs to small and large businesses. Barbara is a runner, cyclist, hiker and a mother and grandmother to 12 grandchildren.    


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