I’ll be honest: I’m not a fan of kale. However, a recent diagnosis is forcing me to change my mind about including the bitter, tough veggie in my diet.
I have macular degeneration in both eyes, and the topic of kale came up.
Dr. Melissa Tada, optometrist at Mountain View Vision, told me, “Kale has scientifically been proven to reduce the risk of macular degeneration or slow the progress of damage if the condition already exists. Try it in smoothies.”
Coincidentally, at another appointment, Dr. Brant Gehler, optometrist at The Wright Eye Center, asked me if I liked kale — to which I grimaced and responded “No!” He said, “I don’t either, but it’s got the nutrients that support eye health and may help slow down the progress of your wet macular degeneration.”
I went looking for books on the subject and found “Eat Right for Your Sight,” by Jennifer Trainer Thompson and Dr. Johanna M. Seddon, professor at Tufts Medical Center Ophthalmic Epidemiology and Genetics Service. They wrote the cookbook as a project for the American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF).
Age-related macular degeneration is damage to or breakdown of the central part of the retina, called the macula, which allows us to see details clearly. It can impair both distance and close vision, but does not affect peripheral vision. It does not cause total blindness, but can result in complete loss of central vision.
There are two types of macular degeneration: dry and wet. Dry is the more common form of the disease and vision loss is gradual. Wet macular degeneration happens when abnormal blood vessels form underneath the retina and leak fluid or blood. It counts for about 10 percent of macular degeneration, and vision loss can be rapid and severe.
I have both types of the disease, so I’ve been very interested in finding any methods that will slow it down.
What I learned from the cookbook is that certain nutrients are vital to eye growth and development, such as carotenoids. Kale is super rich in these carotenoids. It’s also rich in vitamin K, which assists the liver in generating blood-clotting proteins needed to reduce the blood produced by wet macular degeneration.
In the cookbook’s introduction, Seddon writes, “From 1994 to 1996, we reported that the antioxidant nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin, which are abundant in kale and spinach, along with the anti-inflammatory nutrients called omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in salmon, sardines, hearing, and mackerel, could reduce the risk of macular degeneration.”
Her research found that 6,000 micrograms of lutein and 2,000 micrograms of zeaxanthin per day from food sources like kale could reduce the risk of macular degeneration by 43 percent and that two or more servings per week of fatty fish could reduce the risk by 40 percent. That’s a tiny amount of these nutrients resulting in huge benefits.
According to nutritional data by AMDF, 1 cup of raw kale has 22,148 micrograms of lutein and zeaxanthin, and one-half cup of kale — boiled or baked without salt, and drained — has 16,903.86 micrograms. Kale was the first on its list of foods rich in these nutrients. (Visit tinyurl.com/uyvv4z3 to see the complete list.)
Armed with this knowledge, and this cookbook, I’ve embarked on ways to fall in love with kale. The spicy kale chips and kale and banana smoothie are delicious; next up, I’ll be trying the soup and entrée recipes.
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