In terms of seasonal produce, you really can’t beat what’s available around Thanksgiving. If you’re like us, you wait all year to indulge in autumn favourites such as squash and pumpkin. An added bonus of most of this season’s produce is improved eye health! Many of these colourful vegetables are rich in antioxidants and provide, among other benefits, more than enough of your daily intake of eye-healthy vitamins. We’ve listed some of our favourites, along with suggestions for how you can incorporate them in your next recipe.
Don’t confuse these with yams. Sweet potatoes have a rich, orange flesh, whereas yams are identifiable by their white, starchy flesh. Unlike yams, the orange flesh of sweet potatoes is chalk-full of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, and makes a delicious alternative to regular French fries.
Suggestions: Peel and slice, brush with rosemary and olive oil, and bake in a 400°F oven for 30 minutes or until fork soft. Alternatively, poke holes with a fork and microwave on high for 8 minutes for a perfectly soft baked sweet potato on the go.
In addition to being a great source of vitamin C, scientists are beginning to study beets more closely for their nitrate content. Nitrates are essential in producing nitric oxide in the body, which helps open the body’s blood vessels and increases blood flow and oxygen. This allows more nutrients to fuel the body’s cells, especially those in your eyes.
Suggestions: Peel and slice or shave fresh beets and add them to a spinach or kale salad with almonds, feta cheese, and balsamic vinegar.
Just one cup of sweet green bell pepper provides 314 micrograms (combined) of lutein and zeaxanthin. These two carotenoids are found in high concentrations in the macula, and when included in your diet, may play a role in protecting it from age-related macular degeneration.
Suggestions: Core and seed the pepper, then stuff it with cooked rice, salsa, browned ground beef, and cheese and bake in a 400°F oven for 15 minutes. Peppers also make a good pizza topping and taste great raw, dipped in hummus.
Getting your daily requirement of vitamin C maintains your immune system and has been shown to keep eyes healthy. Vitamin C is essential in forming strong connective tissue, such as collagen, which is found within the cornea. A second antioxidant in Brussels sprouts, zeaxanthin, filters out harmful blue light rays while possibly fending off damage from macular degeneration.
Suggestions: Toss trimmed Brussels sprouts in olive oil and kosher salt and bake for 30 minutes on a baking sheet in a 400°F oven. Shake the baking sheet every 7 minutes to ensure thorough browning. Reduce heat to control browning as necessary.
More than something to carve for Halloween, pumpkins are rich in antioxidants including vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. This cocktail of eye-healthy nutrients works together to prevent degenerative eye diseases.
Suggestions: When pureed, canned pumpkin (plain, not the pie filling!) can be combined with butter, cream, and two parts vegetable broth to make a smooth, hearty pumpkin soup.
At this point, you’re likely noticing a trend in what makes these foods so healthy, and antioxidant-rich winter squash is no exception. Common types of winter squash include acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, and pumpkin! Key nutrient highlights are their ample beta-carotene, vitamin C, lutein, and zeaxanthin content, which fight against the development of cataracts and may play a role in preventing age-related macular degeneration.
Suggestions: Peel and seed the squash, then cut the flesh into 1-inch cubes and roast in a 400°F oven with olive oil, minced garlic, and salt and pepper for 30 minutes. Substitute olive oil with honey, maple syrup, or another sweet glaze for a tasty alternative.
Want to try more delicious recipes that are also great for your eyes? Download our free Eats for your Eyes Cookbook today!