There’s a 70% chance you don’t know what macular degeneration (MD) is, yet it’s the main cause of severe vision loss in New Zealand (half of all blindness cases are caused by MD) and it affects one in seven people over 50.
The scary thing is that people often brush off poor eyesight as part of getting older, when detecting changes early allows for steps to be taken to slow down or prevent the progression of MD. Studies show diet is important in reducing the risk of MD and slowing down its progression.
Now, you’re probably thinking I’m going to say you should eat a bag of carrots a day for optimum eye health. Instead it’s dark green leafy vegetables that are the best food for our eye health.
The antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin are present in high concentrations in a healthy macula (the macula is the part if the eye responsible for central, high resolution vision) and are found in dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, silverbeet and kale, and other vegetables such as peas, pumpkin, brussels sprouts, broccoli, corn and beans and in eggs.
Omega-three fatty acids are another important nutrient for eye health — they are found in high levels in the retina and are involved in cell development and renewal. Oily fish — like salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna — are your highest source of omega-three fatty acids. So here are a couple of omega-three, lutein and zeaxanthin rich recipes for you to enjoy.
Pumpkin and leafy green frittata
500g peeled butternut or crown pumpkin, cut into small 1-2cm cubes
1 large red onion, cut into 2cm chunks
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp liquid honey
2 cloves garlic, chopped
120g kale, cavolo nero, spinach or silverbeet leaves with tough stalks removed, chopped
6 free-range eggs
½ cup milk
½ cup cream
Good pinch of salt
150-200g feta cheese
2 tsp chopped thyme
½ tsp chilli flakes (optional)
½ cup sliced sundried tomatoes
- Heat oven to 200C.
- Toss butternut/pumpkin and red onion with olive oil and honey on prepared oven tray. Season with salt and pepper and roast for 20-30 minutes or until soft and slightly caramelised.
- Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan with high sides. Sizzle garlic for 30 seconds, then add kale and cook for a further 2-3 minutes or until kale is wilted — add a couple of tablespoons of water and place a lid on top of the pan to help create steam to cook the kale through.
- Lightly whisk eggs, milk, cream, salt, feta, thyme and chilli flakes together.
- Toss roast butternut/pumpkin and onion with kale inside the fry pan, and pour over the egg mixture. Scatter over sundried tomatoes. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until frittata is puffed and golden. Stand frittata in the pan for 10 minutes, before serving. Serve with a leafy green salad on the side.
Salmon with salsa verde, smashed potatoes and spinach
Potatoes, spinach and salmon
800g agria potatoes, scrubbed with leave skin left on, cut into 2-3cm chunks
100g baby spinach leaves
4 x 150g fillets salmon, skin on
2/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp capers
1 small clove garlic, peeled
2 anchovy fillets
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp dijon mustard
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Place potatoes and salt in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and cook until tender, 12-15 minutes.
- While potatoes are cooking, make the salsa verde. Place parsley, capers, garlic and anchovies on a large (preferably wooden) chopping board and chop all together in one big pile, until everything is finely chopped — this creates a slightly chunky salsa verde which I think has much better flavour and texture than one that has been blended until smooth. Place finely chopped ingredients in a bowl and mix with lemon juice, dijon mustard and extra-virgin olive oil. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Pat salmon dry with paper towels and season with salt. Heat a drizzle of oil in a large fry pan on medium-high heat. Cook salmon, skin-side-down, for 2-3 minutes until skin is crispy. Flip over and cook for 1-2 more minutes or until salmon is just cooked through.
- Drain potatoes and tip back into the pot, along with the baby spinach. Toss together until spinach is wilted — the potatoes should break (or "smash’') apart a little bit. Toss through salsa verde and season to taste with more salt and pepper if needed.
- To serve,spoon some salsa verde smashed potatoes and spinach on each plate and top with a piece of salmon.