High cholesterol is a condition most of us recognize as a threat to our heart health, but did you know that it’s also a threat to your eyes? February is High Cholesterol Awareness Month, so we thought it would be the perfect time to shine a light on this growing issue and how you can protect your eyes from its effects—namely through fiber and healthy fats.
Keep the Blood Flowin’
Just like your heart, your eyes have blood vessels and arteries. These keep blood moving to and from your eye, nourishing it and allowing it to function properly. Marjorie Knotts, O.D. from Knotts Optometry explains, “Over time, bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or LDL) can form plaque build-up in these vessels, blocking the vital blood flow. In the heart, the culmination of this can look like a heart attack, but in the eye it can look like a hemorrhage or retinal vein occlusion.” Yeesh, that’s heavy stuff. But not to fear; fiber and fat are here!
Keep the Fiber and Good Fats Comin’
Fiber, monounsaturated fat, and polyunsaturated fat are three powerful nutrients in the fight against high cholesterol. Below you’ll find foods with these ingredients as well as explanations as to how they work in your favor. So, in the spirit of Hippocrites (“Let food be thy medicine…”), give these foods a shot and let your body reap the benefits.
Steel Cut Oats – You can find certain brands that pack roughly 30% of your daily requirements for fiber per serving. Oats are one of the best sources of soluble fiber, which helps prevent your body’s absorption of bad cholesterol (LDL).
Flaxseed – “Omega-3 fatty acids help prevent diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and dry eye syndrome,” comments Dr. Knotts. For maximum effect, consume flaxseed in ground form as opposed to whole. Flaxseed is very versatile, so you can sneak it into all kinds of foods. Sprinkle it over your oatmeal, mix it into breads, or blend it into smoothies.
Walnuts – Just one ounce of walnuts (about 7 nuts) contains 13 grams of polyunsaturated fat and 2 grams of fiber. Polyunsaturated fat is a great replacement for saturated and trans fats because it helps lower bad cholesterol (LDL) levels, as does fiber.
Beans – Just one cup of cooked beans is packed with up to 12 grams of soluble fiber, depending on the kind of bean. Because fiber keeps you fuller longer, including beans in your diet can help keep your overall calorie count down. Fewer calories means less risk for excess weight that can lead to diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Salmon – This fatty fish contains omega-3 fatty acids that help to lower triglycerides, a kind of fat that circulates through your blood and can form plaque on the walls of your arteries. Salmon also contains polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which are “cleaner fats” that help fight LDL and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Just be careful not to counteract the healthy properties of salmon by frying it in a pool of oil! Bake it instead.
You might be wondering how salmon helps lower cholesterol when it appears to be a high cholesterol food. The key is what kind of cholesterol. Learn about the different kinds and their effects on your eyes here.
Brown rice – One cup of brown rice contains roughly 14% of your recommended daily allowance for fiber. Its qualifications as a whole grain mean that, in its unrefined state, it is able to prevent plaque build-up in your arteries caused by bad cholesterol.
Avocados – Between monounsaturated fat and beta-sitosterol, avocados are armed to block the accumulation of cholesterol on your artery walls. Cutting out cholesterol from your diet altogether is very difficult, but consuming foods like avocados can help your body flush out bad cholesterol.
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The content of this article is for general informational awareness purposes only. Please consult your eyecare doctor or physician for actual advice.