Can dogs eat peas
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Can dogs eat peas? (Picture: Google)
The new year is upon us and if you’re anything like me, you’ve been doing a lot of soul searching of late.
Maybe you’ve decided to eat less rubbish and become more aware of the planet.
Maybe you’ve decided to get fit.
Maybe you’ve decided to do something really big and bold.
So, how about setting yourself up for success by doing something amazing with your health this year.
Here are four things you could do to start 2018 with a bang.
Eat more green vegetables
It may sound like an old chestnut, but when it comes to health, it really is all about the vegetables.
If you think I’m talking about kale, give me a minute to convince you why I’m being slightly obscure.
Green vegetables are an important part of the diet for many reasons: they are low in calories, high in fibre, and help to keep the bowels regular.
There is an important caveat though: green vegetables are high in the antioxidant lutein which can help to protect against damage to the eyes, and reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
It sounds as if more green vegetables might mean you can skip on the kale, but there’s more to it than that.
There is a specific type of green vegetable that, when eaten in a balanced diet, will help to lower the risk of getting AMD and will also help to protect the eyes against damage caused by blue light, found in sunlight, from digital devices.
The type is called lutein + zeaxanthin (LZ). It can be found in all green vegetables but it is very common in broccoli, kale, spinach and parsley.
LZ is found in a wide variety of green vegetables. (Picture: Alamy)
What is lutein?
Lutein, commonly known as the ‘lutein of the eye’, is a yellow pigment that is found naturally in the cell membranes and is the second most abundant carotenoid (after beta-carotene) in the eyes.
It absorbs blue light and plays a key role in maintaining the health and function of the eyes. It is also responsible for making eyes sparkle.
Lutein is vital for vision because it keeps the light-sensitive cells in the eyes healthy. These are known as rods and cones and are responsible for detecting light.
Lutein helps to protect against age-related macular degeneration. (Picture: Getty)
If we are exposed to blue light for a long period of time, our eyes can become damaged and the cells stop working.
The result is gradual vision loss and the development of eye diseases.
How much do we need?
There is no specific amount needed because everyone is different, but according to the World Health Organization, an adult should be getting 50mg-60mg of lutein every day.
Lutein can be found in many food products – but the best sources are certain green vegetables.
Vegetables such as broccoli, kale, spinach and parsley are packed with lutein, and they are also easy to eat because they are eaten raw.
The lutein in plants may also protect against the development of prostate and breast cancers, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, mental health and depression.
If we don’t get enough of the lutein in our diet, it may increase our risk of eye and skin cancer.
It is the most abundant carotenoid in the body, and a deficiency can result in night blindness.
Lutein in the diet (not from supplement) helps to protect against night blindness, and can even treat it.
Lutein (the pigment) accumulates in the eyes, especially in the macula and helps the eye to see in dim conditions and blue light.
Lutein works by stopping the growth of blood vessels, which leads to damage and a loss of vision.
Lutein is also known to protect the eyes from aging.
It acts as an antioxidant which can prevent free radicals damaging cells.
Lutein found in leafy green vegetables. It is one of the most common carotenoids. (Picture: Getty)
A normal person’s eyes contains about 3,200g of lutein. A diet which contains about 1,200mg a day is the recommended daily allowance.
Vegetables such as spinach, peas and leafy greens are high in lutein.
However, you do not need to eat green vegetables to get the amount of lutein needed.
Lutein is also added to a range of foods such as dairy milk, rice milk and chocolate.
MORE: The best foods to protect your eyes from free radicals
MORE: What can I do to protect my eyes from ultraviolet light?