Nutrition for the Retina


Published in Retina NZ Newsletter - November 2016
By Dr Emma Sandford

Good nutrition is an incredibly complex matrix of nutrients that must be present in just the right amounts. The digestion and absorption of a nutrient and then it’s onward participation in countless reactions throughout the body, depends intimately on the presence of other nutrients, again in the Goldilocks ‘just right’ proportions.  While I have focused on the eye-related nutrients that I mentioned in my last letter, there is no getting away from the fact that a broad array of plant based foods, with a little bit of good quality, organic/home kill meat, a glass of red wine, some fresh caught oily fish [canning destroys the omega 3 fatty acids] and abundant handfuls of herbs and spices, a bit of dairy here and there [not daily] cannot be replaced by taking handfuls of supplements. If however that is the best that can be managed or you prefer to be sure that you have what you need, spend the money on a reputable brand from your health shop and ensure that it has what you need and that it is in a usable form.

Our average Western diet is absolutely woeful and various intrinsic deficiencies have lead to the rash of chronic degenerative diseases that plague our society. These include high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, Age-related Macula Degeneration, cataracts, elements of glaucoma, chronic degenerative diseases etc.  There is a massive over reliance on grains, many people eating one form or another for every meal in a day. Bread was always the poor man’s filler, but with the new hybrids and advent of GMO there is much more gluten [amongst other things] in our wheat.  This means it is now possible and [commercially] financially desirable to make bread in minutes, rather than the traditional 24 hours, where genuine fermentation and time were the important factors.

Shipments of wheat are sprayed with Glyphosate [Roundup] to stop them sprouting in transit and just before harvesting to help dry the plant in readiness for harvest. This is absorbed into the body of the plant, it can’t be washed off.  Please feel free to follow up on the many diseases linked to the use of glyphosate and its sequestering of minerals in the soil and in the food. So the poor man’s filler has become the poor man’s poison!

There are many writers and nutritionists as well as researchers who are coming out in favour of a plant-based diet with fruit, veges, nuts and seeds as the biggest and widest tier of the food pyramid. The Mediterranean diet has been much lauded and as long as your food is ethically, organically or biodynamic-ally grown or better still home-grown, the better off you will be. Plants provide so much more than the well known vitamins and minerals. They provide fibre which helps the body rid itself of all waste products including excess cholesterol.  It directly feeds our gut bacteria and  actively encourages the thriving of good gut bacteria. This is a far more potent and long lasting way to create a probiotic environment. Good gut bacteria are key to not only our bowel health, but also to our immune system and because of the gut brain axis it impacts heavily on our mental health, Autism and ADHD, allergy, bowel disease etc. [look up the ‘GAPS diet’ etc. by Dr. Natasha Campbell, for autism and mental illness].

Plants also provide over 25,000 phytonutrients which the plant often produces as part of it’s own defence mechanism against browsing, attack by fungi and bacteria, as quenching agents against high energy light reactions, confer their colour and more. These have a vast array of functions and benefits in the human body from the well known anti-oxidants to mop up all those highly reactive molecules that arise as a result of our metabolism and the fact that we breathe oxygen in order to combust our food for energy production. These phytonutrients are delicate and are most often destroyed by processing and cooking. Eat as much raw food as you can.

Enter stage right…. The green smoothie, throw everything into your blender with some coconut milk or something with fat in it, whiz up and drink it down!  Eat as much seasonal variety as possible including edible weeds try looking up http://www.ediblewildfood.com/edible-weeds.aspx. Please do look these up before picking, so that you identify them correctly.  At your first pick, take a leaf and flower to a herbalist or a knowledgeable plantsman. This is a great way to make a salad, a stir fry or a herby spaghetti dish colourful and nutritious. There also an array of edible flowers, see the top food sources for lutein [try http://www.eattheweeds.com/edible-wild-flowers/  ].

One might aim for being able to tick off 50 different foods [wheat counts as 1 when counting, bread, pasta, Weetbix, muffin etc.], herbs, spices, beverages [Red Wine again *giggles].

I would recommend Dr. Libby’s Real Food Kitchen to you. There are lots of sweet treats.  It’s the non-refined ingredients that make all the difference. Though she is against the consumption of dairy, I feel that, as long as you aware that it doesn’t cause problems [try 2 weeks off it, then resume and observe the changes] then go ahead and indulge. I make my mashed potato with cream and butter! YUM! It’s what you eat everyday that matters in the long term.

Aim to eat raw, unprocessed foods especially unrefined sugars and natural salt [sea-salt or rock-salt], these should be coloured by their mineral content! Aim to eat fermented foods and condiments like sauerkraut and kimchi. Every ancient tradition has their own versions. They tend to be a vitamin C boost, and an aid to digestion as they are acidic and a probiotic.

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