Eye health in dogs has become the talk of the town. There’s more and more discussion about eye disease in canines, including macular degeneration, cataracts, uveitis and glaucoma.
Many people have written to me, asking if there are any particular foods they could consider including in their dogs’ diets to foster eye health and perhaps help prevent or stave off eye problems. Here’s a top ten list of foods that contain some all-important eye-worthy buzz words like anthocyanins, beta-carotene, carotenoids, glutathione, Omega-3 essential fatty acids, lycopene, phytonutrients – and the very special partnership of lutein and zeaxanthin, sometimes referred to as sunscreen for the eyes.
contain two very important eye healthy carotenoids – lutein and zeaxanthin. They also contain anthocyanins, eye-nourishing phytonutrients that are shown to support night vision. Flavonoids, like rutin, resveratrol and quercetin, are also found in blueberries, and may help prevent macular degeneration. Blueberries also contain selenium and zinc, which further support vision. Eating blueberries has even been associated with the reduction of eye fatigue.
Besides its anti-cancer benefits, broccoli is also recognized as one of the best vegetables for eye health. It is a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin and is also packed with beta-carotene. Try parboiling a few broccoli florets by simply dropping them into boiling water and timing for two minutes; cool and serve for a power-packed side dish. Don’t leave the leaves behind, because they contain even more beta-carotene than the stems and florets. Broccoli and broccoli sprouts have been found to protect the retina from free radical damage. This may be due to a compound called sulphuraphane, which boosts the body’s defense system against free radicals. Almonds and Brazil nuts are gluten free, rich in vitamin E – and support eye health.
are among the kingpins of the vegetable patch. There are over 100 varieties, from the deepest purple and white to the brilliant orange we are most accustomed to seeing. Each is a storehouse of nutrient power. Carrots contain pro-vitamin A, betacarotene, vitamins B, C, D, E and K, and riboflavin, niacin, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, iron, magnesium, manganese, sulphur, copper and iodine. The old axiom that carrots are good for the eyes is not just a myth. Carrots also contain lycopene and lutein, protective phytonutrients that protect the eye from UVB radiation and damage from free radicals.
4. Cold water fish
such as salmon, tuna, cod, haddock and sardines are rich in Omega-3 essential fatty acids. Fish is especially high in EPA and DHA, two Omega- 3s important to cellular health. DHA makes up 30% of the fatty acids that comprise the retina. The particularly high levels of Omega-3 in sardines provide some protection against macular degeneration.
are rich in cycteine and sulphur, two components of glutathione. This may explain why sulphur-containing compounds have been found to protect eyes from cataract formation. Egg yolks contain lutein, and diets high in lutein may lead to a reduced risk of developing macular degeneration. The zeaxanthin found in eggs is also beneficial to eye health. A study published by the University of Massachusetts in 2006 found that eating an egg a day raised levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in the blood, helping reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration. The study further found that while serum lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations in the blood were significantly increased, serum lipids and lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations were not.
Sulphur-rich garlic is important for the production of glutathione, an important protein that acts as an antioxidant for the lens of the eye. Glutathione is found to be instrumental in the prevention of some visual problems.
is an excellent source of lutein and zeaxanthin. The american Optometric association says these special antioxidants act like “internal sunglasses”. add beta-carotene to the mix and you have the perfect food to help to protect against oxidative stress.
The beautiful bright orange is a sure sign that pumpkins are packed with carotenoids such as beta-carotene, which help neutralize free radicals. The lutein and zeaxanthin found in pumpkin also promotes eye health and makes it yet another whole food that protects against macular generation. Even pumpkin seeds carry lots of benefi ts, including Omega-3, zinc and phytosterols to enhance your dog’s immune response.
9. Sweet Potatoes
have so much to offer. They are one of the world’s healthiest foods. They are loaded with beta-carotene, making them the perfect choice to protect eye health. steaming sweet potatoes for just seven minutes actually maximizes their potential to support canine health. sweet potatoes are packed with anthocyanins that have antioxidant and anti-infl ammatory properties.
are known as a super food. They contain two eyehealthy nutrients – lycopene and lutein. lycopene is a carotenoid and phytonutrient found in red fruits and vegetables. it is a powerful antioxidant that can help protect against macular degeneration. lycopene has been well documented as effective in cancer prevention, and its antioxidant properties act to protect the eyes from sun damage. Processed tomato products contain higher levels of lycopene than raw tomatoes. in fact, lycopene is even more bioavailable when tomatoes are cooked with a little fi rst-pressed extra virgin olive oil, increasing the body’s ability to absorb and utilize this very important eye support. Pass the tomato sauce!
4 to 6 cups brightly colored fruits and vegetables
6 cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons first-pressed extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
Chop vegetables by hand or use a food processor. Transfer to a medium sauce pan. Add olive oil and salt.
Turn stove on high until bubbles begin to form, then turn down to simmer and gently cook for 15 minutes.
Cool before serving with wild Pacific sardines packed in spring water or another coldwater fish, such as salmon, tuna, cod or haddock.
1 bunch kale or large-leafed greens
1 tablespoon first-pressed extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Remove leaves from the thick outer stems of the kale.
Cut or tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces and wash them with filtered water. Dry them in a salad spinner or pat them dry with a paper towel or tea towel. Spread the kale pieces on the cookie sheet.
Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with sea salt, garlic powder and hemp hearts, if desired. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the edges of the leaves are turning golden in color.
Remove from oven, cool and serve. Store in an open container; if they lose their crunch, simply pop them back in a pre-heated oven for a few minutes
1 can (15 ounces) pure pumpkin pureé or 2 cups fresh pumpkin
1 cup almonds
1 cup Brazil nuts
2 cups whole oat flour
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
Alternative ingredients include hemp flour or quinoa flour, which can replace the whole nut flours. If you would like to make this recipe more sweet than savory, simple add ¼ cup local honey, and you will have a healthy treat your whole family can share.
Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Grind almonds and Brazil nuts in a food processor until they form a flour. Add remaining ingredients and continue to process until thoroughly mixed. Remove dough and form a large ball.
Form small pieces of dough into balls and roll in extra oat flour, if needed, and place on cookie sheet. As though you are making old-fashioned peanut butter cookies, gently flatten each ball.
Place cookie sheet in a cold oven, and turn on to 325°F, using the convection setting if available. When oven reaches temperature, turn down to 175°F, and leave for 1½ hours.
Turn oven off and allow the biscuits to cool completely before storing in an airtight container or Ziploc bag. 1 teaspoon sea salt ¼ teaspoon garlic powder (optional 1 tablespoon hemp hearts (optional)
Eye Spy Eggs
½ cup dark leafy greens, shredded
½ cup carrots, finely grated
1 clove garlic, finely minced (optional)
5 whole eggs
2 tablespoons first-pressed extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
Cool to room temperature before serving. This is so yummy it almost disappears before I can transfer it to my dogs’ bowls!
Use organic ingredients whenever possible. Simply whirl all the ingredients in a food processor and serve as a meal topper or side dish.