Meatless Monday: Vegan Lutein Recipes for Healthy Eyes

Image credit mamchenkov
August is Children's Eye Health and Safety Month and Children’s Vision and Learning Month. Two out of every three kids will go back to school without a proper eye exam, say the Centers for Disease Control. “Many learning difficulties can be attributed to vision problems that are not detected during typical school vision screenings,” warns the College of Optometrists in Vision Development.

In addition to prioritizing professional eye checkups, you’ll also want to make sure the kids in your life are getting lutein from the best source - food. Dr. Mary Rose Teodoro-Chang, a pediatric ophthalmologist, recommends lutein as a defense against damage from ultraviolet rays, blue light and free radicals. When you think about it, how many kids wear sunglasses during:
·        recess
·        physical education
·        fire drills
·        outdoor pool time
·        ballgames, and
·        yard time at home?
That’s a lot of sunlight exposure for young eyes, and sunglasses aren’t always practical. Vegan lutein recipes are an easy way to help protect your children’s vision both for school and for life.

Eye Vitamins
According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), research has shown that lutein (LOO-teen) and zeaxanthin (zee-ah-ZAN-thin), vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc and Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial nutrients in preventive eye health.

Most Prenatal Vitamins Lack Lutein
In an interview on SuperKidsNutrition, Bridget Swinney, MS, RD suggests that both parents take children’s nutritional needs into account prior to conception, as well as during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Swinney states, “Lutein is rarely found in prenatal vitamins, therefore, a lutein-rich diet is important while pregnant and breastfeeding.

Lutein-Rich Foods
Eating for your eyes goes beyond carrots and leafy greens. A study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology found that corn was the best vegetable source for lutein, while orange pepper had the highest quantity of zeaxanthin. Kiwi, grapes, orange juice, spinach, zucchini and other varieties of squash also showed significant amounts of the two compounds. Ultimately, the team recommends a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables to make sure your family gets enough lutein.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Healthy Eyes
For my part, I looove carrots! My grandmother and mom taught me the old school line about eating carrots for healthy eyes. I literally had a 2-pound bag-a-day raw carrot noshing habit one summer, even dreamt I went out to check my rural mailbox and found it full of carrots. The next morning I looked in the mirror while washing up and my eyes looked fantastic, my nose wasn’t twitching, I hadn’t sprouted a cotton tail, but my undereye skin was YELLOW! Concealer and foundation were no help. Nor was my partner at the time - also a health nut - who found my predicament absolutely hilarious and got a belly-laughing, knee-slapping charge out of it the whole day long. Not to worry. Fewer carrots, plenty of water, a little walking, and some green juice shots did the trick in about 24 hours. Miraculously, my partner lived to see my clear skin the next day.

Lutein Fun Song
I’ve taken the liberty of slightly rewriting the immortal words of Hank Williams, Sr. to make things a bit more fun for the kids helping in the kitchen. Use those colorful fruits and veggies and kitchen utensils as microphones and instruments, then make up your own little dance to go with it.

“Heyyy, good lookin’!
Whaaatcha got cookin’?
Howsabout cookin’ lutein up with meee?”

So now, I present to you for your cooking and dining pleasure, vegan lutein recipes, in order of lutein and zeaxanthin content (almost), as stated by the study above: corn; orange pepper and squash; kiwi; grapes; orange juice; zucchini and spinach.

Raw Vegan Zesty Lime Corn Salad (DF, GF, SF, K, V, VG) (The Blender Girl)
Spaghetti Squash with Chunky Veggie Sauce (DF, GF, SF, K, V, VG) (Jordan’s Onion)
Raw Blueberry and Kiwi Tart (DF, GF, SF, K, V, VG) (Blissful Basil)
Roasted Butternut Squash with Grapes (DF, GF, SF, K, V, VG) (Stacey Snacks)
Blood Orange Juice (DF, GF, SF, K, V, VG) (Reboot with Joe)
Zucchini Rolls with Sunflower Seeds Pate’, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Spinach (DF, GF, SF, K, V, VG) (Chris Anca/Raw Food Recipes)

Buzz on over to my vegan vegetarian cookbook and our Recipe Index for more kid-friendly vegan recipes.

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