You might think that carrots are the best vegetable for eyesight, but that’s not necessarily true. In fact, it is leafy greens, which are the best for improving and maintaining your vision. This is due to the high concentration of two anti-oxidant carotenoids called lutein and zeaxanthin.
What Is Lutein?
Lutein is a carotenoid that is only made by plants. However, it is present in other foods. Eggs, for instance, have lots of lutein. It is their lutein content that gives the eggs their bright yellow look. The chickens eat plants that have lutein and it converts in their body to the bright yellow in the yolk and even their skin.
Biologically, and specifically with regards to the eye and vision, lutein is important for the macula. The macula is the part of the eye that is responsible for vision. So, a deterioration of the macula can lead to vision loss. This is commonly known as macular degeneration (wet or dry AMD).
Studies have linked an increase in Lutein consumption to a lowered risk of developing macular degeneration.
Lutein is found in the highest amounts in kale and spinach. Many studies suggest that heating the kale or spinach before you consume it helps to make the lutein more bioavaliable. One method is to blanch the kale or spinach before you juice it.
Zeaxanthin is a carotenoid that is in the retina and also the macula. Studies have linked a diet high in zeaxanthin with a decreased risk of age related macula disorders.
The foods highest in zeaxanthin include the leafy greens kale, spinach and collards.
How To Juice Leafy Greens To Help Improve Your Vision
When you’re juicing leafy greens to improve your vision, you might want to go about it a bit different than regular juicing. When you make a juice with leafy greens normally, you are looking to get the rich chlorophyll and enzymes. These are fantastic for your cells. They are great for preventing cancer and other cellular damage. However, when you are juicing to help your macula, you should be focusing on the lutein and zeaxanthin content in the leafy greens.
Most lists report that cooked kale and spinach have higher amounts of both nutrients. There is some debate as to the reason. One school of thought is that a cooked amount of kale is much more than a “raw” amount in volume. When you cook it, the leafy greens shrink. So, you technically have a lot more material, it’s just smaller.
The other school of thought is that by heating the leafy greens, you are helping to “unlock” or free the lutein and zeaxanthin from the cellular structure.
Juicing will allow you to get more zeaxanthin and lutein into your body than eating a bowl of cooked kale will. It’s the simple fact of fiber. The fiber in the leafy greens, while good for cholesterol, doesn’t provide you with the rich anti-oxidants.
So, what you can do is blanch the kale and spinach, then juice it later. The first step is to set up a pot of boiling water. Then, wash your kale or spinach in water to make sure its clean of any dirt of debris.
When the water has come to a rolling boil, it is time to drop in the leafy greens. Remember, you are not cooking it to the point of softness. You want only to blanche it; this will help unlock the lutein and zeaxanthin from its cellular structure.
Now, you don’t want to juice it hot. That would be sort of unpleasant to drink. So, place it in an ice water bath, or else place the drained leafy greens on a plate in your fridge until the cool off.
When they are cooled off, you can now juice them. The flavor is the same, in fact it is a bit milder. So, if you’re someone who doesn’t like the taste of kale or spinach juice, then you might actually prefer this method.
Remember, spinach needs less time to blanche than kale. Kale, because it is a bit more fibrous and touch, will need perhaps a minute. You can blanche spinach in maybe thirty seconds.
As always, you want to use a auger style juicer. They slow squeeze the juice out. This gives you the maximum output with minimal waste. This is an especially important issue when you’re juicing for nutrients such as lutein and zeaxanthin. You can read my article on how to choose the best juicer for leafy greens for more information about the importance of machine design.