Orange capsicums are good for the eyes

Orange capsicum for vege chat

Orange capsicums are good for the eyes – and it is the nutrient linked to the orange colour that counts.

Just as carrots were found to promote night vision through a nutrient called beta-carotene, now another orange vegetable has been found to be pivotal for eye health.

Research by Dr Tim O’Hare has identified orange capsicums as the richest source of the orange pigment zeaxanthin, which is vital for central vision. 

When it comes to orange zeaxanthin and health, Dr O’Hare says the compound accumulates in our macula, at the back of our eyes. It protects against blue light, which is particularly damaging as it can oxidise our photoreceptors, which leads to macular degeneration. As such, zeaxanthin deficiency leaves eyes susceptible to age-related macular degeneration, which in Australia, affects one in seven people over 50 years of age and one in three over 80.

Too much blue light can damage the light receptors (called cones) in the retina that are responsible for high-resolution central vision and colour perception. The more zeaxanthin in your macula, the more blue light is naturally screened from hitting the back of the eye. Dr O’Hare stresses that food is essential to achieve this protection: “Our bodies can’t make zeaxanthin, which means we rely exclusively on dietary sources or on artificial supplements.”

“The trouble at the moment is that orange capsicums are not always available in shops, something we are looking to overcome.” In contrast, the ‘traffic light’ capsicums – coloured red, yellow and green – contain no zeaxanthin.

Dr O’Hare has a tip for consumers who already include zeaxanthin-producing capsicums in their diets: “Zeaxanthin is fat-soluble, so it’s best served with a helping of olive oil or salad dressing to aid absorption,” he says. “Raw works well, although cooking the capsicum can also help by breaking down the cell walls to better release the zeaxanthin. But don’t overcook them, as overcooking will cause some of the zeaxanthin to break down.”

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