January is National Eye Care Month, and there’s no better time of year to give your eyes a little extra TLC. Vitamin A is supports healthy eyesight, and there are plenty of vegetables that are chock-full of it!
Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A. Try to pick carrots that are a deep orange, because they contain more beta-carotene. Store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator to help preserve their essential nutrients, then bring ’em out to eat raw or cooked. In fact, most orange vegetables are packed with beta-carotene, including sweet potatoes, pumpkins and winter squash. The color is a good way to identify these awesome veggies.
Dark greens provide important nutrients as well, including vitamin A. Spinach is a very versatile option, as it’s perfect for light sautéing or fresh salads. There are also some lesser-known greens that can be uniquely delicious, so don’t be intimidated! Mustard greens are also a terrific source of vitamin A. When cooked, they are peppery and full-bodied. Try them sautéed simply with dark sesame oil as a wonderful easy side with an Asian meal, or use olive oil and garlic to accompany an Italian pasta dish.
Kale looks very much like spinach but has sturdier, spikier leaves. Though it is slightly bitterer, you can sauté kale just as you do spinach or eat it raw in a salad. Drizzle with a lemon vinaigrette and add some sweet elements, like dried cranberries and fruit, to balance kale’s sometimes sharp flavor.
For a nutrient-rich dish, try a raw slaw of Chinese cabbage (also known as Napa cabbage) and bell peppers. Both vegetables are full of vitamin A, and their mild, sweet flavors work perfectly together. Add chopped peanuts, cilantro and green onions and drizzle with an acidic dressing of vinegar, mustard and ginger. The flavors will wow your taste buds, and the colorful ingredients (and vitamin A!) will delight your eyes.
In addition to eating a nutrient-rich diet, an important way to maintain healthy eyes is by having yours examined by a doctor regularly. Most doctors recommend an exam about every two years unless you have a more serious condition. Visit eyecareamerica.org for more information.