Eye health is on everyone’s mind as over 11 million Americans suffer from some form of macular degeneration (MD). The recent Journal of Clinical Investigation indicated that MD is the most common source of central vision loss in North America. This vision loss can disrupt driving, reading and TV viewing which greatly impacts quality of life.

Nothing says eye health more than sweet potatoes that originated in South and Central America. The carotenoids in sweet potatoes – lutein and zeaxanthin- act to absorb damaging blue and ultraviolet light which would damage the macula of the eye. Deep orange colored foods have oxygen carrying carotenoids which are more protective of the eye than green carotene vegetables.

The cause of MD is unknown but age is definitely a factor. An eye exam can identify if yellow spots on the retina called drusen are beginning to form. Smokers and those exposed to second hand smoke are at great risk. Those consuming a high sugar or high glycemic diet (doughnuts, cookies, cakes, high fructose corn sweeteners) were shown to have increased MD according to a study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2007.

Nutritionists have known for years that simple sugars damage proteins in cells and affect their function. Combine that with damaging sun rays and vision loss is eminent. Instead of antibody treatment injections or cancer drugs like Avastin that must be endured every 4 to 8 weeks, why not add sweet potatoes to the menu. Here is my favorite sweet potato recipe just in time for the holidays.

Spicy Sweet Potato Fries

IMG_08041 pound sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds or 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds or 1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons honey

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Cut skins off sweet potatoes and cut into long fries about 1/4 inch thick. Toss potatoes in oil to coat. Bake on sheet pan until tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine paprika, salt, cumin and coriander in blender or mortar & pestle. Grind fine. Remove fries from oven. Sprinkle seasoning over fries and bake 5 more minutes. Makes 2 servings.
Calories per serving 178
Protein 3 g
Carbohydrates 22 g
Fat 9 g
Sodium 389 mg