Nitrates in Beets and Leafy Greens may help Protect Eyes from Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Beetroot and Leafy Greens

Research shows us more and more how some kinds of foods are medicines. A study published by researchers at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research in Australia showed that vegetable dietary nitrates found in leafy greens and beetroot may be able to protect against age related macular degeneration of the eye. The study was published September, 2018 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Dietary Nitrate becomes Nitric Oxide

The dietary nitrate found in these vegetables becomes nitric oxide. Nitric oxide has been linked to serious eye disorders. Either there is too much nitric oxide or too little nitric oxide.

The Blue Mountains Eye Study

The Blue Mountains Eye Study was a population-based study of 2856 seniors age 49 and older from an area west of Sidney, Australia. The participants were examined at the beginning of the study and 15 years later the remaining 2037 participants were re-examined. Retinal photographs were analyzed for signs of age related macular degeneration. A food-frequency questionnaire was used to determine the amount of dietary intake of nitrates and the amount of nitrates consumed from both vegetables and non-vegetable sources.

This study was the first study to target the association of vegetable nitrates with macular degeneration.


The researchers found a positive association between the consumption of leafy green vegetables and beetroot with a lower risk for developing AMD.

The researchers found that people who ate 100-142 mgs of vegetable nitrates every day had a 35% lower risk for developing early onset AMD than people who ate less than 69 mgs of nitrates a day.

Previous Research

A previous study published June 21, 2018 in Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology showed that the abundant consumption of vegetables in both the Oriental and Mediterranean diets also was associated with a lower risk for developing AMD.

See also our blog post from July 3, 2019 about oranges helping to prevent AMD.

What is Age Related Macular Degeneration of the Eye (AMD)

According to the National Eye Institute (NEI) AMD is an age related eye disease that destroys sharp, central vision in the macula of the retina of the eye. This usually affects people after the age of 50. Diseases of the retina are a major cause of blindness in the United States.

In some people AMD progresses slowly, but in others it progresses faster and may lead to vision loss in one or both eyes. Usually, in the beginning of AMD there are no symptoms, so it can only be detected by a comprehensive dilated eye exam. For this reason seniors should have a yearly dilated eye exam by an ophthalmologist.


  • Blurred vision in the center of vision
  • Blank spots in central vision
  • Objects may not appear as bright as they used to be

Tips to Help Protect the Eyes

  • Wear good sun glasses that have ultraviolet protection against the rays of the sun.
  • If you sit at a computer, be certain to remember to blink often and to turn your eyes far away from the screen every 20 minutes for at least 20 seconds or more.
  • Quit smoking, as it dries up the eyes.
  • If you suffer from dry burning eyes, see your eye doctor about getting special drops or artificial tears.
  • Eat eye healthy foods like leafy greens, beets, apricots, oranges and carrots.
  • Your doctor may also recommend special supplements to take to keep the eyes healthy.
  • Make sure your blood pressure is under control. High blood pressure can sometimes lead to bleeding in one or both eyes and other problems.
  • If you suffer from diabetes you must also be under the care of an eye doctor, as diabetics suffer from eye problems like diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to blindness. Be certain that your glucose is under control.
  • If you wear eye glasses, make sure you do not forget your annual visit to your eye doctor.

Short or Long-term Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Care

If your loved one needs to be in short-term rehabilitation or long-term skilled nursing care, choose a facility that offers nutritious, healthy food with lots of vegetables and salads like the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York. Van Duyn also has a consultant ophthalmologist (eye doctor) available to the Van Duyn medical staff.


It pays to eat lots of leafy greens and beets not only to protect your eyes, but leafy greens have also been linked to all kinds of other health benefits.

Seniors over the age of 50 must have an annual dilated eye exam.

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