Metabolic Health
Reviewed by

Shifa Fathima

Diabetic Retinopathy Diet

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the many complications caused by diabetes, especially in individuals who have chronically high blood sugar levels. At first, the damage to the retina may cause mild or no symptoms, and a person may experience minor problems with their vision. But as it progresses, diabetic retinopathy can lead to a complete loss of vision. However, the loss of eyesight can be prevented by maintaining blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels. 

A person with diabetes can regulate their blood sugar levels with a healthy diet. Cutting down on sugar, fat, and salt will also keep the cholesterol levels and blood pressure within the normal range. The following sections discuss the to prevent diabetic retinopathy. 

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy can affect both, persons with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It occurs when the retina, the tissue that lines the back of your eye, gets damaged. High blood glucose levels damage the retina’s blood vessels. With damaged vessels, the blood supply to the retina is affected. This is followed by the growth of weaker blood vessels that create scar tissue. The retina, in turn, is unable to send a signal to the brain – a mechanism that allows you to see – causing loss of vision. An individual may experience mild problems with vision or a complete loss of eyesight when affected by diabetic retinopathy. We recommend consulting a doctor if you have diabetes and witness even one of the following symptoms:

  • Loss of vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Seeing dark spots 
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Inability to distinguish colours

Diabetic retinopathy progresses in stages, and persons following a healthy diabetic retinopathy diet can prevent loss of vision caused by this condition. It is, therefore, important to understand the causes of diabetic retinopathy. High blood sugar levels over long periods can cause irreparable damage. Other risk factors are as follows: 

  • High blood pressure
  • Being overweight
  • High levels of cholesterol
  • An unhealthy diet or poor nutrition 
  • Physical inactivity

Foods to Eat For Diabetic Retinopathy

By following a healthy lifestyle and adhering to the recommended diabetic diet, you can maintain healthy eyes and prevent the progression of diabetic retinopathy. Limit the intake of salt, sugar, fats, and alcohol, and quit smoking for better eye health. Our nutrition experts recommend the consumption of certain types of food to prevent diabetic retinopathy. These are good for your overall health, particularly the eyes. You can find healthy replacements for your favourite sweet and savoury foods. 

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits are packed with antioxidants, nutrients, and vitamins that can prevent any complications of the eyes. These are also found in leafy greens, citrus fruits, and corn. It has been proven that vitamins and nutrients increase the elasticity of the blood vessels, promoting eye health. Vitamin A, which is found in spinach, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc., is essential for vision, immunity, and cell growth.

Whole grains

A rich source of fibre, whole grains help maintain blood sugar levels and can prevent diabetic retinopathy in the first place. These also contain vitamins and minerals. Include more oatmeal, millets, brown rice, and quinoa in your diet in place of refined grains. 

Plant proteins

A healthy diabetic diet should also include proteins, which help regulate cholesterol and blood sugar in the body. Plant proteins like tofu and beans are loaded with nutrients, vitamins, and fibre. Also include skimmed milk, low-fat cottage cheese, and other dairy products in your diet.

Healthy fats 

Fatty fish, seafood, nuts like almonds and walnuts, and vegetable oils like olive and canola, also promote eye health. Healthy fats found in these sources aid the absorption of vitamins and minerals and promote heart health. 

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Foods to Avoid in Diabetic Retinopathy

Avoid the foods and drinks that are not a part of your diabetic diet. Anything that causes an increase in blood sugar levels, especially sweet and sugary food, is a complete no! The types of food to avoid in diabetic retinopathy are mentioned below. 

Sugars and processed foods

Say no to processed or refined sugar, fruits high in fructose and starch, cold drinks, and juices with added sugar. Avoid fast food, processed food, sugary sodas, and iced teas. All of these cause a spike in blood sugar levels and increase cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Trans fats

You should avoid cookies, crackers, pizza, margarine, fried foods, and certain bakery items that contain trans fats. Trans fats increase the levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol in the body. These increase the inflammatory response in the body and add to belly fat and insulin resistance. Trans fats also increase the risk of heart disease. 

Flavoured yoghurts, breakfast cereal

Low-fat yoghurt is highly recommended for a diabetic diet. However, the fruit-flavoured varieties of yoghurts and breakfast cereals are loaded with extra sugars and flavouring. These add extra carbohydrates to the diet, which can cause an increase in blood glucose and also lead to weight gain. Opt for plain or Greek yoghurt and low-fat breakfast cereal. 

Jaggery, honey, maple syrup

Jaggery, honey, and maple syrup are promoted as healthier alternatives to processed sugar. But that is not necessarily true. Naturally-occurring sugars in these foods contain just the same amount of sugar, which can cause damage to the body, so you should avoid it.

Bottomline

One of the complications of diabetes is diabetic retinopathy, which occurs when chronically high blood sugar levels cause damage to the blood vessels of the retina. This affects the blood supply to the retina and may cause mild symptoms like blurred vision, before progressing to complete loss of vision. The good news is that the condition can be entirely prevented by following a diabetic retinopathy diet. Food rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients not only keeps the eyes healthy but also promotes the overall health of an individual. Regulating the levels of blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure is also important in preventing diabetic retinopathy. Other types of food to prevent diabetic retinopathy are healthy fats, proteins, and whole grains. To follow a diabetic retinopathy diabetic diet, cut down on sugary foods and drinks, processed foods, trans fats, and flavoured yoghurt and cereal. 

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