Antioxidant Eyeballs

Dr. Fuhrman will tell you, antioxidants are strong medicine. In fact, antioxidants and other phytochemicals are profound cancer-fighters. He explains:

The most dramatic finding in nutritional science in the last fifty years is the power of plant-derived phytochemicals to affect health. Phytochemicals, along with the rich assortment of powerful antioxidants found in unrefined plant foods, fuel a defensive system that removes toxic cellular metabolites that age us. Phytochemicals also are required for maintenance and repair of our DNA.

Cancer may be promoted by toxic compounds, but we have cellular machinery, fueled by phytochemicals, to detoxify and remove noxious agents and to repair any damage done. Our body is self-healing and self-repairing when given sufficient nutrient support to maximize efficiency of protective cellular machinery. But, only when we consume large amounts of green vegetables and a diversity of natural plant foods can we maximize phytochemical delivery to our tissues.

And some new research links antioxidants and “rabbit food” to healthy eyeballs. Here’s looking at you kid! Karen Ravn of The Los Angeles Times reports:

Surprisingly, despite their reputation, carrots are probably not near the top of the list. Certainly, the vitamin A they're full of is necessary for eye health, says Dr. Michael Marmor, an ophthalmology professor at Stanford University School of Medicine. "But people are generally not vitamin A deficient in our society, and a high dose doesn't do any more good."

The most useful vegetables, according to new research, seem to be the leafy green ones -- such as spinach, kale and collard greens -- which are rich in the antioxidant carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.

These are also the only carotenoids found in measurable amounts in the eye, says Bill Christen, a professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and Harvard Medical School. "That adds credence to the idea that they could be of benefit," he says.

Christen is lead author of a new study published this month showing that people who eat diets high in lutein and zeaxanthin are less likely to develop cataracts than others whose diets included less of those nutrients. A second new study by Australian scientists that is to be published next month, found similar results for age-related macular degeneration.

But while these studies show a diet-eye health relationship, they do not directly demonstrate cause and effect. Only one study to date has shown specific nutrients can cause reductions in risk for eye disease.

By you’re probably saying, “Where can I get some of those antioxidants?” Here’s a decent list of antioxidant sources from Diana Kohnle of HealthDay News. Take a look:

  • Vitamin C, found in citrus fruits and juices; berries and other fruits; dark green vegetables; red and yellow peppers.
  • Vitamin E, found in vegetable oils, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables.
  • Selenium, found in whole grains, most vegetables, chicken, eggs, and most dairy products.
  • Beta carotene, found in colorful fruits and vegetables like broccoli, spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, red and yellow peppers, apricots, cantaloupes and mangoes.

I’m not feeling the vegetable oils, but I tell you one thing. I love sesame seeds! I sprinkle them on lots of things and according to Dr. Fuhrman they’re packed with antioxidants. Check it out:

Sesame seeds have the highest level of calcium of any food in the world. Interestingly, they not only have a highly absorbable spectrum of vitamin E, they increase the bioactivity of vitamin E in the body.1 Comparing the many forms of vitamin E in sesame seed with the vitamin E in supplements is like comparing a real horse to a toy horse. Sesamin, a sesame lignan, has beneficial effects on postmenopausal hormonal status, raises antioxidant activity in body cells, decreases the risk of breast cancer, and lowers cholesterol.2

Speaking of sesame seeds, here’s a little dialogue Dr. Fuhrman and I had about sesame seeds. And yes, we’re a little nerdy. These are the types of things we discuss. Enjoy:

Me: Are there any significant nutritional differences between regular sesame seeds and black sesame seeds?

Dr. Fuhrman: Regular sesame seeds are hulled, the outer brown cover it removed and along with it 90 percent of the calcium and other minerals. It is like comparing white bread to whole wheat. Brown and black sesame seeds are almost equal nutritionally but the important thing is neither has the hull removed.

Me: Gotcha. I buy raw black and brown sesame seeds from my farmers market. The black have an interesting peppery taste.

Anyone else enjoy black sesame seeds? I find they go great over spinach or blended into seed and avocado-based salad dressings.

1. Cooney RV; Custer LJ; Okinaka L; Franke AA. Effects of dietary sesame seeds on plasma tocopherol levels. Nutr Cancer. 2001; 39(1):66-71.

2. Wu WH; Kang YP; Wang NH; Jou HJ; Wang TA. Sesame ingestion affects sex hormones, antioxidant status, and blood lipids in postmenopausal women. J Nutr. 2006; 136(5): 1270-5.

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Comments (11) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Marla Hamrick - January 23, 2008 9:10 AM

How about the juices that claim to be antioxidant super foods? noni, mangosteen, etc. I have been researching them on places like Some get incredible reviews, and others say they are a scam. I know one thing for sure--they are expensive...

Gerry Pugliese - January 23, 2008 10:46 AM

Hey Marla-

Dr. Fuhrman would tell you just to eat the whole fruit. Check out this post:


LLouise - January 23, 2008 1:43 PM

Yep! I know this firsthand. I had a thorough exam and my eyes showed no signs of disease or decline. I aced all the tests too! I've been following Dr. Fuhrman's Eat to Live for 4 years now, and it's no wonder -- ALL those leafy greens I eat! :D

Gerr, I love black sesame too. It's sold as Black Tahini also. Very yummy! And packed with calcium, which I like to get through my food.

Great post blog entry!

Gerry Pugliese - January 23, 2008 2:02 PM

Hey Llouise-

Great to hear about your eye exam. Actually, I heard Howard Stern say once that doctors can tell based on a certain vein behind the eye how good a person's health is. I wonder if its true? I got to ask Dr. F.

Black tahini? Interesting. Where do you buy it?


LLouise - January 23, 2008 2:45 PM

Interesting. I don't know about getting nutritional advice from Howard, lol. I think he's pretty healthy, though, I recall hearing... Wonder if he's read Eat To Live?

There are several now, in some healthy-type markets, usually the brand from, and Artisana brand found at
Also found in Asian markets inexpensively. But may not be fresh and raw.
You can make your own butters out of any of the seeds by just blending to a cream. A strong blender is best, but a processor might work with a few drips of water to help it along.

Gerry Pugliese - January 23, 2008 2:55 PM

Hey Llouise-

Thanks for the links! Perfect. I love bending all kinds of seeds and nuts. Its a great and healthy way to thicken things.

Oh! Check this post out about Howard Stern:


LLouise - January 23, 2008 5:00 PM

Oh, wow, that's cool! I wonder if that's when I first heard about Howard talking about healthy stuff... He should have him on the show instead of just discussing it. Why hasn't he?? C'mon Howie :^)

Ron Elterman - January 23, 2008 11:25 PM

Yes, unhulled sesame seeds are loaded with calcium, but they also contain oxalic acid, which inhibits calcium absorption. Do black sesame seeds have less oxalate? How much more calcium do we absorb from unhulled than hulled sesame seeds?

Joel Fuhrman, MD - January 30, 2008 7:55 AM

The amount of oxalic acid in sesame seeds is insignificant and unhulled sesame seeds have almost 10 times the calcium, compared to hulled.

Claudia Mooij - February 15, 2008 5:53 AM

My intraocular pressure has been slowling inching up to the pre-glaucoma level for years. Typically it's in the low 20's. On Jan 25 I was at the ophthamologist for an minor eye infection and it was 22 in both eyes. I faithfully did ETL and when I returned to the eye doc for a routine visual field test, it was 16 in both eyes. The doc could not believe it, since it hadn't been that low in many years. She did the test again and got 17 in both eyes. Pretty amazing!

Gail Ginn - December 23, 2009 10:48 AM

I've just been told about the benefits of sesame seeds but discovered that the unhulled (black) seeds contain a great deal of oxalates. This impairs the absorption of calcium. So even though these seeds are suppose to be high in calcium, it is a calcium that can't be absorbed. Because I'm a vegetarian, I'm looking for a plant source of calcium rather than an animal source. I have osteoporosis and need approximately 1500 mg of calcium a day. Any suggestions as to what foods I can eat.

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