Every February provides an occasion to celebrate Black History Month — yet it should also give pause to reflect on nutrition-related health problems that impact the black community disproportionately. One of those is glaucoma — which causes progressive vision loss, nerve damage and eventual blindness. Compared to Caucasians, African Americans are 15 times more likely to suffer visual impairment caused by glaucoma.

So it’s high time that research started paying more attention to this disparity. Researchers from the University of Southern California Los Angeles did just that when they followed 1,155 African American women over a decade of eye exams, combined with periodic dietary intake assessments. The end result: Women who ate 3 or more servings per day of fruit and vegetables were 79% less likely to develop glaucoma compared to those with the lowest produce intake. On the fruit side, oranges and peaches afforded the most protection, while high beta-carotene veggies such as collards, kale, carrots and spinach were singled out as particularly beneficial.

This echoes  earlier research which found that senior women in general enjoyed 64% lower risk with the veggies listed above, and a 47% lower risk with peaches. One study found that high intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin, plant compounds concentrated in leafy greens, delivered an 18% lower risk of developing cataracts. All this wonderful fresh produce will help lower your risk by lowering your weight: After reviewing more than 20 studies,  Israeli researchers found a strong correlation between obesity and several eye diseases.  So make a delicious start on keen, green vision with our recipe Whole Wheat Penne with Salmon and Kale.

Published February 1, 2013