TV star chef Robert Irvine shares tips for delicious eye-friendly meals.
Whether he’s competing on The Next Iron Chef or transforming a local bistro on his hit show, Restaurant: Impossible, Robert Irvine knows how to overcome culinary obstacles.
Not surprisingly, the 48-year-old British chef approaches his health in the same take-charge way. He rises at 5 AM to squeeze in a workout before he’s called to the set. And when it comes to eating on the road, he’s not shy about making special requests. “A lot of people are hesitant to ask for their meals to be altered, but when I’m not able to cook my own entrées, I order a healthy meal in a restaurant,” Robert says. “If the items are available on the menu, most chefs don’t mind making substitutions.”
No surprise, then, that Robert began investigating the impact of food on eye health after he started wearing glasses to correct nearsightedness about 10 years ago. “You have only one set of eyes—and people often don’t understand how important food choices are when it comes to improving both overall health and your vision,” he says.
The busy chef talks about three of his favorite eye-friendly foods.
1. Kale: This leafy green is rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, powerful antioxidants that accumulate in the retina and shield the eyes from light and glare. (Other good sources include egg yolks, corn and spinach.) These nutrients may help stave off cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to separate studies by the National Eye Institute and researchers at Harvard.
Chef’s tip: “I make fried kale using grape-seed oil and seasoned with Cajun spice. Even my kids love it—you can eat it as a snack, like popcorn.”
2. Red bell pepper: Thanks to its red pigments, this sweet pepper is packed with more sight-saving antioxidants than its green and yellow counterparts, including lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene and vitamin C (one red bell pepper provides 240% of your daily requirement for vitamin C!).
Chef’s tip: Along with adding bell peppers to salads and stir-fries, Robert tosses them into his juicer (the red ones are great for adding sweetness), combined with ingredients like cucumbers and a lemon wedge.
3. Salmon: Eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (like salmon, sardines and tuna) may help quell eye inflammation and slash the risk of AMD by 42%, according to a report in the Archives of Ophthalmology. The study-proven amount? Just one serving a week (more often is good, too!).
Chef’s tip: For an added eye-health boost, Robert suggests this twist: Coat salmon with crushed pistachios—they’re loaded with more lutein and beta-carotene than any other nut.