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Foods For Eye Health | "Rock Your Retina” Food Challenge

Published in Retina NZ Newsletter - February 2017
By Dr Emma Sandford

I challenged Emma to create some recipes which will help us get our much-needed nutrients from real food, and specifically foods for eye health, and she has come up with the “Rock your Retina Food Challenge”. 

It's simple … just include as many of these recipes in your weekly meal plan and try to eat at least 50 different foods in 7 days. And the catch? For best results you need to repeat the 7 day challenge at least 520 times!  

The recipes that follow are enough to make anyone salivate and are not too difficult to make, so give it a try! Your eyes [and everything else] will thank you for it.

When you need advice on foods for eye health and other natural ophthalmologist services Emma is the person to speak to!

My “Paleolithic” Bread | Foods For Eye Health

1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup tapioca flour
1 cup coconut flour
1 cup almond meal
1 cup sunflower seeds for crunch
salt, water

METHOD: make into a dough and knead for 10 minutes, leave to stand in a warm place for 5-12 hours.  Bake the next morning at 180ºC. Butter lavishly.  Suitable for open sandwiches or toast.

Fried Eggs & Toast | Foods For Eye Health

(Free range organic eggs from genuinely pasture fed hens, Paleolithic/grain free bread). Fry eggs in coconut oil or butter. Butter toast lavishly.

Green Smoothie | Foods For Eye Health

“What are the benefits? The benefits are increased amounts of enzymes, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, essential fatty acids and fibre.

They help boost the immune system, maintain the correct pH balance in the body, cleanse our inner organs and are a complete, easily digestible superfood. Refer to Julia’s site for many recipes.

I love green smoothies as a menu choice and a medicine as the nutrients are all readily available to be absorbed.  Smoothies are packed with goodness and are an easy way of accessing what would otherwise wear your teeth out if you had to chew through it all on a daily basis.  The advantage over juicing these same vegetables is that you’re not wasting the goodness in the soluble and insoluble fibre. 

The soluble fibre is what good bacteria in the gut feed on. The good bacteria in turn produce unique chemicals that our enterocytes (cells that line the gut) themselves feed on.  A high fibre diet, both soluble and insoluble, decreases your rink of colon cancer and high cholesterol.

The great thing with Green Smoothies is that you can throw almost any edible plant or weed in there – including your broccoli that’s bolting to flower – and it will come out tasting delicious. You can add a frozen or fresh banana, oils that are challenging to the palate like your fish oils, cod liver oil etc.  I often add hemp oil to mine.  You can make them with either almond milk, coconut milk, cream, dairy milk or yoghurt. There should be some fat/oil in it so that the fat soluble nutrients can be absorbed by your gut.

Ensure that you alter your recipe daily as this will avoid excesses or deficiencies occurring. E.g. avoid spinach daily as it is high in potassium. Excess potassium interferes with the electricity flow in the heart and can lead to arrhythmias.

Get on the Pith | Foods For Eye Health

The pith of citrus fruit is incredibly important. It helps to maintain strong and non-leaky blood vessels and strong connective tissue. Instead of peeling your citrus just shave off the rind.

Fresh Fruit Salad and yoghurt with a dried fruit and nut garnish is one of my favourite breakfasts.

Grain Free Pancake | Foods For Eye Health

This is another Dr. Libby’s Real Food Kitchen recipe. This is also adaptable to make corn fritters.

¼ cup chia seeds
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
pinch salt
1½ cups water (you may need more or less depending on your flour)

METHOD: Put your chia seeds in the blender and grind, add buckwheat flour and combine with water to make a batter.  Preheat a tablespoon of coconut oil in a frying pan.  Ladle ¼ cup of batter into the hot oil.  As the pancake loses it’s shine and bubbles are appearing on the surface, your underside will be golden brown and your pancake is ready to flip.

Serve with blueberries and coconut yoghurt.  A great breakfast treat.

Herby Pesto | Food Good For Eyes

Pick a handful of herbs and edible weeds and season with Himalayan salt and blend with ample olive oil to create a paste. You can add garlic and also blend in seeds, pistachio or cashew nuts. Soaking nuts and seeds first, will help to to activate and soften them.

This pesto is made from Fennel, Broccoli, Plantain and Garlic.

A Posh Nosh Lunch | Food Good For Eyes

Smoked salmon atop a rice cracker with herby pesto or cashew nut butter.

Vegetable Frittata and Salad | Good Eye Health Foods

Dice any vegetables to hand into pieces, 1-2cm cubes for the denser more slowly cooking root vegetables and florets or bite size for others. Again lightly fry in butter or coconut oil starting with the root vegetables, then onions and then add less dense vegetables and finally lightly sweat your finely chopped herbs before adding your pre-beaten eggs then stir so that the egg mix gets between you vegetables as a binding agent.

Replace the frying pan lid, turn down the heat to prevent burning on the bottom and allow to cook through before adding your cheese gratin (grated cheese+/- crumbs on top) or add your cheese into the beaten eggs. This recipe can easily be adapted to the more traditional oven baked dish.

As a side dish, slices of cucumber are canapé-like bite sizes of yum, with peanut or almond butter on top.

The salad is seasonal greens including, broccoli leaves, beetroot leaves, fennel, kale and spinach. The vinaigrette is apple cider vinegar and olive oil, or sesame, avocado or nut oil. Ring the changes as much as you can with your greens and your oils. I often sprinkle with nuts and seeds.

Herby Pasta | Herbs For Eye Health

This is made with seasonal leaves. This particular one is made with NZ spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides) also known as K?kihi (in Maori), Botany Bay spinach, Cook's cabbage, sea spinach, and tetragon. Add finely chopped Fennel, Broccoli florets and diced stalk, Shallots, Garlic – about half a bulb.

Cook the “pasta” (I’ve used quinoa and rice) and about 10 minutes before the pasta is ready sweat the herbs in butter about 100g (serves 4).  Strain the pasta and then stir in your buttery-herby-garlicy yumminess. Dress with grated cheese if desired.

Pumpkin Soup with Bread and Butter! | Food Good For Eyes

Chop skin and pip pumpkin as normal. Cover the pumpkin in water and salt and low simmer until soft. Stick blend until smooth. Add a nob of butter, dash of cream or a dollop of yoghurt, coconut yoghurt or coconut cream.

Serve with Paleo bread and sink your teeth into that salty buttery goodness

Tofu and Vege Curry | Food Good For Eyes

Bean curd and soy should always be properly fermented! There are some great NZ brands of Tofu that can be bought at your local asian store. Use any seasonal veges.  I added a tin of sweet corn for colour and that burst of sweetness. This was a quick lazy dinner, where all the veges got thrown into a pan with a can of coconut cream, a dessert spoon of garam masala, bit of salt and by the time it came to the simmer it was done.

Raw Salad Options | Foods For Eye Health

This raw vegetable salad is sliced french beans, orange pepper, carrot, spinach, red onion and tomato. Stir in pumpkin seeds, walnuts and home made mayonnaise.

These are a wonderful new way of presenting tasty vegetables all year round. Vary and get creative with your dressings. You can serve nicely with hot or cold meats,  scrambled eggs or any other protein source of your choosing.

Salmon with Pasta or Chips | Eye Health Foods

Salmon is a great source of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). I source mine from Aoraki Smokehouse Salmon, which I buy bulk, cut half boned tails into portions and then freeze.

Sweat the greens with a finely chopped onion in butter. Stir through your pasta.

Salmon is great served with home made chips which are easily done in a frying pan or in the oven using olive oil or coconut oil. Turn occasionally until golden and crisp on each face.

Smoked Fish & Stir Fried Veges | Healthy Food For Healthy Eyes

Seasonal vegetables chopped into bite-sized pieces. Stir fry in coconut oil and Tahini. Serve with smoked fish on the side.

Smoked Fish Salad | Eye Health Foods

Fresh cold-smoked fish from your local market or Smokery is the best option. Some smoked fish is cooked and then smoke-flavoured syrup poured over the top!  Avoid tinned fish as most of the good oils are destroyed. Just add some salad vegetables, sliced pear, avocado and baba ghanoush.

Accompanying red wine optional.

Crock Pot Roast Chook | Foods For Eye Health

This is one of my favourite bases for meals for the next few days. Hot roast, cold chicken salad, chicken risotto made with the bone broth. This is one I prepared earlier. Here I have rendered it into it’s useful components, i.e. all of it. The bones are bagged-up and frozen ready for the big cook-up of broth that I do twice a year. I reserve the hearts and stomach muscle for soup making and the livers for pate and stir frying. If you buy from your butcher ask for the giblets [neck & organs].

Home Made Burgers | Foods For Eye Health

This is the beginnings of a batch of burger cooking. I defrosted 2kg lamb mince and 600g minced offal. The ratio of flesh meat to organ meat (heart, liver and kidney) of around 3:1 will give a strong gamey flavour without being overwhelming.

Finely chop an onion and combine this and the meat with 3 whole eggs. Form into patties and fry in butter. Replace the lid to aid heat retention and flip to cook through. These are great hot or cold with a salad.

Burger and Salad | Foods For Eye Health

This is a bread-less burger, where the burger is set upon a slice of boiled beetroot and a thick slice of fried potato. Additional slices can be added and  served on the side. The salad here is predominantly spinach, with a sprig of fennel.

Colourful Salad | Healthy Foods For Healthy Eyes

Get creative with using those lovely high lutein flowers:

Tropaeolum [nasturtium];
Tagetes erecta from which Lutein is extracted to create lutein supplements;
Caledula officinalis [petals and leaves].

Other edible flowers can be found on

Chilli Con Carne

This is another reminder about adding organ meat into your menu and mince is a great way to hide it. I get my butcher to mince organ meat into the mince meat for me. My kids think its normal and often comment on how tasteless normal meat is. You can re-educate your palate. Gradually increasing the amount of organ meat in your mince can help your palate yo adjust. Ask your butcher for 200g bags of pre-minced offal. Then you can control your proportions.

Instead of kidney beans, this one has chick peas in it. They are easier to digest than kidney beans.  Serve on a bed of brown rice or quinoa.

Poached Pears & Coconut Yoghurt

Place the quartered and cored pears in a pan with a little water, a dessert spoon of ground cinnamon and a tablespoon of raw sugar. Warm through on a low heat, barely a simmer, until soft and aromatic. Serve with yoghurt or coconut yoghurt etc. and dress with pre soaked nuts and seeds as a garnish.

Blueberry ‘Cheesecake’

[from Dr. Libby’s Real Food Kitchen]


2 Figs finely chopped, 1 cup soaked Almonds, 1 cup Shredded Coconut
1tsp Vanilla extract, 1Tbsp Tahini
1Tbsp Honey, 1Tbsp of Water

Place all the base ingredients in a food processor or blender and grind, then add the water to make a paste.  Line a 21cm spring-form tin with greaseproof paper.  Press into base and set aside.


1½ cups raw cashews – pre soaked
A pinch or 2 of salt [to your taste]
1 cup water & Juice of 1 lemon [or add at least 3 lemons and use less water, if you  prefer a sharp and sweet taste]
¼ cup of Maple Syrup, 100g Cacao Butter – melted. 

Place all ingredients for the filling, except the cacao butter, into a blender and process until smooth and creamy. Add melted cacao butter and combine for 5 seconds. Pour over the base and refrigerate.


1 cup blueberries, Juice of ½ lime (or use a whole one)
2 Tsps honey
½ Tsp Psyllium husk [or Chia seeds ground finely]

Pour and spread over filling.