Are Carrots Good for Your Eyes?
The (false) connection between carrots and great eyesight
Carrots are popular around the world, crunchy and highly nutritious root vegetables. They’re commonly claimed to keep your eyes healthy and improve night vision. However, you may wonder about the origin of this idea and whether it’s supported by science.
Carrots and eye health
While its long been believed that eating carrots promotes eye health and improves your eyesight, especially at night, the association between carrots and eyesight originated from a myth.
During World War II, British Royal Air Force pilots first began using radar to target and shoot down enemy planes. In an effort to keep this new technology a secret, the visual accuracy of the pilots — especially at night — was attributed to eating carrots.
This led to a longstanding messaging campaign that promoted carrots for better eyesight. This embellished link between eating carrots and improved night vision remains today.
However, although they’re not quite the magic eye food they were marketed to be during World War II, carrots do contain certain compounds that are good for your eyes. Carrots are a rich source of beta carotene and lutein, which are antioxidants that can help prevent eye damage caused by free radicals. Beta carotene gives many red, orange, and yellow plants their coloring. Orange carrots are especially high in beta carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A. Deficiency in vitamin A can lead to night blindness, which is often reversible by supplementing Vitamin A is needed to form rhodopsin, which is the reddish-purple, light-sensitive pigment in your eye cells that helps you see at night
Your body absorbs and utilizes beta carotene more efficiently when you eat cooked carrots rather than raw ones. Furthermore, vitamin A and its precursors are fat-soluble, so eating carrots with a fat source improves absorption. Yellow carrots contain the most lutein, which may help prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition in which your vision is gradually blurred or lost.
Diets rich in lutein may be especially protective against AMD
Free radicals are compounds that can lead to cellular damage, aging, and chronic illnesses, including eye diseases, when their numbers become too high.
Other health benefits of carrots Carrots support healthy eyes, but there are many other reasons to eat them. Most research focuses on their content of carotenoids, including lutein, lycopene, and beta carotene.
Other health benefits of carrots include:
- Support digestive health. Carrots are high in fiber, which helps prevent constipation. One carrot contains around 2 grams of fiber, or 8% of the daily value (DV). Eating carrots may also improve your gut bacteria
- May reduce cancer risk. Fiber-rich foods like carrots may help protect against colon cancer by promoting digestive regularity. Plus, certain antioxidants in carrots have been shown to have anticancer effects
- Stabilize blood sugar. Carrots have a low glycemic index (GI), meaning that they don’t cause a large spike in blood sugar when you eat them. Their fiber content also helps stabilize blood sugar levels
- Good for your heart. Red and orange carrots are high in lycopene, a heart-protective antioxidant. Carrots may also reduce heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Protect your skin. Though not as effective as sunscreen, beta carotene and lycopene antioxidants may help protect your skin from sun damage
- May support weight loss. Carrots are low in calories and high in fiber. Eating them increases feelings of fullness, which may prevent overeating and aid weight loss
Remember: Eating a nutritious diet, exercising, limiting screen time, not smoking, wearing sunglasses, and having your vision checked regularly are important habits for optimal eye health. Call us if you have any questions!