Do Carrots Actually Help Vision?
People have been telling their children to eat carrots for a variety of reasons since the middle ages. It probably started because carrots are a crop that can be grown easily and, as a root vegetable, they can also be stored through the non-growing season.
But the current idea of carrots being good for your eyesight started during World War II when a fighter pilot, John “Cats’ Eyes” Cunningham of the British Royal Air Force attributed his excellent night vision to his diet including lots of carrots. The press picked up on it, the military also picked up on it, and parents everywhere were soon on board with carrots once again being a miracle food. Soon it was mandated in England that everyone include carrots in their diet because I would make it easier during the blackouts and air raids. It was all part of the war propaganda machine, which focused attention away from their newest radar functions in locating German bombers as they hit the English Channel.
Carrots Have Merits
Even though night vision restoration is not something that carrots can do, they do have a positive effect on vision health overall. They are loaded with beta-carotene, which gives carrots their color. That pigment is needed to allow vitamin A to be absorbed by the body, and vitamin A is essential for eye health. In fact, a deficiency of vitamin A is a major cause of blindness in developing and third-world countries. Vitamin A is also helpful in reducing problems with macular degeneration, cataracts, and xerophthalmia, which has symptoms such as swollen eyelids, dry eyes, and corneal ulcers.
Carrots also contain an antioxidant called lutein. Foods rich in lutein increase pigment density in the macula. When that happens, the retina receives added protection and can delay the impact of macular degeneration, or decrease the risk of it.
Carrots won’t fix existing eye problems or in many cases have an impact on the risk of them. They won’t give you 20/20 vision or fix deformities, conditions, and diseases such as astigmatism, glaucoma or strabismus. If glasses are needed for whatever reason, carrots won’t fix that problem, but they are packed with nutrients needed for our body to work and that aid the functions of the eyes. So enjoy carrots raw, blanched, or cooked. They are a great healthy snack idea and easily portable too. My favorite way to enjoy carrots? Dunked in hummus, of course! What’s yours??
Dr. Jenna Zigler