The Science Behind Carrots and Eye Health
Carrots are an amazing food – it’s a root vegetable that is rich in beta-carotene, a naturally occurring pigment that nourishes the eye. For centuries, carrots have been connected with health benefits. In the Middle Ages, carrots were believed to cure anything from sexually transmitted diseases to snakebites. Carrots became associated with vision, particularly night vision, during World War II when the British Royal Air Force published a story that said skilled fighter pilot John “Cats’ Eyes” Cunningham could thank a steady diet of carrots for his night vision flying prowess.
So while there remains these myths about the capabilities of carrots, the question remains: Are carrots really able to improve your eyesight or is that fiction? According to nutrition experts, under certain conditions, eating carrots will help improve eyesight. The how, however, is more important than simply eating carrots. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, a carotenoid pigment found in many orange fruits and vegetables. Other orange-colored foods, such as sweet potatoes, mango, pumpkins, apricots and cantaloupe, are also sources of beta-carotene. This nutrient can also be found in dairy products like milk and cheese as well as egg yolks and liver.
Your body then uses beta-carotene to make vitamin A. Vitamin A can prevent the formation of cataracts and macular degeneration, the world’s leading cause of blindness. In the developing world, vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of blindness. A lack of vitamin A can also lead to xerophthalmia, a condition in which the eyes can no longer produce tears, causing dryness in the eyes, swollen eyelids, and corneal ulcers. An extreme lack of vitamin A can cause blindness. However, if your vision problems are not related to vitamin A, your vision won’t change no matter how many carrots you eat.
In addition to beta-carotene, carrots also contain lutein, an antioxidant. Foods rich in lutein have been found to increase pigment density in the macula, the oval-shaped yellow area near the retina of the eye. The greater the pigment density in the macula, the better protected your retina is and the lower your risk for macular degeneration. In addition to carrots, spinach, kale, Swiss card and dark, leafy greens also contain lutein.
Although harmless, since beta-carotene is a pigment, your skin might become orange if eaten in excess - if it happens to you, you might want to consult a health care professional to make sure you're consuming a balanced diet.
If you have question or concerns about how your diet is affecting your vison, glasses or contacts, then open your eyes to new possibilities by booking your appointment with our caring vision professionals. Call us at the Optometrists’ Clinic at 780-488-0944; Capilano Eye Centre at 780-469-2020; Mayfield Eye Centre at 780-486-2020; Leduc Eye Centre at 780-986-2020; and Westlock Eye Centre at 780-349-3702 today.