Carrots are good for your eyes—you may have grown up hearing this. But is it true? What does science have to say about the link between carrots and eyesight? And do carrots improve eye health or is that only a myth?
Here are the facts on the health benefits of carrots.
1. Carrots Can Support and Improve Night Vision
During WWII, a diet rich in carrots helped British Air Force pilots shoot down German planes during nighttime skirmishes, or so the story goes.
Whether there’s some truth to this story or the Brits were only using it to cover up the new radar technology they had adopted, today we know that carrots are rich in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body converts to vitamin A.
Vitamin A helps the retina convert light into signals that then travel through the optic nerve to the brain. Vitamin A deficiency causes night blindness and damages the cornea and the retina.
In the Western world, vitamin A deficiency is not very common. But the World Health Organization estimates that every year 250,000-500,000 children become blind as a result of it.
So, do carrots help eyesight at night if you eat them often?
A 2005 clinical trial involving night blind pregnant Nepali women found that eating 4.5 ounces of cooked carrots six days a week helped return their vision to normal. In the trial, carrots had a similar effect to other foods rich in vitamin A such as amaranth leaf and fortified rice.
2. Carrots May Help with Dry Eyes
Vitamin A also plays a key role in the formation of the tear film that covers and protects the surface of the eye. Vitamin A deficiency can lead to dry eyes.
As we’ve seen, carrots have beta-carotene, which in the body becomes vitamin A. They also have lutein, which shields the eye from damaging light.
If you’re spending a lot of time in front of screens every day, you blink less and have a higher risk of developing dry eye disease. Adding carrots to your diet is a good idea.
But keep in mind that dry eye disease often has underlying causes that you cannot solve by simply eating carrots or any other food.
Our quick and easy dry eye test can help you find out whether you have dry eyes so you can better treat your symptoms. Take the Dry Eye Test.
3. Carrots Protect Your Eyes from Free Radicals
Carrots, and yellow carrots especially, are rich in lutein. A powerful antioxidant, lutein occurs naturally in the human eye.
It helps protect the eye from free radicals, harmful molecules resulting from cellular processes and environmental factors such as UV light. Free radicals have been linked to serious eye diseases including uveitis, cataracts, and glaucoma.
Good to know: Eating carrots regularly is a good way to boost your dietary intake of lutein. One serving of 128 grams of raw yellow carrots has 0.7 mg of lutein. The daily recommended intake of lutein for eye health is 10 mg/day.
4. Carrots Help Prevent AMD
Age-related macular degeneration is a progressive condition that damages central vision. People with AMD cannot see objects clearly and may not be able to read. They may also have difficulties with everyday tasks. AMD typically affects people over 50 but may occur earlier.
Around 2 million people have AMD in the United States alone. A 2007 study found that a higher intake of lutein, together with the related carotenoid zeaxanthin, can protect against AMD. A more recent comparative study supports these findings.
5. Carrots Are Good for Your Overall Health
Carrot health benefits are not limited to eye health. There’s so much more to carrots than their protective effect on vision.
Carrots are rich in fiber, which supports gut health by encouraging the growth of healthy gut bacteria, and can help normalize blood sugar levels. Carrots can also provide cardiovascular protection by reducing cholesterol levels.
Eating carrot benefits your skin too. The carotenoids in carrots help protect your skin against harmful UV light. Lastly, carotenoids and other antioxidants in carrots may help reduce the risk of breast cancer, lung cancer, and leukemia.
The Wrap Up
Carrots improve eyesight and low-light vision if you suffer from vitamin A deficiency. But even if your body has enough vitamin A, eating carrots can help support eye health and overall health. It may even help with dry eyes.
Choose organic carrots and eat them mostly cooked as that improves beta-carotene absorption. Add them to soups, stews, stir-fries, and other dishes. When you’re in a rush, eat them raw or blend them in a smoothie. And don’t forget about carrot cake.
In the end, there are so many ways to eat carrots that, even if they’re not your favorite food, you can still include them in most of your meals.