Root vegetables are highly nutritious and promote overall good health. One such root vegetable is the carrot. Carrots are highly revered in the culinary world due to their versatility and nutritious attributes. In the context of health, carrots have always been associated with good eye health. But, are carrots good for your eyes?
Carrots are commonly cultivated around the world and are eaten in various forms—raw, juiced, cooked, or as complementary vegetables to a delicious dish. They have an impressive nutritional profile that offers many health benefits, including eye health. But is it true? Are carrots good for your eyes? Well, it has been an overstated popular belief, but with a valid rationale.
Carrots get their signature orange color from antioxidants called carotenoids. One of the carotenoids found in abundance in carrots is beta carotene, which converts into retinoids in our bodies. Beta carotene plays a pivotal role in enhancing immunity, improving eye and skin health, and preventing free radical damage that can lead to various chronic diseases, including cancer and heart ailments.
Are Carrots Good for Your Eyes?
We have all grown up hearing our mothers say that carrots are good for the eyes and can provide you with night sight! But is it really true? Are carrots good for your eyes? Do carrots improve your eyesight? Or is it an overused trick which mothers still use to get their children to eat their vegetables?
To a certain extent there is truth in what our parents have been telling us for generations—carrots do improve eyesight as they are rich in vitamin A and antioxidants. They contain a rich dose of beta-carotene. The beta-carotene transforms to vitamin A in the body. Medical studies have proved that vitamin A deficiency is one of the root causes of eye defects like cataracts, macular degeneration, and xerophthalmia.
The rod photo-receptors in the back of our eyes require fat soluble molecules to find vision in low light conditions. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble compound that helps our eyes to see better in low light conditions. They also have vitamins C and E in some amounts, which also are important for eye health.
Among other nutrients, lutein and zeaxanthin are two antioxidants found in carrots. Foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin are known to increase the density of the pigment in the macular area, and prevent blue light from reaching the delicate, underlying parts in the retina. This pigment protects the retina, as it reduces the chances of light-induced oxidative damage to the eyes. Thus, with an increase in pigment density, the retina receives better protection and lowers the risk of macular degeneration.
Carrot Nutrition Facts
With a crunchy texture and juicy flavor, carrots are very nutritious and low in calories. They are a rich source of essential nutrients and can be easily included in your daily diet. Carrots offer good amounts of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, and manganese. Carrots also have trace amounts of other minerals, protein, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They are also low in saturated fats and cholesterol.
Statistically speaking, a cup of raw, chopped carrots will provide 428% DV of vitamin A, 21% DV of vitamin K, six percent DV of thiamin, niacin, and folate, nine percent DV of vitamin B6, and four percent of vitamin E and riboflavin. The same amount of carrots will also replenish mineral deficiency. It will give you about 12% DV of potassium, nine percent DV of manganese, four percent DV of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and sodium, as well as three percent DV of copper. Carrots are good for our blood system as well, since they contain zinc and iron (two percent DV each).
The dietary fiber content in carrots is linked to the numerous health benefits this vegetable has to offer. The main form of water-soluble fiber found in carrots is pectin. This helps decrease the blood sugar level by decelerating the digestion of starch and sugar in the body. Thus, carrots have a low glycemic index (GI), so they are good for diabetics as well, even though they have some amount of starch and sugars.
Moreover, the presence of the insoluble fibers in carrots promotes healthy bowel movements and lowers constipation risk. The insoluble fiber in carrots is mainly in the form of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin.
Carrots are very healthy and their health benefits include lowering cholesterol levels and improving eye health. The considerable amount of dietary fiber and water content makes it a wonderful weight-loss snack food as it is low in calories with abundant nutrients.
Carrots are an excellent source of plant compounds as well. These are known as phytonutrients. There are six main phytonutrients in carrots.
As previously mentioned, carrots are quite high in beta-carotene, which converts into retinoids inside the body. Cooked carrots will provide more beta-carotene, as it is better absorbed into the body.
Alpha-carotene is another antioxidant that gets partly converted to vitamin A. This antioxidant protects the body from cellular damage.
This antioxidant is mostly found in yellow and orange carrots. Lutein is crucial to eye health.
This antioxidant is predominantly found in fruits and vegetables that are red in color, including red and purple carrots. The properties of lycopene have the ability to prevent cardiovascular diseases and lower cancer risk.
According to scientific research, these bioactive compounds found in carrots have the potential to fight against leukemia and cancer cells.
These antioxidants have anti-inflammatory, antviral, and antibacterial properties. They can boost immunity and help prevent infections in the body.
Other Foods Good for Eye Health
In addition to carrots, there are other foods that can improve eye health. Basically, foods that are rich in vitamins A and C would ideally suffice. Here’s a list of foods good for eye health.
Fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which can prevent conditions like dry eyes, macular degeneration, and cataracts. They promote eye health and function.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Plant pigments such as lutein and zeaxanthin, are found in high amounts in green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and collard greens. These plant pigments are also found in our macular pigment and serve as retina protection. Therefore, a diet rich in these types of vegetables will contribute to good eye health.
The nutritional content of eggs includes vitamin A and lutein, both of which are known to protect the eyes against dry eyes and night blindness condition.
Replace refined carbohydrates with healthy whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, whole oats, and whole wheat. They are rich in vitamin E, zinc, and niacin that improve overall eye health.
Nuts like pistachios, walnuts, almonds, and so on are considerably rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E that promote eyesight.
Bioflavonoids and zinc are found in good amounts in legumes like kidney beans, black-eyed peas, and lentils. Both nutrients can boost eye health by protecting the retina and reducing the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
Citrus Fruits and Berries
Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, and lemons, as well as berries like black currants and strawberries, are rich sources of vitamin C and anthocyanins. These are beneficial to eye health as they reduce the risk macular degeneration, retinal inflammation, and cataracts.
Fish oil, Flaxseed Oil and Black Currant Seed Oil
These supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids that provide complete eye care.
Healthy snacks like sunflower seeds are also good for the eyes as they are rich in zinc and vitamin E.
Lean beef, lamb, and pork contain zinc, which helps in better absorption of vitamin A. Thus, eating lean meat in moderation improves and boosts eye health.
The Side Effects of Carrots
The beta-carotene content in carrots is linked to many health benefits. However, when consumed in excess, beta-carotene can also have potential side effects. An excess amount of beta-carotene in the body can cause carotenemia, a condition that causes yellow pigmentation of the skin. Although the condition is harmless, it brings about an unhealthy skin appearance. Carotenemia typically is more apparent on the palms, soles, and ears.
While dietary fiber is vital for proper bowel movement, too much of it can have the opposite effect. Carrots are rich in dietary fiber, especially insoluble fiber. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 80% of the fiber in raw carrots is insoluble. Therefore, munching on too many carrots can lead to excess binding of water in the intestinal tract, thus resulting in constipation.
Now that we know all the health benefits and side effects of carrots, we can conclude that they are one of most versatile and healthiest root vegetables in the world. They are a rich source of carotenoids, antioxidants, and essential nutrients. They are a good snack food choice and may also promote weight loss. Moreover, the nutrients in carrots are absorbed better into the body when consumed in cooked form, but eat them in moderation to avoid potential side effects.
The overstatement that carrots are good for the eyes perhaps resulted out of a myth spread during the Second World War, when a British pilot announced that he credits eating carrots to his night vision. Although this was a fabricated statement, it was announced that everyone should have carrots to develop good vision. However, science shows that there is some truth to this statement, and so, you should definitely enjoy a carrot or two daily.
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