We’ve all heard it before: “Eat your carrots, they’re good for your eyes!” Granted, in most cases, our parents told us this at age five or six and we adamantly refused to eat whatever carrot-containing meal a parent had made.
But their advice wasn’t just empty lip-service – well, not all of it, at least. Carrots aren’t exactly the silver bullet for your eyes they’re often made out to be. They certainly won’t give us the night-vision superpowers we all secretly hope for, but they do have some pretty amazing health benefits.
The truth of the matter is, there is a truly beneficial relationship between carrots and your eyes.
What’s in a Root
So what exactly does make carrots useful? The answer is actually in their coloration. Carrots owe their bright orange tones to a pigment called beta-carotene. As you might guess, beta-carotene is red-orange in coloration, and occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables. And while carrots might be the current poster children for the pigment, that wasn’t always the case.
Beta-carotene does serve an important role in the human diet. The pigment is a major precursor of vitamin A. As mentioned above, this does help the body manufacture chemicals important for night-vision. More than that though, it simply helps keep the eyes healthy.
Vitamin A deficiency has a whole range of nasty effects on the body, but they do seem to get even nastier around the eyes. Fail to get enough vitamin A and you’ll first lose night-vision. Dry eyes follow after that, then development of Bitot’s spots (opaque deposits on the eye. Eventually, a vitamin A deficiency will instigate the destruction of the cornea, with blindness being the end result.
Carrots and Eyes
So does eating carrots help keep your eyes healthy? Absolutely! Eat them as often as you can.
If you can’t get them or don’t like them for any reason, don’t worry, though. Carrots are far from the only options if you’re looking for a good source of vitamin A.
More appealing (and less exotic) options include sweet potato, pumpkin, butter, egg, kale and spinach. As a general rule of thumb, the more vivid the color of the vegetable or fruit, the more beta-carotene it has. So load up!
Some Other Vision Superfoods
Turns out that if your parents were partly right about their choice of eye healthy food, Popeye was totally right. Spinach is packed with beneficial nutrients. It’s got some beta-carotene, but also a load of lutein, another carotene that can help protect eyes against macular degeneration.
Fish, with salmon being the common example, is also a great choice. The fats you’ll find in coldwater fish can work to stave off the damage caused by both macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. Finally, stock up on some berries for their beneficial cardiovascular effects. High blood pressure can easily make a case of macular degeneration worse. However, the dark pigments found in blackberries and blueberries have some additional anti-inflammatory bonuses.
Incorporating a few vision-enhancing superfoods into you diet can really help in the prevention and treatment of common vision problems. The best move forward is to eat a healthy diet, but also try adding in eye vitamins every day. You’ll really see the difference!
This post originally appeared on Rebuild Your Vision.