Myth or Truth: Can carrots help us see in the dark?
As children, we often were told off by our parents for not finishing our vegetables: “Eat your carrots, they’re good for your eyes!” But is it true that carrots improve our eyesight and help us to see better in the dark? Unfortunately, this is only partly true. Carrots can improve our vision at night, but won’t help us to see in complete darkness. So where does this myth come from?
History of the carrot and eyesight myth
During the Blitzkrieg in World War II, the biggest threat to Great Britain was the frequent bombing night raids by the German army. Therefore, the British had to devise a plan to beat the German Luftwaffe. The British Air Force finally managed to repel them by successfully detecting German aircraft and bombers on dark and foggy nights. How did they do it, though? – Carrots! At least that’s what the British made the Germans believe…
The story was created by the former UK Government’s Food Ministry to cover up the radar stations that were set up to pinpoint German bombers at night-time – a feat that was previously thought impossible. Through propaganda campaigns, the Brits convinced the Germans that the excessive eating of carrots improves vision in the dark. From that point on, the orange root vegetable was an essential ingredient in the British diet and children were even given carrots on a stick as a wartime ice lolly alternative.
So, do carrots improve vision in the dark?
Despite the myth, carrots are rich in vitamin A, which is important for good vision, as it helps the eye to convert light into a signal that is sent to the brain, helping to make us see in the dark. If someone suffers from a vitamin A deficiency, this may cause night blindness.
However, eating carrots may not improve the eyes of an ordinary healthy person and only make a big difference for someone who suffers from a vitamin A deficiency. Usually, eye problems derive from diabetes or are age-related and cannot be cured by eating carrots. Aside from vitamin A, other nutrients like zinc, vitamin C and E, omega-3 fatty acids are essential for healthy eyes. We can say that the assumption that carrots can improve vision in the dark is half-myth and half-truth.
Other benefits of eating carrots
Containing a wide variety of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals, carrots are packed with loads of nutritional benefits that help combat against various disease.
In addition to aiding in eyesight and eye health, here's a quick list of other compounds and nutritional elements found in carrots that can help bolster the immune system.
Benefits of carrots:
- Pectin – the primary source of fibre found in carrots helps lower blood sugar levels by slowing down digestion and feeding friendly gut bacteria.
- Biotin – a member of the B family of vitamins, biotin plays a vital role in maintaining healthy skin, hair, and nails.
- Potassium – one of the most essential minerals in the body; potassium regulates water retention, blood pressure and ensures proper function of the muscles and nerves.
- Vitamin K1 – also known as phylloquinone, is found in plants like carrots and assists in bone health and heart health and is vital in blood coagulation.
- Beta carotene – derived from its Latin namesake (carota=carrot), this red-orange pigment found in plants and fruits is rich in vitamin A, helps maintain good skin and eye health.
- Lutein – the most common antioxidant in carrots, this carotenoid related to beta-carotene is also known as the 'eye vitamin' and play a key role in healthy vision.
- Carbohydrates – ranking low on the glycemic index, eating carrots can be beneficial for people diagnosed with diabetes and contain very little fat.
Packed with carotenoids, carrots are heavy in antioxidants and fibre making them not only beneficial to eyesight but also may protect against several types of cancers, including colon, stomach and prostate. In addition to reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer, carrots are also effective in weight loss due to their low caloric numbers and are often claimed to be one of the healthiest food options available. And...That's all, folks!
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