Why are carrots good for your eyes?

young girl eating carrots and wearing eyeglasses

Carrots are good for your eyes, right?

You’ve probably heard it since you were a little kid: “Eat your carrots! They’re good for your eyes.” But are they really? If not, where did this idea come from? Why do people say carrots are good for your vision?

Let’s answer your frequently asked questions about carrots and your eyes:

How are carrots good for your eyes?

Carrots have a wide array of vitamins, including vitamin A, which has been known to improve eye health. In other words, there is truth to the claim that carrots are good for your eyes. Vitamin A is known to benefit your eye health by:

  • Protecting the corneas

  • Decreasing risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration

  • Delaying peripheral vision loss

  • Creating a protective layer against bacteria and viruses

  • Alleviating symptoms of dry eye syndrome

  • Slowing vision loss in people with retinitis pigmentosa

  • Impeding the progression of Stargardt’s disease

On the other hand, vitamin A deficiency can lead to dry eyes, vision loss and night blindness, while too much vitamin A can cause headaches, joint pain and dizziness.

Is eating carrots the only way to get vitamin A?

Nutritional sources of vitamin A are preferred over supplements, and, while carrots are most widely known to be good for your eyes, they are not uniquely or exclusively capable of bettering your eye health. Many other foods have high vitamin A levels, including:

  • Mangoes

  • Papayas

  • Spinach

  • Chard

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Squash

  • Eggs

  • Milk

For example, if you eat one large carrot (about 8 inches long), you’ll get nearly 250% of your suggested daily vitamin A. But if you’re not a fan of carrots, you can get your vitamin A without having to take supplements. Just try to eat more of the other foods listed above.

SEE RELATED: Eye benefits of vitamin A and beta-carotene

Can carrots reverse bad eyesight?

Eating a diet abundant with vitamin A and beta-carotene is good for your vision, but no amount of carrots, mangoes or other nutrient-rich foods will restore your eyesight to 20/20. It isn’t possible to correct truly bad eyesight without the help of prescription lenses (eyeglasses or contact lenses) or eye surgery.

However, if your vision is just starting to worsen, eating carrots and other sources of vitamin A could improve your vision.

SEE RELATED: How better nutrition can improve your vision

Do carrots help your eyesight in the dark?

If you have relatively healthy vision, consuming more foods with vitamin A — including carrots — could improve your ability to see in the dark. However, it won’t cure your night blindness.

Vitamin A deficiency is linked to nyctalopia, another term for night blindness. Without vitamin A, the synthesis of rhodopsin — the part of your eyes that helps you see using low-light sources such as the moon — can’t fully develop. And once your night vision ability starts to deteriorate, no amount of vitamin A can bring it back to its original state.

Eyesight, carrots and World War II propaganda

The myth that carrots, which are a good source of vitamin A, can improve your eyesight got its start during World War II. British soldiers wanted to keep their technological advancements a secret from the German army.

To disguise the ability of the British to intercept bombs using radar, they put forth a story that British soldiers were eating carrots to improve their night vision. The diversion worked so well that people still believe carrots improve vision today.

WANT BETTER VISION WITHOUT EATING A LOT OF VEGETABLES? Find an eye doctor near you. Maybe you just need glasses, contact lenses or a new prescription.

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