Let’s dig up the science on this root veggie.
Deep in everyone’s childhood memory is a time when you sat at the dining room table, pushing around steamed carrots that your parents insisted you eat. “They help you see better,” your mother probably said, not letting you leave the table until you finished chomping those alleged vision-boosters.
Various rumors have flown around about carrots’ role in protecting your vision. Some say they can sharpen your eyesight. Others say they strengthen the eyes so much that they can improve your night vision. Others posit that carrots might keep you from needing to don a pair of glasses for the rest of your life.
But are any of them true? Not really.
The food you eat does play a role in your eye health, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. With a healthy diet that regularly consists of the right nutrients, you can lower your risk of such eye diseases as age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and dry eyes. However, even the best diet won’t miraculously give you 20/20 vision and let you ditch your glasses.
Oh, and while carrots (and vitamin A) have been getting all the praise, they’re far from the only food recommended for eye health. To reduce vision loss as you age, experts recommend a well-rounded diet full of these nutrients.
Lutein and zeaxanthin: You’ll find these in green, leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, as well as broccoli, red and yellow peppers, and—yep—carrots.
Zinc: You can find zinc in beans, nuts, crab, lobster, and whole grains.
Vitamin C: Everyone knows you get this in citrus fruits, but here are the 10 best food sources of vitamin C.
Vitamin E: Get this vitamin from greens, sunflower seeds, almonds, red peppers, and butternut squash.
Omega-3 fatty acids: Think nuts, fish, and avocado. Here are the best sources of omega-3s.
Carrots may not be nature’s LASIK eye surgery, but they definitely play a role in keeping your eyes strong and healthy for years to come. Here’s how to julienne carrots so you can add them to all your salads and soups.
Diet and nutrition. San Francisco, CA: American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2013. (Accessed on November 20, 2017 at https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/diet-nutrition.)
Food sources of Vitamin E. Cambridge, MA: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (Accessed on November 20, 2017 at https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-sources-of-vitamin-e/.)
Four fantastic foods to keep your eyes healthy. San Francisco, CA: American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2013. (Accessed on November 20, 2017 at https://www.aao.org/eye-health/news/four-fantastic-foods.)
SanGiovanni JP, Chew EY, Clemons TE, Ferris FL 3rd, Gensler G, Lindblad AS, Milton RC, Seddon JM, Sperduto RD. The relationship of dietary carotenoid and vitamin A, E, and C intake with age-related macular degeneration in a case-control study: AREDS Report No. 22. Arch Ophthalmol. 2007 Sep;125(9):1225-32.
Sommerburg O, Keunen J, Bird A, van Kuijk FJGM. Fruits and vegetables that are sources for lutein and zeaxanthin: the macular pigment in human eyes. Br J Ophthalmol. 1998 Aug;82(8):907-10.
Zinc. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016. (Accessed on November 20, 2017 at https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/.)