“Eat your carrots – they’re good for your eyes” is something our parents told us to do and most of us tell our children today. Are carrots really good for our eyes? Is there something better?
Carrots and other foods such as beef, liver, and chicken, along with red-orange-yellow fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes and cantaloupe are rich in beta-carotene which is converted to vitamin A. In the eye, vitamin A is converted into rhodopsin for the rods, which function in low light, and photopsin for the cones, which are needed for daylight vision (hence your mother’s advice). Because vitamin A also has antioxidant properties, diets high in beta-carotene can also reduce the risk and progression of macular degeneration.
However, supplementation alone with beta-carotene can cause side effects such as a reversible orange coloring of the skin. There is also evidence that supplemental beta-carotene can increase the risk of lung cancer in those who smoke. Note that dietary beta-carotene does not have this effect. High levels of vitamin A can compete with other nutrients, such as vitamin D, and an important pigment found in the eye called lutein.
So, is it important to eat carrots for good vision and eye health? The answer is “yes,” but remember that many foods are rich in beta-carotene. In addition, there are several other vitamins and nutrients which I will discuss at a later date that are equally important for optimal eye health. In my opinion, it may be more of a benefit to advise one to “eat your spinach” or “wear your sunglasses.”
I am curious to know how many of you still believe that carrots are “the best food” for your eyes and how many of you pass that information along to your children? Furthermore, if you have any good recipes that include carrots or special ways to prepare them, please pass it along (carrot cake does not count).
In totally unrelated news, Chupa Chups are at Normandy Optical! We still have Dum Dums lollipops at our front desk, but for a limited time, stop in and try the legendary “bonbon on a stick” created by Enric Bernat in 1958. We have flavors such as mango yoghurt, strawberries and cream, and choco-vanilla. Unfortunately, they are not as nutritious as carrots, but my 6-year-old daughter thinks you will love them!
Thanks again for everything.