Vision & Vitamins: eat your carrots!
Is the old wives’ tales about eating carrots fact or fiction? Caarrots are high in beta-carotene which the body converts to vitamin A. Carrots also provide vitamin C, iron, calcium and fiber. Carrots and other foods rich in vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA benefit eye health and general health, as hown by the the Age-Related Eye Diseases Study (AREDS), funded by the National Eye Institute. These nutrients are linked to lower risk for age related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.
The myth that eating carrots can improve your vision seems to have been made popular during World War II when a propaganda campaign was run to convince the Germans that Royal Air Force pilots had superior night vision due to eating carrots. This campaign was started to cover up the fact that the pilots were using a secret new radar technology that allowed them to strike under cover of darkness. According to the Smithsonian Magazine and the World Carrot Museum (a virtual museum about all things carrot) RAF fighter pilots told newspaper reporters that carrots improved their night vision and it was picked up in the popular press of the time.
In reality carrots and other deeply colored fruits and vegetables do contain vitamins that are important for healthy eyes, but in most developed countries vitamin A deficiency is rare so eating carrots is not likely to result in a noticeable improvement in vision. It is possible that in ancient societies there may have been improvements in vision from eating carrots in areas where vitamin A deficiency may have been common due to seasonal changes in diet.
Eating too many carrots will turn your skin orange but is not likely to harm you. According to the USDA 1 cup of chopped carrots contains 0 fat, 0 cholesterol, 88mg sodium, 12gm carbohydrate (4gm dietary fiber, 6 gm sugar), 1 gm protein, 428% daily recommended Vitamin A, 13% daily recommended Vitamin C, 4% daily recommended calcium, and 2% daily recommended iron. There are some reports that pesticides can build up in the skin so peeling carrots may be a healthier option.
In general it is good advice to – eat a little bit of everything and not too much of any one thing. As it turns out the stories about carrots are both fact and fiction!
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