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Can carrots help you see in the dark?

Tamaryn Hewat

Tamaryn Hewat

While carrots won’t help you see in the dark, the vitamin A in them (in the form of beta carotene) is certainly good for eye health.  Sadly, a carrot that you bought 50 years ago would have had a far higher nutrient density than today’s typical supermarket carrot. 

So what is vitamin A?  Well, vitamin A comes in two forms, as ‘fully formed’ in meat, dairy and fish products, or as a ‘precursor’ in fruits, vegetables, or other plant based products (this is also known as provitamin A). 

If you like your meat, then liver is the richest source of Vitamin A. However, if plants are more your thing, you can get it numerous vegetables like carrots, sweet potato, spinach and kale, which will then be converted to Vitamin A.

Vitamin A is needed to maintain our immune system, as well as for healthy skin (and of course good eye health!).5 This is because Vitamin A is an antioxidant, which means it protects the body from free radicals, which would otherwise cause damage.5

It is important to note that too much Vitamin A can cause birth defects in pregnant women, however a deficiency can also cause side effects such as poor night vision and difficulty fighting infections.3

This is why it is imperative that we eat a varied diet, and the fruits and vegetables we eat are as nutrient dense as possible.  Spending a little extra on well sourced food could also eliminate the need to rely on expensive supplements.

  1. Scientific American (2011), ‘Dirt Poor: Have Fruits and Vegetables Become Less Nutritious?’ [Online]. Available at: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/soil-depletion-aND-NUTRITION-LOSS/ 
  2. Smith, K.A. (2013), ‘A WWII Propaganda Campaign Popularized the Myth That Carrots Help You See in the Dark’ [Online]. Available at: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-wwii-propaganda-campaign-popularized-the-myth-that-carrots-help-you-see-in-the-dark-28812484/
  3. Health direct (2019), ‘Vitamin A’ [Online]. Available at: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/vitamin-a 
  4. Osiecki, H. (2010), The Nutrient Bible. 9th edn. Australia: AG Publishing.
  5. Newman, T. (2017), ‘All you need to know about beta carotene’ [Online]. Available at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/252758
 
Source information as of 3rd of October, 2020
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Thanks for your interest!