Optometry Insight: Carrots and Vision

You may have heard that carrots improve night vision, but is this the truth? Eye care professionals know that the orange vegetable can't prevent you from needing eye glasses. However, they do contain large quantities of beta-carotene, a vitamin that is very good for the health of your eyes and therefore ingesting carrots and other beta-carotene rich foods is definitely recommended for ensuring eye health.

Beta-carotene is a carotenoid, or orange pigment that converts into vitamin A after it's absorbed in the body. Vitamin A protects the surface of the eye (cornea) and has been shown to be preventative for certain eye diseases such as corneal ulcers. Vitamin A, which is composed of a number of antioxidants, protects the cornea to decrease the risk of eye infections as well as other infectious diseases. Vitamin A is also known to be an effective treatment for dry eyes and other eye conditions. A lack of vitamin A (which is be more common in poor and developing countries) often causes night blindness, corneal ulcers and retinal damage which can lead to total blindness.

There are two variations of vitamin A, which depend upon the nutritional source they come from. Retinol is vitamin A derived from an animal source such as beef, chicken liver, whole milk or cheese. Vitamin A that is derived from fruits and vegetables comes in the form of ''provitamin A'' carotenoids, which are converted to retinol after the nutrients are digested. In addition to carrots, carotenoids are ingested when eating colorful produce particularly those that are bright orange or green in color.

It is proven that vitamin A is beneficial to your eyes as well as your total well being. Even though carrots themselves can't correct near or far-sightedness, grandma was right when she said ''finish your vegetables.''

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