Popular around the world, carrots are crunchy and highly nutritious root vegetables.
They’re commonly claimed to keep your eyes healthy and improve night vision.
However, you may wonder about the origin of this idea and whether it’s supported by science.
This article tells you whether carrots benefit your eyes and provides other tips to keep your vision healthy.
Carrots and eye health
It has long been believed that eating carrots promotes eye health and improves your eyesight, especially at night.
Though there is truth to this, the association between carrots and eyesight originated from a myth.
During World War II, British Royal Air Force pilots first began using radar to target and shoot down enemy planes. In an effort to keep this new technology a secret, the visual accuracy of the pilots — especially at night — was attributed to eating carrots.
This led to a longstanding propaganda campaign that promoted carrots for better eyesight. This embellished link between eating carrots and improved night vision remains today.
However, although they’re not quite the magic eye food they were marketed to be during World War II, carrots do contain certain compounds that are good for your eyes.
High in antioxidants that benefit eye health
Carrots are a rich source of beta carotene and lutein, which are antioxidants that can help prevent eye damage caused by free radicals.
Free radicals are compounds that can lead to cellular damage, aging, and chronic illnesses, including eye diseases, when their numbers become too high (
Beta carotene gives many red, orange, and yellow plants their coloring. Orange carrots are especially high in beta carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A. Deficiency in vitamin A can lead to night blindness, which is often reversible by supplementing (
Vitamin A is needed to form rhodopsin, which is the reddish-purple, light-sensitive pigment in your eye cells that helps you see at night (
Your body absorbs and utilizes beta carotene more efficiently when you eat cooked carrots rather than raw ones. Furthermore, vitamin A and its precursors are fat-soluble, so eating carrots with a fat source improves absorption (
Yellow carrots contain the most lutein, which may help prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition in which your vision is gradually blurred or lost.
Carrots are good sources of lutein and beta carotene, which are antioxidants that benefit eye health and protect against age-related degenerative eye diseases. Your body converts beta carotene into vitamin A, a nutrient that helps you see in the dark.
Other health benefits of carrots
Carrots support healthy eyes, but there are many other reasons to eat them. Most research focuses on their content of carotenoids, including lutein, lycopene, and beta carotene.
Other health benefits of carrots include:
- Support digestive health. Carrots are high in fiber, which helps prevent constipation. One carrot contains around 2 grams of fiber, or 8% of the daily value (DV). Eating carrots may also improve your gut bacteria (
12, 13, 14).
- May reduce cancer risk. Fiber-rich foods like carrots may help protect against colon cancer by promoting digestive regularity. Plus, certain antioxidants in carrots have been shown to have anticancer effects (
15, 16, 17, 18).
- Stabilize blood sugar. Carrots have a low glycemic index (GI), meaning that they don’t cause a large spike in blood sugar when you eat them. Their fiber content also helps stabilize blood sugar levels (
- Good for your heart. Red and orange carrots are high in lycopene, a heart-protective antioxidant. Carrots may also reduce heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels (
21, 22, 23, 24).
- Protect your skin. Though not as effective as sunscreen, beta carotene and lycopene antioxidants may help protect your skin from sun damage (
- May support weight loss. Carrots are low in calories and high in fiber. Eating them increases feelings of fullness, which may prevent overeating and aid weight loss (
Aside from their contributions to eye health, there are many reasons to eat carrots. They can benefit your digestive system, as well as heart, skin, and overall health.
Other ways to boost your eye health
Eating carrots isn’t the only way to keep your eyes healthy and your vision sharp. Other strategies to improve your eye health include:
- Use sun protection. Choose sunglasses that protect your eyes from 99–100% of UVA and UVB rays. Sun damage can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, and pterygium (tissue growth over the whites of your eyes) (
- Limit screen time and blue light. Extended television, phone, or computer time can cause eye strain. At night, turn screens off or turn on the night-light filter on your phone, as blue light can cause retinal damage (
- Exercise. Engaging in regular physical activity is good for your eyes and waistline. Lack of exercise increases your risk of type 2 diabetes and diabetic retinopathy, a condition that can impair your vision (
- Don’t smoke. Tobacco smoke has been linked to vision loss, cataracts, and macular degeneration. Smoking may also increase your risk of dry eye (
30, 31, 32, 33).
- Strive for a balanced diet. EPA and DHA omega-3 fats (e.g., fatty fish, flax), vitamin C (e.g, citrus fruits, broccoli), vitamin E (e.g., nut butters), and zinc (e.g., meat, oysters, and pumpkin seeds) are also good for your eyes (
34, 35, 36, 37).
- Eat dark leafy green vegetables. Kale, spinach, and collard greens are high in the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which support eye health (
- Get regular eye exams. The best way to know how your eyes are doing is to have them regularly examined by an eyecare professional. Seeing an optometrist or ophthalmologist is a good preventive health habit to get into.
Eating a nutritious diet, exercising, limiting screen time, not smoking, wearing sunglasses, and having your vision checked regularly by an eye doctor are important habits for optimal eye health.
The bottom line
The idea that carrots promote healthy eyes and good vision originates from a myth — but that doesn’t mean it’s untrue.
They’re especially high in the antioxidants lutein and beta carotene, which have been shown to protect your eyes.
Carrots may also benefit your digestion, heart, skin, and overall health.
If you want to keep your eyes healthy, you should also establish other healthy, vision-protective habits like exercising, wearing sunglasses, limiting screen time, eating a balanced diet, and not smoking.