Carrots are full of powerful antioxidants that help maintain healthy eyes and vision.
As we get older, the muscles of the eye weaken and the lenses harden.
Whilst ageing is inevitable, much of the damage to our eyes is caused by free radicals and is a major contributor of problems with vision and other degenerative eye conditions.
Antioxidant Carotenoids ( beta carotene) in brightly coloured fruit and vegetables play an important role in the prevention of cellular damage.
Carrots have the highest vegetable source of pro-vitamin A Carotenes and are known to protect good eyesight, especially night vision.
Many of us as children will have heard our parents using the old “rabbits don’t wear glasses” line, to encourage us to eat our carrots.
Carrots belong to the Umbelliferae family along with parsnips, caraway, cumin, fennel and dill which all have umbrella like flower clusters. Records of their use can be traced back to 3rd Century Roman texts and original carrots were much lighter in colour than the bright orange we see today.
The liver converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, it is then transported via the blood stream to the retina of the eye, where it is transformed into a purple pigment, rhodopsin, which is essential for night-vision.
Powerful antioxidant properties in carrots also helps protect against senile cataracts and macular degeneration.
Apart from the important eye protecting properties, research is now associating beta carotene with reduced risk of heart disease and blood sugar regulation.
Eaten raw or cooked
Carrots are incredibly versatile. In their raw state, they can be grated and added to salads, juiced or eaten as crudites for a simple snack, sometimes with dips.
When cooked, carrots can be served, sliced, diced or mashed and are a tasty addition to soups and casseroles.
Although we think that eating raw veg is best, recent European research has shown that we absorb about 20% of carotenoids from cooked carrot, opposed to the 4% we get from eating them raw.
War time myth
During World War II, carrots were one of the vegetables in ready supply and the Dig for Victory campaign led to an abundance. In order to encourage people to eat carrots, the British government ran campaigns, which included making people believe that the reason the RAF were doing so well on thier night time raids, was because they were eating lots of carrots.
The benefits of carotenoids on night vision was known but the campaign was hiding a much more important factor in the RAF success…radar!
Free radicals – YouTube video explaining what free radicals are and how they affect us?
RNIB – Looking after you eye health.
Great British Carrot website -Latest in carrot news, health updates and recipes.
World Carrot Museum – The role of carrots during World War II.