Hands up if you were told as a child that you should eat all your carrots because they help you see in the dark. It’s a pretty common claim. As with many old wive’s tales, there is a nugget of truth to it. Carrots do contain nutrients that can help your eyes stay healthy. Unfortunately, no matter how many carrots you eat, though, you’ll never see in the dark, but you can feel confident that they do have some benefits for your eyesight.
However, before you start munching on carrot sticks to boost your eye health, it’s interesting to note that while they can help, they may not be the most effective option; read on to discover more!
How Do Veggies Help Your Eyesight?
There are two main types of nutrients in fruits and vegetables that have an essential role in supporting eye health. These are carotenoids and zinc.
Carotenoids are the chemicals inside plants that give them their bright colours and allow them to photosynthesise. There are over 600 different carotenoids, and they all contribute to your overall health and wellbeing.
Your body absorbs all of these nutrients using the same mechanism. So, it can’t pick and choose which it needs. It just absorbs what it gets first. So if you eat something that has much more of one carotene than another, then you might end up only absorbing that one carotene.
There are, however, two sorts that are especially important for eye health.
Lutein & Zeaxanthin
These two carotenoids are always bundled together because they are the only carotenoids found in the retina. Here they perform three crucial jobs. They protect your macula from damage due to blue and UV light. They improve your visual acuity (your ability to distinguish shapes). Finally, they act as antioxidants, protecting the cells of your retina from damage and ageing.
Beta-carotene is one of the most effective nutrients for the production of vitamin A. Your eyes use vitamin A inside the rods of your retina. These are the light-sensitive cells that are most effective in low light conditions. So having adequate levels of beta-carotene is a great way to ensure that your body can produce all of the vitamin A it needs to keep your eyes in tip-top condition.
The highest concentration of zinc in the body is found in the retina. This is because zinc is used to transport the vitamin A that your eyes need from your liver. Without enough zinc, it doesn’t matter how much beta-carotene you eat; your night vision won’t improve. There is also some evidence that zinc can help to protect your eyes from age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Kale vs. Carrots
So, now that we know what it is inside vegetables that help our eyes let’s see which looks better, carrots or kale. The table below gives you the amount of each of the nutrients found in 100g of kale and carrots.
Lutein & Zeaxanthin
So carrots clearly have much more beta-carotene in them. But with their lower levels of zinc you’ll only get so much benefit from the vitamin A you can make. So they are good, but kale does have a competitive advantage.
Kale has a higher level of zinc, which is great for transporting vitamin A to your retina. It also has a much more balanced amount of Lutein & Zeaxanthin compared to Beta-carotene. That means that your body will get an adequate supply of all three carotenes when you eat kale.
So, it looks like kale is the winner when it comes to your vision.
Other Ways To Protect Your Eyesight
Obviously, just eating mounds of kale isn’t going to be the best way to protect your eyesight. There are a few things you can do to take a balanced approach to maintain your eye health.
Eat A Varied Diet
Eating a good mix of fruits and vegetables as part of your diet will ensure that you get all of the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy. It will also reduce your likelihood of developing diabetes, a disease which can increase your risk of vision problems.
Get Some Exercise
Exercise is great for all aspects of your health. Recent studies have shown that it can also contribute to your eye health.
Take Eye Health Supplements
A great way to ensure that you are getting all the key nutrients that you need for your eye health is to take a supplement primarily focused on these nutrients. For example, Nutri Eye contains all the nutrients we’ve talked about here with even more thrown in for extra benefit.
Get Regular Eye Tests
The best way to stay on top of your eye health is to get regular check-ups. You should follow your optician’s recommended schedule. This will allow any warning signs to be spotted early.
Wear Sunglasses/Brimmed Hat
Protecting your eyes from the damaging effects of UV light is important. Wearing sunglasses and/or a brimmed hat is a great way to do this.
Remember, your eyesight is a beautiful thing and deserves to be protected. With a few handfuls of kale crisps, some carrot sticks, a fruit and vegetable smoothie and a healthy dose of Omega 3 can all play their part in maintaining your vision.