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Optometrist Insight: Carrots and Vision

You may have heard that carrots improve your eyesight, but is this really true? Eye care professionals know that carrots can't actually improve your eyesight. However, carrots are rich in beta-carotene, a vitamin that is very good for the health of your eyes and therefore eating foods rich in beta-carotene is surely recommended for maintaining eye health.

Beta-carotene is a carotenoid, or orange pigment that changes into vitamin A after it's absorbed in the body. Vitamin A helps to protect the surface of the eye (cornea) and has been proven to prevent a number of eye diseases such as macular degeneration. Vitamin A, which is composed of a number of antioxidants, protects the cornea to reduce the frequency of eye infections and other infectious diseases. Vitamin A is also known to be an effective solution for dry eyes and other eye conditions. A deficiency of this important vitamin (which is be more likely in underdeveloped countries) is known to cause night blindness, corneal ulcers and retinal damage which can lead to complete 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 origin such as beef, chicken liver, or dairy products. Vitamin A that is fruit and vegetable-derived comes in the form of ''provitamin A'' carotenoids, which break down to retinol after the nutrients are digested. In addition to carrots, carotenoids can be found in colorful fruits and vegetables such as oranges, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale and cantaloupes.

There is no doubt that through most forms, vitamin A is beneficial to your eyes and your total well being. Although carrots themselves won't fix near or far-sightedness, mother had it right when she said ''eat your carrots.''