It’s a common stereotype that kids hate veggies—especially Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and carrots. But when I was a kid, I actually loved it when my mom piled carrots onto my plate. I’d heard somewhere that if you ate a lot of carrots that it helped you see better in the dark, and as someone who liked reading The Babysitters Club books past my bedtime, I was very interested in developing this potential superpower to read with the lights off.
Now that I’m an adult (and can read as late as I want thank you very much), I’m still interested in the connection between carrots and eyesight—although now it’s because I worry about what staring at a screen all day is doing to my vision. Here, registered dietitian Katie Gallagher, RD sheds a little light the subject, plus shares the lowdown on other health benefits of the vegetable.
1. They’re good for your eyes. “Vitamin A in carrots is the nutrient attributed to better eyesight,” Gallagher says. A mere cup of carrots has more than the recommended amount of vitamin A for the entire day. (It has 1,070 micrograms and you want to aim to get 700 micrograms per day.)
According to scientific studies, not getting enough vitamin A can, in fact, lead to poor vision—especially at night. However, while not getting vitamin A enough can make your eyesight worse, it’s a myth that eating tons of carrots will improve eyesight significantly.
“It is difficult to say that eating ‘x’ amount of carrots will help eyesight, but in the context of an overall healthy diet, meeting your daily vitamin A requirements will aid in eye health,” Gallagher sums up. That said, your vitamin A intake is something you do want to keep an eye (ha!) on, so that your vision doesn’t get worse.
2. Carrots have vitamin C. According to Gallagher, carrots are an oft-overlooked source of vitamin C, with 7.5 milligrams per cup. (You want to aim to get 75 milligrams a day.) True, it’s not a lot of vitamin C, but it’s still a nice drop in the nutritional bucket you need to keep your immune system on point.
3. They’re good for your skin. While carrots’ vitamin A content is typically talked about in relation to eye health, Gallagher says it also makes the veggie a major beauty booster. “Vitamin A can help promote the maturation of new skin cells,” she says. “Other limited research has shown that adequate intake of vitamin A may also help with skin hydration.”
4. Carrots are a good source of fiber. “Carrots are a good source of dietary fiber, which is often an overlooked nutrient that is essential for a healthy diet,” Gallagher says. “Adequate fiber intake helps reduce risk of heart disease, manage weight, control blood sugars, and improve digestive health.” One cup of carrots has 3.5 grams of fiber, part of the 25 grams you want to aim to get a day.
Ultimately, Gallagher says, carrots are a great healthy food worth working into your diet, but it doesn’t work in a vacuum. “No one single food will act as a magic cure,” she says. “Carrots are a healthy food, just as all other fruits and vegetables. Eating carrots in combination with an overall healthy and balanced diet will help you see those skin and eye health benefits. Incorporate them with other vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins.” Hear, hear!