I currently work at an eye clinic where I am constantly reminded of how an imbalance in your blood pressure or insulin can have irreparable effects on your vision. Instead of taking a supplement, I decided to find out if the classic trope of carrots benefiting ocular health had any science behind it. It turns out, not only do carrots contain beta-carotene and vitamin A, which directly benefit vision, but they also have high levels of vasodilators that combat high blood pressure and carotenoids to regulate insulin.
Carrots appear to be good for overall ocular health, both directly and indirectly. The direct benefits can be traced to beta-carotene and vitamin A. Beta-carotene protects the outer segments of the eye’s photoreceptors and supports the health of macula, which can degenerate as we age and decrease our visual acuity. Beta-carotene is cleaved through an enzymic reaction into vitamin A. Vitamin A increases antioxidant capacity related to vision and preserves the ability to see in dim lighting.
Carotenoids inversely affect insulin resistance and therefore lower blood sugar. They also regulate the amount of insulin and glucose is metabolized by the body, enabling a person with diabetes to establish a more healthy fluctuation in sugar levels.
Carrots contain a large amount of potassium, which is a vasodilator. Relaxing blood vessels allows the vessels to increase in diameter, allowing more blood to flow. This decreases the overall amount of stress on the cardiovascular system. In addition to ocular hypertension, high blood pressure is associated to an increased risk of atherosclerosis, strokes, and heart attacks.
Other produce, like asparagus, grapefruit, and sweet potato, are high in beta-carotene and other nutrients that promote healthy blood flow and insulin regulation; so why do we colloquially give carrots, specifically, credit for protecting ocular health? Apparently, it dates back to World War II: the British Royal Air Force advertised that carrots were the secret behind the British pilots’ clear vision and excellent aim. The claim was actually wartime misdirection: pilots’ accuracy was actually attributable to the new (and classified) radar the British had developed. The allies trumpeted the benefits of carrots to prevent the Axis powers from getting suspicious. It was obviously convincing. The idea that carrots in particular protect your vision remains a popular saw over 70 years later.
- 1/2 lb thawed, uncooked, shrimp (tails removed)
- fresh juice of 1 lime
- 2 Tbs oil oil
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp garlic
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp red chili flakes
- 1/2 tsp thai chilis
- 1/2 tsp gochujang
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 Tbs butter
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 1 can refried beans
- 1 large carrot, finely diced
- 1 handful of cilantro, chopped
- Marinade shrimp in fresh lime juice, olive oil, cumin, paprika, garlic, thai chiles, gochujang, salt, pepper, red chili flakes.
- Saute diced onions in butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When they become soft and fragrant (about 8 mins) add diced bell peppers. Cook for another 6 minutes.
- Add diced pickles, kimchi, and corn to the pan. Cook until warm, about two minutes.
- Add refried beans to the pan. Lower heat medium-low, stirring occasionally to warm thoroughly.
- Pour the shrimp and marinade into a new saucepan, over medium high heat. Cook for two minutes without disturbing, then flip and cook for one more minute.
- Plate and top with carrots and cilantro.