While it probably helped parents across the globe to get their children to eat more vegetables, particularly carrots, this story isn’t exactly true. That said, while eating lots of carrots doesn’t exactly give you supervision, carrots do contain a good amount of beta-carotene, a nutrient that promotes good eye health. So, at the very least, parents can rest assured that this story is rooted in truth.
In short, the carrot/night vision story provides a useful lesson for kids and adults alike, illustrating that eating the ‘right’ kind of vegetables can offer very specific health benefits – including the maintenance of the health of our eyes. With that, here are some interesting insights on how they do so:
Protection from Blue light
According to a Harvard University Medical School research, some vegetables that are often regarded as superfoods (e.g: kale and spinach) contain nutrients that may help protect our vision from eye conditions often caused by high exposure to blue light.
Though we may not be aware of it, we are constantly exposed to this damaging form of light through the sun, as well as various man-made forms of blue light, such as computer screens, TVs, and mobile phones.
The significant increase in usage of blue light emitting gadgets over the recent years has given our eyes a lot more to deal with - and many doctors are concerned about digital eye strain and other long-term (negative) effects on the health of our eyes.
Within the human eye, there is a tiny area at the center of the retina, called the macula, which is responsible for filtering out blue light. Over time, however, prolonged exposure to blue light leads to a condition called macular degeneration.
This condition can be very serious as it can potentially lead to permanent vision loss. Moreover, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading form of blindness in the western world.
AMD affects around 1 in 10 people aged 65+, and 3 in 10 people aged 75+. AMD occurs slowly and is characterized by the appearance of blind spots or the ‘shadowy’ areas in your central vision.
A Harvard University study of AMD
The Harvard University Medical School conducted a study of over 100,000 participants to explore the link between AMD and natural nutrients - the biggest research project of its kind to ever take place. Their research followed participants for 20 years and showed that people who consume more foods containing lutein and zeaxanthin were 40% less likely to suffer from advanced AMD.
But what exactly are lutein and zeaxanthin? These nutrients are naturally-occurring carotenoids (pronounced kuh-rah-teh-noids) types of red and yellow pigment found in lots of different plants and vegetables. Though they are commonly occurring nutrients found in a number of veggies, they are particularly abundant in green superfoods such as spinach, kale, and cress.
Rich sources of Carotenoid
Kale is the biggest source of lutein and zeaxanthin, containing 18.3 milligrams of the beneficial nutrient per 100 grams. Cress contains 12.5mg per 100g, while raw spinach (12.2mg) and cooked spinach (11.3mg) are also rich in these carotenoids.
Comparing these leafy superfoods against the carrot for example, clearly shows that perhaps when it comes maintenance of eye health, one can reap more benefits from consuming these leafy vegetables. While carrots do contain some amount of lutein and zeaxanthin ( 0.7mg per 100g), it pales in comparison when compared to kale, cress, and spinach.
Increasing our consumption of these vegan-friendly superfoods (alongside other greens like lettuce, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus) could be hugely beneficial to protecting our eye health, and can even be potent in reducing the risk of blindness!
Here’s a useful infographic that offers an overview on how you can protect your vision, particularly from AMD, with superfoods:
Image credit: Focus Clinics
Curious as to how you can incorporate more plant-based meals into your diet? Why not sign yourself up for an organic culinary vacation? Not only will you learn how to whip up your own plant-based dishes, you’ll be able to learn how to grow them too!