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Optometrist Insight: Carrots and Eyesight

You may have heard that carrots help you see better, but is this really true? Eye doctors will tell you that regardless of how many carrots you eat, they can't save you from needing eye glasses. However, they do provide large amounts of beta-carotene, a vitamin that is beneficial for your eye health and therefore ingesting carrots and other beta-carotene rich foods is clearly a recommendation for ensuring eye health.

Beta-carotene is an orange colored pigment (carotenoid) that changes into vitamin A after it's absorbed in the human body. Vitamin A helps to guard the surface of the eye (cornea) and has been determined to prevent a number of eye diseases such as corneal ulcers. Vitamin A, a group of antioxidant compounds, protects the surface of the eye to decrease the risk of ocular infections as well as other infectious diseases. Vitamin A has also shown to be a successful treatment for dry eye syndrome and other eye conditions. A lack of this important vitamin (which is be more likely in poor and developing countries) often causes night blindness, corneal ulcers and retinal damage which can lead to blindness.

There are two variations of vitamin A, which relate to the nutritional source from which they come. Vitamin A derived from an animal is called Retinol and can be obtained from foods such as beef, liver, whole milk or cheese. Vitamin A that is obtained from produce exists in the form of ''provitamin A'' carotenoids, which are converted to retinol after the food is digested. In addition to carrots, carotenoids can be found in colorful produce particularly those that are bright orange or green in color.

There is no question that vitamin A is beneficial to your eyes and your total well being. Although carrots can't correct optical distortion which causes vision impairments, mother was right when she said ''finish your vegetables.''

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