Luke Voytas is a pediatrician and author in Portland, Oregon. His posts combine research and common sense to help parents be calm and confident in raising their kids.

Do Carrots Improve Your Vision?

Do Carrots Improve Your Vision?

My mom always told me this when I was a boy.  After doing Bugs Bunny impersonations, this is probably the second biggest reason I ate a lot of carrots.  And over the years I’ve dropped this knowledge on countless patients.  It’s kind of true that carrots are good for your vision since they are loaded with vitamin A.  Specifically, they have a pigment called beta-carotene that our bodies convert to vitamin A.  The vitamin A then helps absorb light and relay that signal to your brain.  It also helps protect the surface of the cornea. It’s also true that thousands of malnourished children around the world go blind each year due to vitamin A deficiency.

But the fantasy that they improve your vision, especially night vision, was a deliberate myth that originated during World War II.  The British had developed a secret weapon to counter the hundreds of German planes flying over the English Channel on bombing raids – a radar system onboard their planes that let them shoot down the German planes more easily at night.  But they wanted to keep it a secret, so they attributed their pilots’ new success to enhanced night vision from eating more carrots.  This myth had a second benefit – it also prompted English civilians to eat more carrots to see better during the frequent blackouts.  And carrots were a relatively plentiful food in a country that was rationing heavily during the war. In the above picture, some little kids don't seem sold on the new wartime snack of a carrot on a stick.

Carrots get all the buzz, but sweet potatoes have even more vitamin A, and dark leafy greens are a great source as well.  

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Will Listening to Mozart Make Your Kid Smarter?

Will Listening to Mozart Make Your Kid Smarter?