Well, according to WWII Britain they could!
A WWII propaganda campaign popularized the idea that carrots could help you see in the dark. In fact, carrot consumption became mandatory for the British Royal Air Force during the war, and Germans were led to believe that all those carrots allowed British pilots to see German planes in the dark—even during government-issued citywide blackouts.
What the Luftwaffe didn’t realize was that carrots didn’t have anything to do with the Royal Air Force’s skill. In fact, British pilots were able to spot the Germans in the dark because of their secret radar technology. The new on-board radars saw enemy planes before they reached the English Channel. Meanwhile, the carrot story kept the Germans confused long enough to keep the radars secret.
Even still, this wasn’t the first time that carrots have been touted to improve vision, nor was it the last. Popular culture agrees that carrots can improve poor vision, but that’s not really true.
But we’re not about here to throw carrots under the bus entirely. Even though carrots cannot improve vision enough to help you get rid of your glasses, or even enough to help you see better in the dark, carrots and other vitamin A-rich foods are important in preventing or slowing down some eye diseases, such as macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of visual loss.
In the developing world, vitamin A deficiency is one of the leading causes of blindness, and a diet that is consistently low in vitamin A can contribute to macular degeneration and cataracts.
Vitamin A, along with another antioxidant found in carrots, lutein, are important to the health of the retina and macula. In fact, they increase the density of healthy pigment in the eyes, which may have a protective effect against certain diseases.
Keep in mind that carrots aren’t the only source of vitamin A and lutein. Colorful vegetables like sweet potatoes, pumpkin, red bell peppers and kale are all great sources of these antioxidants and many others.
So while carrots, or any other vegetable, won’t let you see in the dark, we recommend that you enjoy them frequently anyway.
Tarantino Cho Eye Center