Are Carrots Good for Cataracts?

Q:  Do carrots really help your eyesight?  Both my wife and I have had cataract surgery.  Is there anything that we can eat to help protect our vision? ~ V.O., Bath, OH

Carrots contain eye-healthy compoundsA: Carrots contain lutein (LOO-teen) and zeaxanthin (zee-uh-ZAN-thin) which are nutrients that may protect the eyes. Lutein and zeaxanthin are xanthophylls that belong to the carotenoid family of organic pigments. Xanthophylls are found naturally in plants and give fruits and vegetables their pretty colors. They are found in the flesh of the fruit and vegetable as well as in the leaves.

Cataracts and ARMD

Lutein and zeaxanthin are yellow-orange-red pigments that accumulate in the lens of the human eye and the central part of the retina (macula) and filter harmful components of sunlight. In ongoing research studies, both lutein and zeaxanthin have been found to help protect against eye diseases, such as cataracts (caused by oxidative stress and solar damage to the lens of the eye). Some studies have shown these nutrients actually lowered the need for cataract surgery by up to 20% with up to a 40% reduction in the risk for age-related macular degeneration (ARMD). ARMD is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.  

Eat Your Veggies

Be sure to eat at least five to nine servings of colorful fruits and vegetables daily to consume adequate amounts of lutein + zeaxanthin (about 6 mg per day) in addition to other healthful nutrients. These eye-friendly compounds can be found in the following:

  • Yellow/deep orange foods – Egg yolks, carrots, orange juice, peaches, squash, sweet potatoes, persimmons, tangerines, orange bell peppers, corn, cantaloupe, mango, apricots
  • Dark, green leafy vegetables – Kalespinach, turnip greens, collard greens, romaine lettuce, beet greens
  • Brussels sprouts, broccoli, zucchini, garden peas, avocado, asparagus, kiwi fruit, grapes

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Fit Tip: Try preparing the California Spinach Dip, Tofu Enchurritos, or the Broccoli Almond Salad with Avocado for a plateful of lutein + zeaxanthin!

Lutein and zeaxanthin and their potential roles in disease prevention. Antioxidants Research Laboratory, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, 711 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111, USA.

The potential role of dietary xanthophylls in cataract and age-related macular degeneration. Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts 02111, USA.

Associations between lutein, zeaxanthin, and age-related macular degeneration. Department of Human Nutritional Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.


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