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Carrots and carotenoids

by Eva Amsen

Carrots are good for your eyes, that’s nothing new. They won’t be able to rid you of your glasses, but they do contain high amounts of beta-carotene, which (aside from giving carrots their trademark orange colour) is a precursor of vitamin A. Vitamin A in turn is needed to produce the molecule retinal. This molecule works as a switch that reacts to light and passes on a signal from the eye to the brain whenever light reaches it.
Without retinal (without vitamin A) you would have a hard time reading this: you wouldn’t be able to distinguish the dark letters from the light background. Lack of retinal is most apparent when there isn’t a lot of light: in other words, vitamin A deficieny causes night-blindness. So eat your carrots!
If you’re bored with the traditional orange carrots, maybe you’d prefer a white or purple one? A recent study from the University of Wisconsin Madison compared the carotenoid level (for example beta-carotene) and the taste of five different carrot colours: orange, purple, yellow, red, and white. The purple and orange carrots contained most carotenoids, but would you eat a purple carrot? A group of 96 volunteers tried the carrots, both with and without blindfold. Although they generally liked the flavour of all five colours, the orange and white carrots were definite favourites. Interestingly, in the blindfolded study the white and orange carrots ranked about the same, but once the blindfolds came off, the test panel suddenly preferred the taste of the orange ones! Us creatures of habit will be happy to know that according to this study regular orange carrots ranked as both healthy and tasty!

Read more:
How vision works
The carrot colour research paper

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