Do carrots help you to see in the dark?

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You might think that parents will do anything to get their little cherubs to eat more veggies.

But are they to blame for the one about carrots? You know, the one that goes: if you don’t eat them alllll up, you won’t be able to see in the dark.

It never worked on me. Who WANTS to be able to see the Bogey Man or what lies in wait, drooling underneath your bed?

The myth-buster…

No, carrots won’t help the average Joe see in the dark.

But before you head off, disappointed, there’s a great story behind it which involves fighter pilots, radar and WWII! Coooool.

John Cunningham was the Royal Air Force’s top-scoring night fighter pilot during WWII. He earned himself the nickname ‘Cat’s Eyes’. The story that the Ministry of Information and RAF circulated to the newspapers was that his success was due to carrots.

What was really going on (according to John Stolarczyk’s research from archives at the Imperial War Museum and the Mass Observation Archive in the UK) was the secret use of new radar technology. At the Battle of Britain in 1940, Cunningham was the first person to shoot down an enemy plane with the help of radar. The use of this technology meant that enemy bombers could be pinpointed before they reached the English channel.

While it’s not known if the German tacticians fell for the carrot ruse, the British public were led to believe that eating ‘more carrots and leafy green and yellow vegetables’ would help them during the many blackouts.

So, can carrots improve your eyesight at all?

Yes, but only if you are already deficient in vitamin A.

Apparently, it’s very rare to be deficient in vitamin A in Australia but one of the earliest signs is reduced night vision. Carrots (along with broccoli, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and other dark-leafed veggies) contain beta carotene, which our bodies convert into vitamin A.

If you’ve already got a pretty balanced diet, munching more carrots is not going to help you see through walls or anything. In fact, if your body already has sufficient Vitamin A, it won’t produce any more.

Now go, enjoy your carrot sticks and hoummus in the dark, or daylight. It doesn’t matter.

Thanks to Jackie Gallagher and Manintheorangeshirt for the Flickr images!

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