Do carrots really help you see in the dark?

I usually eat four or five raw carrots with my meat, and that is all. I must be part rabbit; I never get bored of raw carrots.

Marilyn Monroe

The old adage says to eat plenty of carrots and you will see better in the dark. But why is that?⁠

Vitamins often have other names, and this one is also known as retinal. Your body needs retinal in order to synthesis rhodopsin, the pigment needed by the eyes to be able to see in dim light. Not enough vitamin A in your diet and you risk developing a condition called nyctalopia, aka night blindness!⁠

That’s not all that vitamin A is good for though. It is also very important for good development, a healthy immune system and healthy skin.⁠

The average adult female requires 0.6mg and adult male requires 0.7mg per day, and this is easily found in a well-balanced diet. Good sources include oily fish, milk and cheese, liver, and foods containing beta-carotene. These are yellow, red and green vegetables (for example, those carrots we were talking about, red peppers, and spinach) and yellow fruits (such as mango and apricots)⁠.

So if carrots are a good source of beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body, and vitamin A is needed for good vision in dim light, that old wives’ tale certainly does have some truth to it⁠.

This week the #triviatuesday question on Instagram asked which vitamin supposedly helps you to see in the dark. The correct answer was vitamin A.⁠

Please note:  This post is intended to be general information that applies to people who don’t have diagnosed medical conditions and are not pregnant, and any figures correct at the time of writing. As always, please see a registered professional before making changes to your diet⁠.

There are safe upper limits for the intake of vitamin A. It is not advisable to take supplements and also eat foods high in vitamin A. Please take a look at the page from the NHS in the links below which gives guidance on this.