“Eat your carrots.” Didn’t we all hear that growing up? Didn’t we learn early on that eating carrots meant we’d acquire a super-hero’s power of sight?

Today’s parents, too, probably know that carrots are packed with vitamins and minerals, and that they have higher levels of beta-carotene than any other vegetable. In our bodies, beta-carotene converts to vitamin A.

 

Vitamin A is actually a group of compounds that include retinal, and that’s the compound that’s essential for good vision-particularly in dim light.

When dogs eat foods containing beta-carotene, it’s absorbed by the intestine and carried to the liver. There it’s combined with fats, converted to vitamin A, and stored there until the body requires it. That’s when the vitamin A is released through the bloodstream and travels to the retina of the eye, where it’s responsible for absorbing light in the retinal receptors. The vitamin promotes proper functioning of the cornea, as well. Eating foods loaded with beta-carotene is not likely to repair eye disease, but it may help prevent it.

Not ingesting enough vitamin A can lead to eye infection and sight loss, so including carrots in a dogs’ diet can ensure their eyes stay healthy and strong.

Good vision isn’t the only benefit of eating carrots. In 2011, a study found overwhelming evidence that the bioactive chemicals in carrots may play a role in treating certain cancers, including leukemia. When researchers treated myeloid and lymphoid leukemia cell lines, cancer-causing cell growth was inhibited. This is believed to be the result of the beta carotene and polyacetylene antioxidants. www.ncbi.nih.gov/pubmed/21864090 Antioxidants scavenge free radicals in the body, which in turn may prevent infection and disease.

As it does for spinach, cooking helps increase the health benefits of carrots. Cooking (and pureeing) also breaks down the cellulose that surrounds each cell in a carrot—cellulose that dogs otherwise cannot metabolize.

Our dogs can already detect smells like a superhero. Including carrots in their diet can keep them seeing like one, too.

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