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Carrots give you night vision! And other things adults say

Four carrots and several carrot slices on a white background.

In this episode: part two of parentisms- you know, the things adults like to say that may or may not be true. So many of these sayings have to do with food: Eating carrots will improve your vision. Drinking coffee will make you shorter. Don’t swallow watermelon seeds or they’ll grow in your stomach. We do a little fact checking on this generational eating advice with Dr. Nusheen Ameenuddin of the Mayo Clinic. And we explore a few other sayings you sent us, like why do parents always say, “Next time” when they really mean “No”? And what the heck does it mean to keep your eyes peeled?

Download our learning guides: PDF | Google Slide | Transcript

  • Seeds will not grow in your stomach if you swallow them. Plants need sunlight and moisture to grow, and there isn’t any sunlight inside your stomach! Seeds that aren’t digested will just come out in your poop.
  • Can eating carrots give you night vision? Carrots are high in beta carotene, a pigment that gets converted to Vitamin A inside the body. Vitamin A is important for healthy eyes and good vision. If you don’t get ANY vitamin A in your diet, your night vision will decline, and eventually your sight in general will suffer. In places where people have a hard time getting a good variety of foods, this is a real problem. But many of the foods we eat in the US and other wealthy countries have enough vitamin A for us to get what we need. So you won’t get much of a boost from a few extra carrots.
  • If you cross your eyes, will they get stuck that way? Crossing your eyes will also not hurt your vision. You’re actually likely to get tired of doing it before it hurts your eyes. 
  • Does coffee stunt your growth? Adults worry about coffee because it contains caffeine. There are some concerns that caffeine can, over time stunt growth. In general, though, drinking a cup of coffee or having something with caffeine once in a while is probably not going to stop you from growing.
  • If you eat your bread crusts, will your hair get curly? No! It’s a common old-fashioned myth, but not one with any truth. Maybe your adults are saying that because they don’t want to waste the bread crusts.
  • Is it safe to eat food you dropped on the floor as long as you pick it up within 5 seconds? Research has shown that once you’ve dropped something on the floor the damage is done, even if you swoop in and pick it up quickly. Now, if you have a pretty clean floor, and the food didn’t fall into something gross, it’s kind of up to you whether you want to brush it off and eat it or toss it.
Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
Melody is the Contributing Editor for But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids and the co-author of two But Why books with Jane Lindholm.
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