These fragrant fruits are bursting with nutrients and are delicious eaten fresh or dried. Apricots contain a wide range of protective plant chemicals, which among other benefits, help to combat infections, improve mood, relieve digestive problems and have an amazing anti-cancer effect.
The apricot belongs to the Rosaceae family, which includes other tree fruits such as the apple, pear and peach. Apricots are small, golden orange fruits, with velvety skin and flesh, and a smooth and sweet flavor.
Particularly in their dried form, apricots are one of the best natural sources of Vitamin A and Beta-carotene. Other carotenoids present are cryptoxanthin and gamma-carotene. Apricots are also a good source of potassium, Vitamin C and fiber, and contain an abundance of phytochemicals such as D-glucaric acid, chlorogenic acid, geraniol, quercetin and lycopene.
Apricots are rich in amino acid tryptophan, which the body converts to the feel-good chemical serotonin. This brain chemical improves mood and also helps you sleep well.
Due to their high fiber content, apricots are one of the best foods for the treatment and prevention of constipation. They are also a rich source of well-absorbed iron, so are especially beneficial for women's health.
The health benefits of apricots were first recognized by an ancient tribe called the Hunzas, who lived high in the Himalayas and were known to have exceptionally long lives; many lived beyond 100. apricots, both fresh and dried, were a major part of their staple diet, and they always consumed the seeds of the fruit along with the pulp.
The apricot seed, often referred to as the kernel, contains the naturally occurring toxin cyanide, which in small quantities, is an essential component of normal body chemistry. Apricot kernels also contain vitamin B17, also called laetrile or amygdalin, a compound that has been found in many trials to kill cancer cells, and is used as part of a metabolic therapy program to treat cancer naturally.
Rich in Vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant that prevents free radical damage to eye tissue, apricots are associated with helping to promote good vision. Researchers who studied over 50,000 female nurses found that those with the highest Vitamin A intake reduced their risk of developing cataracts by nearly forty percent.
Patients who had the lowest level of Beta-carotene intake had almost twice the risk of having a heart attack compared to those with the highest intake. Those with the highest intake of Beta-carotene had about one-third the risk of suffering a heart attack and about one-half the risk of dying from it if they did have one.
Tips on Using Apricots
- Dried apricots make a great snack; they're filling, nourishing and a source of instant as well as slow-release energy. However, try to avoid dried apricots that are bright orange as they have been treated with sulfur dioxide. Unsulfured dried apricots are available from health food shops and have a brown color.
- Ruiz D, Egea J, Tomas-Barberan FA, Gil MI. Carotenoids from new apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.) varieties and their relationship with flesh and skin color.J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Aug 10;53(16):6368-74.
- Hankinson SE, Stampfer MJ, Seddon JM, et al. Nutrient intake and cataract extraction in women: a prospective study. BMJ 1992;305(6849):335-9.
- Jacques PF, Chylack LT. Epidemiologic evidence of a role for the antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids in cataract prevention. Am J Clin Nutr. 1991.