The World's Healthiest Foods
Apricot

Apricots are those beautifully orange colored fruits full of beta carotene and fiber that are one of the first signs of summer. Although dried and canned apricots are available year-round, fresh apricots with a plentiful supply of vitamin C, are season from May through August. Any fresh fruit you see during the winter months have been imported from either South America or New Zealand.

Relatives to peaches, apricots are small, golden orange fruits, with velvety skin and flesh, not too juicy but definitely smooth and sweet. Some describe their flavor as almost musky, with a faint tartness that lies somewhere between a peach and a plum.

 


Health Benefits

Nutrients in apricots can help protect the heart and eyes, as well as provide the disease-fighting effects of fiber. The high beta-carotene and lycopene activity of apricots makes them important heart health foods. Both beta-carotene and lycopene protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation, which may help prevent heart disease.

Apricots contain nutrients such as Vitamin A that promote good vision. Vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant, quenches free radical damage to cells and tissues. Free radical damage can injure the eyes’ lenses.

The degenerative effect of free radicals, or oxidative stress, may lead to cataracts or damage the blood supply to the eyes and cause macular degeneration. Researchers who studied over 50,000 registered nurses found women who had the highest vitamin A intake reduced their risk of developing cataracts nearly 40%. Apricots are a good source of fiber, which has a wealth of benefits including preventing constipation and digestive conditions such as diverticulosis. But most Americans get less than 10 grams of fiber per day. A healthy, whole foods diet should include apricots as a delicious way to add to your fiber intake.

Protect Your Eyesight

Your mother may have told you carrots would keep your eyes bright as a child, but as an adult, it looks like fruit is even more important for keeping your sight. Data reported in a study published in the June 2004 issue of the Archives of Opthamology indicates that eating 3 or more servings of fruit per day may lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss in older adults, by 36%, compared to persons who consume less than 1.5 servings of fruit daily.

In this study, which involved 77,562 women and 40,866 men, researchers evaluated the effect of study participants' consumption of fruits; vegetables; the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E; and carotenoids on the development of early ARMD or neovascular ARM, a more severe form of the illness associated with vision loss. Food intake information was collected periodically for up to 18 years for women and 12 years for men.

While, surprisingly, intakes of vegetables, antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids were not strongly related to incidence of either form of ARM, fruit intake was definitely protective against the severe form of this vision-destroying disease. Three servings of fruit may sound like a lot to eat each day, but by simply tossing a banana into your morning smoothie or slicing it over your cereal, topping off a cup of yogurt or green salad with a half cup of berries, and snacking on an apricot, you've reached this goal. (June 30, 2004)

Description

Apricots are small, golden orange fruits, with velvety skin and flesh: not too juicy but definitely smooth and sweet. Their flavor is almost musky, with a faint tartness which is more pronounced when the fruit is dried. Some people think of the flavor as being somewhere between a peach and a plum, fruits to which they're closely related.

History

Apricots are originally from China but arrived in Europe via Armenia, which is why the scientific name is Prunus armenaica. The apricot tree came to Virginia in 1720 but its appearance in the Spanish missions of California around 1792 marked the fruit’s real arrival. The climate there is perfectly suited to apricot culture, and apricots in the United States are grown primarily in the sunny orchards of California.

Apricots are enjoyed as a fresh fruit but also dried, cooked into pastry, and eaten as jam. The fruits are also distilled into brandy and liqueur. Essential oil from the pits is sold commercially as bitter almond oil. Turkey, Italy, Russia, Spain, Greece, U.S.A. and France are the leading producers of apricots.

How to Select and Store

How to Enjoy

A few quick serving ideas:

Add sliced apricots to hot or cold cereal.

The next time you make whole grain pancakes add some chopped apricots to the batter.

Give a Middle Eastern flavor to chicken or vegetable stews with the addition of dried, diced apricots.

Serve fresh apricots in your green salad when they are in season.

Safety

Dried apricots may be treated with sulfur dioxide gas during processing. They may also be treated with sulfites to extend their shelf life.

Sulfur-containing compounds are often added to dried foods like apricots as preservatives to help prevent oxidation and bleaching of colors. The sulfites used to help preserve dried apricots cause adverse reactions in an estimated one out of every 100 people, who turn out to be sulfite sensitive.

Sulfite reactions can be particularly acute in people who suffer from asthma. The Federal Food and Drug Administration estimates that 5 percent of asthmatics may suffer a reaction when exposed to sulfites. Instead of the bright orange color of sulfite-treated dried apricots, unsulfured dried apricots have brown color, but are a much healthier choice for sulfite-sensitive individuals.

Nutritional Profile

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that that amount represents (similar to other information presented in the website, this DV is calculated for 25-50 year old healthy woman); the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. For more detailed information on our Food and Recipe Rating System, please click here.

 

Apricots, Raw
1.00 each
16.80 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
vitamin A 914.20 IU 18.3 19.6 excellent
vitamin C 3.50 mg 5.8 6.3 very good
dietary fiber 0.84 g 3.4 3.6 good
tryptophan 0.01 g 3.1 3.3 good
potassium 103.60 mg 3.0 3.2 good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DV>=75% OR Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%

References

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  • Dorai T, Cao YC, Dorai B, et al. Therapeutic potential of curcumin in human prostate cancer. III. Curcumin inhibits proliferation, induces apoptosis, and inhibits angiogenesis of LNCaP prostate cancer cells in vivo. Prostate 2001 Jun 1;47(4):293-303.
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  • 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;53:352S-5S.
  • Kohlmeyer L, Kark JD, Gomez-Gracia E, et al. Lycopene and myocardial infarction risk in the EUROMIC study. Am J Epidemiol 1997;146:618-26.
  • Olszewska M, Glowacki R, Wolbis M, Bald E. Quantitative determination of flavonoids in the flowers and leaves of Prunus spinosa L. Acta Pol Pharm 2001 May-2001 Jun 30;58(3):199-203.
  • Papazian R. Sulfites: Safe for most, dangerous for some. US Food and Drug Administration. FDA Consumer. Dec 1996.
  • Risasanen, T, Voutilainen S, Nyyssonen K et al. Low plasma lycopene concentration is associated with increased intima-media thickness of the carotid artery wall. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 2000 Dec;20(12):2677-81.
  • Wills RB, Scriven FM, Greenfield H. Nutrient composition of stone fruit (Prunus spp.) cultivars: apricot, cherry, nectarine, peach and plum. J Sci Food Agric 1983 Dec;34(12):1383-9.
  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988.
  • Wuthi-udomler M, Grisanapan W, Luanratana O, Caichompoo W. Antifungal activity of Curcuma longa grown in Thailand. Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health 2000;31 Suppl 1:178-82.

This page was updated on: 2004-11-19 14:20:38
© 2002 The George Mateljan Foundation