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 and are in season in
through June. 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. Greece
Nutrients in apricots can help protect the heart and eyes, as well as provide the disease-fighting effects of fiber. The high beta-carotene content of apricots makes them important heart health foods. Beta-carotene helps 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 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 over 100,000 women and 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 ARMD, 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 ARMD, 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.
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 that 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.
Apricots are originally from
China but arrived in Europe via , which is why the scientific name is Prunus armenaica. The apricot tree came to Armenia Virginia in 1720 but its appearance in the Spanish missions of around 1792 marked the fruit's real arrival. The climate there is perfectly suited to apricot culture, and apricots in the California 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 are the leading producers of apricots. France
Look for fruits with a rich orange color while avoiding those that are pale and yellow. Fruits should be slightly soft. If they are too firm they have not been tree-ripened, and tree-ripened fruits always taste best.
For the most antioxidants, choose fully ripened fruit:
Research conducted at the
University of Innsbruck in suggests that as fruits fully ripen, almost to the point of spoilage, their antioxidant levels actually increase. Austria
Key to the process is the change in color that occurs as fruits ripen, a similar process to that seen in the fall when leaves turn from green to red to yellow to brown&mash;a color change caused by the breakdown and disappearance of chlorophyll, which gives leaves and fruits their green color.
Until now, no one really knew what happened to chlorophyll during this process, but lead researcher, Bernard Krutler, and his team, working together with botanists over the past several years, has identified the first decomposition products in leaves: colorless, polar NCCs (nonfluorescing chlorophyll catabolytes), that contain four pyrrole rings - like chlorophyll and heme.
After examining apples and pears, the scientists discovered that NCCs replace the chlorophyll not only in the leaves of fruit trees, but in their very ripe fruits, especially in the peel and flesh immediately below it.
"When chlorophyll is released from its protein complexes in the decomposition process, it has a phototoxic effect: when irradiated with light, it absorbs energy and can transfer it to other substances. For example, it can transform oxygen into a highly reactive, destructive form," report the researchers. However, NCCs have just the opposite effect. Extremely powerful antioxidants, they play an important protective role for the plant, and when consumed as part of the human diet, NCCs deliver the same potent antioxidant protection within our bodies.
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.
vegetable stews with the addition of dried, diced apricots.
Serve fresh apricots in your green salad when they are in season.
Dried Apricots and Sulfites
Commercially grown 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.
Foods that are classified as "organic" do not contain sulfites since federal regulations prohibit the use of these preservatives in organically grown or produced foods. Therefore, concern about sulfite exposure is yet another reason to purchase organic foods.
Apricots are an excellent source of vitamin A, a very good source of vitamin C, and a good source of dietary fiber and potassium.
Apricots contain phytochemicals called carotenoids, compounds that give red, orange and yellow colors to fruits and vegetables. The powerful antioxidant Lycopene is one of the carotenoids found in apricots.
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 (below the chart you will find a table that explains these qualifications). If a nutrient is not listed in the chart, it does not necessarily mean that the food doesn't contain it. It simply means that the nutrient is not provided in a sufficient amount or concentration to meet our rating criteria. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's "Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling