Believed to have originated in ancient Asia, apricots (Prunus armeniaca) are intensely cultivated throughout the world. Since their domestication, they have been highly appreciated not only for their culinary value, but also for their incredible curative properties which ancient traditional medicine believed were worthy of all of our attention. Ancient Persian and Greek physicians used apricot seeds and oil to reduce inflammation and even to treat tumors.
Modern physicians have subjected apricots to intense research and thus have discovered a potent natural substance called laetrile (or amygdalin); they are optimistic with regard to it being a potent future anticancer treatment. But let us go over other amazing health benefits of apricots, which I am sure you will find enlightening.
Apricots are available all summer long, with some varieties ripening as late as autumn. They can be easily recognized by their bright yellow-orange skin with small smudgy red areas. Depending on the variety, the flesh of apricots may range from sweet to tart. Nevertheless, the smell of natural, fresh fruit is downright incredible and easily recognizable. For this reason (and many others) it is wholeheartedly recommended that you eat organic, fresh apricots while they are in season. Not only will you get energized and enjoy a sweet, fresh snack or dessert, but you will also keep healthy thanks to the generous vitamin, mineral and antioxidant content of the fruit.
First of all, apricots are a good source of vitamin C, an incredibly potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Vitamin C helps boost our immune system, offering us better protection against infectious agents. Alongside excellent amounts of vitamin A, apricots contain beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin (precursors of vitamin A), all of which ensure a perfectly healthy vision. Lutein and zeaxanthin are natural carotenoids with potent antioxidant properties which protect the retina against the damaging effects of free radicals from light.
The degenerative effects of free radicals result in oxidative stress which, in time, causes cataracts or damage to the blood supply to the eyes, which eventually leads to macular degeneration (loss of central vision). A study conducted on 50,000 participants arrived at the following conclusions: female participants who took vitamin A supplements or increased their vitamin A intake through diet showed a 40% lower risk of developing cataract. So remember: apricots make healthy eyes.
Other vitamins found in apricots include: B-group vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B9 or folate) and vitamin K. B-group vitamins ensure the proper distribution of energy throughout the body, while vitamin K is essential for blood coagulation. Though in small amounts, minerals are also present in apricots: potassium, magnesium, manganese, iron and zinc are a small, yet precious addition to our diet with wonderful tonic and restorative properties.
Potassium regulates blood pressure and heartbeat and magnesium ensures the proper depositation of calcium in our bones, contributing to preventing osteoporosis and arthitis. Manganese is a potent antioxidant, zinc is good for immunity, while iron combats anemia. In addition to this wide variety of vitamins and minerals, apricots also contain a substance called tryptophan. Studies show that tryptophan regulates serotonin levels, which not only improves mood, but can also improve the quality of sleep, improving disturbed sleep conditions such as insomnia.
Last but not least, apricots are a relatively good source of dietary fiber (approximately 2 g of fiber/100 g of fruit), which is ideal for anyone struggling to manage and relieve constipation. A diet rich in fiber is a great way to lose those extra pounds that just won’t come off. If apricots are no longer in season or if you feel like trying a slightly different texture, you can switch to dried apricots, which are not ony delicious, but also incredibly nutritious.
But how do we recognise organic dried apricots? The secret lies in their colour: brightly coloured dried apricots contain sulfur dioxide or E220, while darker looking fruit do not. However, it is always best to check the label and see whether or not the fruit have been dried mechanically or using chemical compounds. Overall, apricots are so incredibly good for our health and it is up to us to make the right choices for our health.