If you’re looking for a tasty, versatile snack with major health benefits, apricots pack a super nutritional punch. Apricots are full of healthy nutrients and anti-carcinogens, but sweet and tasty enough to make an enjoyable snack for most people.
Apricots were introduced to the new world by Alexander the Great who found them growing wild in Asia, and brought them back to Europe when he returned from his military expeditions.
The ancient Romans gave the apricot its name - from the Latin word for "precocious" - because the apricot is the first fruit of the season to ripen. The name stuck, and the apricot, along with its many health benefits, spread all over Europe, and later, of course, to America and other parts of the world.
So what exactly are the health benefits of apricots?
The apricot is a fantastic fruit - loaded with beta carotene, iron, fiber, vitamin C, and several B vitamins. As with many fruits, if you dry an apricot, its nutrients get more concentrated, making dried apricots a super healthy snack.
Whether fresh or dried, eating apricots will help you fight the effects of aging, protect your eyesight, ward off cancer, and prevent heart disease.
Four specific ways apricots keep you healthy
Apricots are anti-carcinogenic
If you don’t like, or can’t digest, tomato products - the prime source of lycopene - here's great news for you. Apricots, especially dried ones, are another source of lycopene, the amazing carotenoid that can help prevent prostate, breast, and several other cancers.
Apricots aren't a concentrated source of lycopene - about 30 dried ones have the same amount as one tomato – but munching on them throughout the day can boost your lycopene, while filling you up and satisfying your sweet tooth.
Apricots are also a good source of the most famous carotenoid of them all - beta carotene. This powerful antioxidant reduces your risk of some types of stomach and intestinal cancers. To get these benefits, experts suggest getting at least 5 milligrams of beta carotene each day. That's equal to about six fresh apricots.
Apricots help prevent heart disease
Eating dried apricots as a snack can punch up your levels of iron, potassium, beta carotene, magnesium, and copper. These important nutrients help control your blood pressure and prevent heart disease.
In addition, as few as five dried apricots can give you up to 3 grams of fiber, which sweeps cholesterol out of your system before it has a chance to clog your arteries.
Apricots support eye health
What you eat can affect your vision. Dr. Robert G. Cumming, the lead researcher for the Blue Mountains Eye Study, says, "Our study confirms the importance of vitamin A for cataract prevention."
Since apricots are a good source of beta carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A, and several other nutrients, they can be considered a helpful part of a healthy diet that supports eye health and helps guard against cataracts.
Apricots may improve quantity and quality of life
Believe it or not, some people claim apricots are the secret to living to age 120. They get this idea from the Hunzas, a tribe living in the Himalayan Mountains of Asia. Common health problems, like cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, do not exist in Hunza. And researchers are speculating that apricots, a significant part of their diet, may be partly responsible. The Hunzas eat fresh apricots in season and dry the rest to eat during their long, cold winter.
Although eating apricots can't guarantee you'll live a long life, recent research suggests the little fruit may help you live a better life. The B vitamins in dried apricots may protect you from Alzheimer's and age-related mental problems, like memory loss.
Tips to help you reap the health benefits of apricots
From June to August, the finest fresh apricots roll into US supermarket from California and Washington state. Keep your eyes peeled for the tastiest of the bunch. They'll wear a beautiful, bright orange skin, and they'll look and feel plump. Avoid apricots with yellowish or greenish tinges and those that are hard, shrunken, or bruised.
Just like their cousin the peach, apricots can ripen on your kitchen counter at room temperature. When they feel and smell ripe, wrap them in a paper bag and store them in your refrigerator. They'll stay fresh for several days.
During the winter months, satisfy your apricot craving with fruits imported from South America, or enjoy your apricots dried, canned, or as jams, spreads, and nectars.
Dried apricots are a particularly versatile snack as they don’t require refrigeration and can easily be stored in airtight containers in your car, desk draw at work, or even your gym locker, for a tasty post-workout snack.
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