The origin of the apricot fruit is disputed. Some say it first originated in China and later arrived in Asia and Europe and then spread to other parts of the world. Other experts attribute Armenia as the place where apricots were first cultivated. Its botanical name derives its name from Armenia namely Prunus armeniaca.
Apricots were already well-known in Greece in 60 BC and were transported to Europe by Greeks who called them “golden eggs of the sun.”
Today, apricots’ primary commercial operations are in the Mediterranean and Middle East, with off-season offerings from South America and New Zealand. In America, the first apricot tree was first shipped to Virginia in 1720.
Apricots are the yellowish-orange fruits that belong to the family of Rosacea or prunus. Apricots are small in size and a fully matured fruit can be between 1.5 cm to 2.5 cm. They are covered in a velvet-like skin which is smooth and soft to touch. Apricots are available and consumed either fresh or in dried form. Both are equally nutritious in their content.
In their unripe form, Apricots are green in color and they turn to a golden yellow or orange shade once they start ripening. They are usually available in the summer season. However you can enjoy the canned and dried variety all through the year. Apricots are grown in many countries of the world. They are most popular in countries of North America, South America and New Zealand.
The impressive health benefits of apricots are due to the content of vitamins, including vitamins A, C, K, E, and niacin in significant amounts, as well as a number of other essential vitamins in trace amounts, as well as their mineral content, which includes potassium, copper manganese, magnesium, and phosphorous. Apricots are also a very good source of dietary fiber, like most fruits.
Apricots are rich in many plant antioxidants. Such as:
- Gallic acid
- Caffeic acid
- Coumaric acid
- Ferulic acid
The health benefits of apricot include its ability to treat indigestion, constipation, earaches, fevers, skin diseases, cancer and anemia. Apricot oil is useful for treating strained muscles and wounds. It is also believed that apricot is good for skin care, especially for women. This is why you find it added in various cosmetics. Furthermore, apricots have the ability to improve heart health, reduce cholesterol levels, prevent the deterioration of vision, helps you to lose weight, treat respiratory conditions, boost bone strength, and maintain electrolyte balance in the body.
Here are some of them in more detail:
Anemia: Apricots provide iron and copper which help in the formation of hemoglobin when you consume them. This property helps in treating anemia. Anemia is basically iron deficiency, and it can lead to weakness, fatigue, light headedness, digestive issues, and general metabolic function. Without red blood cells, the body can’t re-oxygenate itself properly, and organ systems begin to malfunction. Iron is a key part of red blood cell formation, as is copper. Both of these minerals are present in apricots, making it a great tool to boost metabolism and keep the body functioning properly.
Asthma: It is also believed that apricot oil is anti-asthmatic in nature and helps in treating the disease and its related symptoms. It has certain expectorant and stimulant qualities due to its essential oils. One of these can help to relieve pressure and stress on the lungs and respiratory system, thereby preventing asthma attacks before they begin.
Bone Health: Apricots have significant amounts of all the minerals necessary for healthy bone growth. Calcium, phosphorous, manganese, iron, and copper all play a certain role in the creation of bone matter. Therefore, eating apricots can ensure the healthy growth and development of your bones, as well as preventing various age-related conditions, including osteoporosis.
Cancer: The seeds of apricot are believed to aid in the treatment of cancer. Between the carotenoids and the other antioxidant compounds that apricots have, it is no surprise that they are a threat to free radicals. Free radicals are the dangerous byproducts of cellular metabolism that can cause healthy cells to mutate their DNA into cancerous cells. Antioxidants neutralize these harmful compounds and ensure that the body doesn’t contract conditions like cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and aging skin. Apricots have been directly linked to reducing the risk of cancer.
Constipation: Apricots are rich in fiber and are therefore good for smooth bowel movements. It is often recommended to patients who regularly suffer from constipation due to its laxative properties. Fiber is a way to bulk up the stool. In this way, it becomes easier to transport through the bowels to its eventual excretion from the body. Fiber stimulates the gastric and digestive juices that help absorb the nutrients and break down the food for easier processing.
Diabetes: Most sweet fruits are not recommended for people suffering with diabetes but there are several fruits that can be safely eaten in this condition. Apricot is one such fruit that is mildly sweet and one serving of it, which is roughly about four apricots, can provide a nutritious fruit option for people with diabetes.
Eyesight: Apricots are rich in the carotenoids and xanthophylls, nutrients that researchers believe may help protect eyesight from aging-related damage.
Heart Health: Apricots are a wonderful way to protect your heart from a wide variety of diseases, including atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. The high amount of vitamin-C, as well as potassium and dietary fiber, all contribute to good cardiovascular health. Vitamin-C protects the heart from free radicals; potassium lowers blood pressure by relaxing the tension of blood vessels and arteries, while dietary fiber scrapes the excess cholesterol from the lining of the vessels and arteries, thereby clearing them and reducing the strain on the heart. All together, these properties of apricots make it ideal for boosting heart health.
Pregnancy: Consumed in moderation both dried and fresh apricots are good for pregnant and lactating women.
Skin: Apricot fruit is packed with antioxidants that protect the skin against free radical damage. Free radicals are compounds that can cause premature aging. Apricot is a good source of vitamin A and vitamin C that are essential for good skin health. Regular consumption of apricots helps in maintaining smooth appearance of skin. However it is also useful in severe skin conditions such as scabies and eczema. Apricot oil when applied on skin helps in keeping the skin supple and soft. The skin absorbs apricot oil fairly quickly and hence its application does not leave the skin looking oily. Face packs and scrubs made of apricots are good to apply to face as their effect is very gentle on the skin.
HOW TO SELECT AND STORE
Apricot season in the U.S. runs from May through August. In the winter, apricots are imported from South America. 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.
HOW TO ENJOY
Apricots can be consumed fresh or dried. It is also used in the preparation of various juices, jams, squash and jellies.
Here are a few quick serving ideas:
Make a delicious apricot smoothie
Apricot ice cream is delicious for a cool summer treat
Apricots make a fantastic tart
Apricots make a delicious jam
A WORD OF CAUTION
Commercially 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 some people, who turn out to be sulfite sensitive.
Sulfite reactions can be particularly acute in people who suffer from asthma.
When buying look for unsulfured dried apricots. They are brown in color, but are a much healthier choice for sulfite-sensitive individuals.
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