Apricots make you smile. Just looking at one of those golden velvet fruits is a pleasure because you know that biting into one will be a combination of sweet and tangy, so delicious. You could eat two at a time, right? Well, go right ahead because they are only 17 calories! Cots are a member of the rose family (plums, apples, pears, cherries, peaches, and almonds) and were first cultivated in India and brought to Persia by traders more than 3000 years ago. Their long history in Armenia (home to 50 varieties) leads many to believe that apricots originated there. Spanish missionaries couldn’t live without them either and brought apricot seeds to the West Coast, where all U.S. apricots are grown today in California, Washington, and Utah.
For its small size, apricots have impressive nutritional and medicinal properties. They are high in vitamins C, K, E, and niacin. Additionally, apricots contain beta-carotene, an antioxidant that prevents plaque build-up in arteries. Beta-carotene helps protect eyes from sun damage. Also, the body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, which further protects vision and keeps the eyes lubricated. The mineral content of apricots includes potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese, and phosphorus.
Some studies show that apricot kernel oil helps relieve inflammation due to ulcerative colitis. Recent research demonstrated that apricots support liver health and may even protect against liver disease.
There is an ongoing debate about the benefit of the kernel inside the apricot stone to combat cancer. The Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) position is that although they do demonstrate heart and brain health benefits, there is no current valid evidence that they are a cancer cure. Research and studies are ongoing. Further, the CDC states, “apricot seeds may have substantial amounts of chemicals which are metabolized to cyanide.” Be cautious in consuming the seeds. Also be careful eating dried apricots, which are higher in sugar than fresh.