An apricot is basically a tasty little low-calorie bundle of nutrients put together in a beautiful, sun-colored package. What’s not to like?
Two medium apricots have about 1½ g of fiber, 1,348 IUs of vitamin A, 766 IUs of beta-carotene, 181 mg of potassium, and, just for good measure, 13 mg of phytosterols, plant chemicals that have numerous health benefits. Apricots also contain beta-cryptoxanthin, a member of the carotenoid family that is a strong antioxidant and seems to reduce the risk of lung and colon cancer.
Some studies have demonstrated that beta-cryptoxanthin can reduce the risk of lung cancer by more than 30 percent, and other studies have shown that it reduces the risk for the untold arthritis by 41 percent. In order to absorb the beta-cryptoxanthin, it’s essential that your diet contains some fat, since, like other carotenoids, beta-cryptoxanthin is fat soluble. That makes a pretty strong argument for apricots and almonds as a really healthy treat, don’t you think?
The apricot originally hails from China, where it has been grown for more than 4,000 years. Legend has it that it was brought to the West by Alexander the Great. Most of the apricots in the United States are grown in California, but many varieties come from the Middle and Near East, especially Turkey. I remember that one of the first “natural food” stores I ever patronized was owned by a Turkish family who were especially proud of their high-nutrient fresh apricots, imported from “home.”
What about Dried or Stewed Apricots?
Dried apricots are a favorite “health food” and frequently found in trail mixes. They’re a little high in sugar since they’re so concentrated, the calories are higher (½ cup of dried apricots has 157 calories vs. 34 for two small whole apricots), and for some strange reason you lose the beta-cryptoxanthin. But they’re still a good source of beta-carotene and vitamin A. Another option is stewed apricots (106 calories for ½ cup of stewed fruit, unsweetened); they’re delicious, even higher in potassium and fiber, and still loaded with beta-carotene and vitamin A. No beta-cryptoxanthin, though—for that, you need to eat the whole fruit raw.
Apricots are a dietary staple of the Hunza—a remote little kingdom of folks in the Himalayas that have attracted tons of attention because they live long and stay healthy.