Very rich in properties, apricots are precious against free radicals and useful for the health of the heart, eyes, skin and hair. Find out all the benefits of apricots and possible contraindications.
Apricot is a typically summer fruit of the apricot tree or Prunus Armeniaca, belonging to the Rosaceae species. The apricot tree is native to Asia and was spread to Europe by the Romans after the conquest of Armenia, hence the name. Currently, the largest apricot producers worldwide are Italy, Spain, the United States, France and Greece.
The plant is quite resistant, reaching even 10 meters in height in the wild. It is grown in temperate climate areas and blooms in spring, while the ripening of the fruits, depending on the species, takes place between June and the end of July. In reality, the Pindos variety is already harvested between the end of May and the beginning of June while the majority ripens in June and July, like the valleggia, typical of Liguria.
Apricot has an oval shape, with different size and color depending on the variety. It is characterized by a velvety skin that can range from golden to red. Now let’s see what are the most common apricot varieties.
Types of apricots: the most common varieties
Apricots are typical fruits of the summer season and particularly appreciated for their nutritional and organoleptic properties. They are distinguished by the many varieties present: in this regard, a description of the best known ones follows.
- Pindos apricot: Pindos apricot stands out among the early flowering varieties, and it is possible to harvest it in late May. It is a medium-sized fruit with a not too sweet flavor;
- Royal Imola Apricot: originally from China and widespread in Emilia Romagna, this variety of apricots is characterized by its large size and marked aroma. The color of the peel is yellow with shades of red, while the flavor is sweet and sometimes acidulous. It is an early flowering variety (March-May) and ripening in early July;
- Apricot of Valleggia: typical of the Savona area and arrived randomly from the East, the Apricot of Valleggia is distinguished by the characteristics of its skin, which is thin and colored with a soft orange, interrupted by scattered red spots. It is a small fruit, although its flavor is intense, sweet and aromatic;
- Amabile Vecchioni Apricot: with a “sweet” flavor, precisely, the fruits of this variety are large and oval in shape, delimited by a yellow-orange casing. Flowering takes place in March, while ripening takes place in early June;
- Tyrinthos apricot: this variety is typical of Northern Italy and ripens between late May and early June. These are large fruits with a light yellow color. The pulp is not very juicy and has a delicate flavor;
- Vesuvian apricot: collecting different biotypes of apricot (eg: the Portici, the Cafona, the Pellecchiella, the Prete, etc.) this denomination refers to a decidedly vast cultivation that extends throughout the Vesuvius area. Very rich in potassium, the soil of this area gives its fruits a sweet and characteristic flavor. These are apricots with an important scent and a yellow-orange color dotted with red. Ripening is early and the harvest takes place in mid-June.
Although there are different types, generally the taste and beneficial properties are similar in all apricot varieties. Let’s see them together.
Apricot: calories and nutritional values
Fresh apricots are rich in water and low in fat and therefore low in calories, providing 48 calories per 100 grams. They are therefore ideal for a healthy snack to rehydrate and fill up on vitamins, minerals and antioxidants without giving up a low-calorie diet. They also have a low glycemic index.
They also have a good amount of fiber, which prevents constipation as it accelerates intestinal transit, gives a greater sense of satiety, useful in overweight subjects, and helps reduce blood sugar and cholesterol. Let’s now take a look at the nutritional values of apricots and the characteristics of the elements most represented.
Nutritional values per 100g of apricots:
- Waterfall: 86.35 gr
- kcal: 48
- Proteins: 1.4 g
- Fat: 0.39 g
- Carbohydrates: 11.12 g
- Fibers: 2 g
- Soccer: 13 mg
- Potassium: 259 mg
- Magnesium: 10 mg
- Phosphorus: 23 mg
- C vitamin: 10 mg (16.7% RDA)
- Vitamin B1: 0.03 mg (2.1% RDA)
- Vitamin B2: 0.04 mg (2.5% RDA)
- Vitamin B3: 0.6 mg (3.3% RDA)
- Vitamin B5: 0.24 mg (4% RDA)
- Folate: 9 µg (4.5% RDA)
- Vitamin A (RAE): 96 µg (12% RDA)
- Beta-Carotene: 1094 µg
- Vitamin E: 0.89 mg (8.9% RDA)
- Vitamin K: 3.3 µg (4.7% RDA)
- Lutein + zeaxanthin: 89 µg
- Glycemic index: 35
- Cholesterol: 0 g
Apricot: nutritional properties
Apricots are rich in minerals, especially potassium and beta-carotene which is the precursor of Vitamin A. The quantity of Vitamin C and Vitamin E is also good. In apricots there are many substances with antioxidant activity, in addition to the vitamins already mentioned, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, but also quercetin.
- Potassium: Apricots have a good potassium content. This mineral regulates blood pressure, lowering it, as it promotes the elimination of excess fluids, thus also fighting water retention. It also regulates the heartbeat;
- Beta-carotene: it is a natural pigment which is responsible for the yellow-orange color of fruit and vegetables, such as apricots. In our body it is converted into Vitamin A or retinol of which it therefore represents the precursor. Vitamin A is essential for maintaining eye function, including night vision, and for cell growth and differentiation. Beta-carotene has a strong antioxidant activity, counteracting the free radicals responsible for cellular aging and cancer;
- Vitamin C: this vitamin is a powerful antioxidant and strengthens the immune system, counteracting colds and flu. It is essential for the synthesis of collagen and promotes the absorption of iron, fighting anemia;
- Vitamin E: in addition to being an antioxidant, this vitamin has a vasodilating action and stimulates the immune system, prevents cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and tumors;
- Lutein and zeaxanthin: these are two antioxidant carotenoids contained in the retina of the eye, protecting it from damage from light radiation;
- Quercetin: it is a flavonoid with antioxidant action but also anti-inflammatory and stimulating on the immune system.
Apricots: health benefits
The richness of functional substances gives apricots useful properties for our health. In short, apricots are good for the skin and eyes, prevent constipation, have antioxidant properties and are good for cardiovascular health, but not only. Let’s see in detail the benefits that regular consumption of these fruits brings.
✓ Promote cardiovascular health
The high content of antioxidants, in particular beta-carotene, present in apricots, is essential to hinder the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (the so-called bad cholesterol), preventing the formation of atherosclerotic plaques and, consequently, protecting the health of the heart.
✓ Protect the skin
The consumption of apricots is useful for protecting the skin as the beta-carotene contained in them stimulates the production of melanin, a substance that is responsible for tanning and protects the skin from the sun’s rays.
✓ They have antioxidant power
In apricots there are numerous antioxidant substances including Vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. They are able to protect against the harmful effects of free radicals, responsible for aging and the formation of cancer cells.
✓ They prevent constipation
Among the properties of apricots we also mention the ability to prevent constipation. In fact, the presence of fibers helps to stimulate intestinal peristalsis, favoring the expulsion of feces and detoxification from toxins and foreign substances. The laxative function is completed by the presence of a sugar called sorbitol.
✓ Protect and improve eyesight
Apricots promote eye health. This is because the retina of the eye has two important antioxidants: lutein and zeaxanthin, substances present in the fruit and which are able to filter light and therefore protect the eye from phototoxic damage.
✓ Reduce blood pressure and regulate heart rate
The potassium contained in apricots has a regulating action on body fluids, reducing water retention and blood pressure, and on the heartbeat.
✓ Useful in case of exhaustion or convalescence
Apricots, thanks to the abundance of mineral salts and vitamins, are remineralizing and represent a valid help in case of exhaustion perhaps due to excessive heat or during physical activity. Therefore excellent as a snack to regain some energy.
How many apricots to eat per day?
The consumption of fresh apricots can correspond to that recommended by the guidelines and related to fruit in general. Therefore, the daily amount corresponds to 2-3 servings, where each serving consists of 150 g of apricots (2-3 whole medium sized apricots). Since the weight of a single medium-sized apricot is around 50 grams, the amount of 3 apricots provides just under 80 calories.
Different criterion for dehydrated apricots, whose caloric density limits their daily consumption to 40 g (3-4 apricots). As for apricots in syrup, it is preferable to consume up to 100 g (1-2 apricots), in order not to incur an excessive intake of sugars.
Apricots: how to use and consume them
To keep all the properties of apricots intact it is necessary to consume them fresh, perhaps for breakfast or as a snack during the day. They can also be used to prepare refreshing smoothies, fruit salads with other seasonal fruit, extracts or to make a delicious juice.
Making apricot juice at home is quite simple. Specifically, to prepare about 1 and a half liters of juice you need 1/2 kg of apricots, 1 liter of water, 150 grams of sugar and the juice of one lemon. First of all, wash and remove the stone from the apricots, cut them into slices and mix them together with the other ingredients in a saucepan; at this point put the pot on the stove and, once it reaches a boil, let it cook for 10-15 minutes; finally blend the mixture with the help of an immersion mixer. Before pouring the juice into sterilized glass jars, any foam formed on the surface is removed.
Homemade apricot juice is certainly a tasty alternative to consume these fruits, however it should be remembered that cooking and the presence of sugar alternate their initial nutritional values, also leading to a loss of vitamins due to high temperatures.
In addition to the juice, there are also apricots in syrup, candied or in the form of jam. They can also be found in dried form: in this case they will have a higher potassium content than fresh fruit. This fruit, if integrated into a healthy diet, brings well-being and lots of taste to our tables.
Dried, canned or fresh apricots: characteristics and differences
In addition to the different varieties, apricots are also available in different “versions” fresh, in syrup and dried (or dehydrated). Let’s see in detail the characteristics of these 3 variants.
1. Fresh apricots
Fresh apricots are summer fruits rich in water and micronutrients. Among these, vitamin A and vitamin C stand out, but also potassium, phosphorus and calcium. There is no shortage of beta-carotene, zeaxanthin and lutein, as antioxidant components. These fruits are also a good source of fiber. From an energy point of view, 100 g of fresh apricots provide about 48 kcal.
2. Dried apricots
Also available out of season, dried (or dehydrated) apricots are fruits deprived of the aqueous fraction. They are therefore less voluminous apricots with longer storage times. The nutrients are more concentrated, also determining, for the same weight, a higher caloric intake than the fresh counterpart: 100 g of dried apricots provide about 240 kcal.
3. Apricots in syrup
Originating from the old methods of preserving seasonal fruit, apricots in syrup include the immersion of fresh fruits, whether whole or cut into coarse pieces, in a syrup made up of water and sugar. The preparation of this product involves steps at high temperatures, which result in the loss of thermolabile nutrients such as vitamin C and some antioxidants. The immersion of the fruit in the syrup also determines the dispersion of mineral salts. In addition, it is a more sugary food, and therefore more caloric, than the starting apricots: 100 g of apricots in syrup provide about 63 kcal.
For the content of water and nutrients, fresh apricots are the most appropriate choice, although the dry (or dehydrated) version represents a quick source of energy and excellent nutritional constituents even outside the summer season.
Apricots: contraindications and potential negative effects
Apricots have no particular contraindications. Consumption should be moderate by those suffering from kidney stones. Obviously, beware of personal allergies. Despite the very few side effects, it is good to remember that, as studies show, they are often involved in cross allergies. Those who are intolerant to grass pollen (April-June) may have some allergic symptoms even when consuming apricots.
As for the apricot seeds, it is good to consider that they contain potentially toxic substances in high doses, therefore it is advisable to reduce their consumption and in any case eat them together with the fruit.
An oil that is widely used in cosmetics for both hair and skin is extracted from apricot kernels. In fact, it has a strong strengthening, emollient, moisturizing and anti-wrinkle power. Apricot seeds are called armelline, they are used in confectionery to prepare syrups and liqueurs. They contain vitamin B17 which is able to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, however there is also a high content of cyanide which limits its consumption.