Apricots: A Bounty of Carotenes
Apricots are small, round, orange fruits that have velvety skins. Technically, apricots are classified as a “drupe,” which means a fleshy, one-seeded fruit that has a seed inside of a pit. Almonds, cherries, peaches, and plums are also in this family. Apricots, when not eaten raw, are usually dried, cooked into a pastry, or made into a jam. The oils from the apricot pits are sold as bitter almond oil. Apricot trees are thought to have originally been from China, and then Alexander the Great is thought to have brought apricots from China to Greece and eventually from there to the West. Apricots do well in California’s climate, and therefore, California is currently the largest supplier of apricots in the United States.
For a fruit, apricots are a good source of carotenes such as lycopene and lutein; scientists have discovered at least 600 different carotenoids, and apricots have some of the most powerful ones that we know of. This high carotenoid content is what provides most of the health benefits you receive from eating apricots. Carotenoids give apricots their orange color and they are particularly good for helping to prevent macular degeneration, maintain strong vision, and prevent against heart disease and cancer.
As was mentioned above, apricots have been used in China for centuries. At one time, Chinese brides would eat apricots to increase fertility. More recently, science has backed this up by finding that apricots are high in the minerals that are important for the production of sex hormones. While people today aren’t likely to turn to apricots to help with their fertility, the compounds that apricots have can also help to fight infections, blindness, and heart disease.
Not only do apricots have the carotenoid beta carotene, they also have lycopene. These two compounds work together to help prevent the process of oxidation where low-density lipoproteins, a dangerous form of cholesterol, turn rancid in the blood and begin to stick to the walls of the arteries. Lycopene also is a very strong antioxidant. These two factors are the strongest reasons apricots have been linked to a decreased risk of heart disease.
Vitamin A and the carotenoids lutein and lycopene make apricots a great eye food. Every time light passes through the eyes it causes free radicals to be released. These free radicals can damage the tissues in the eyes and can even attack and damage the lens of the eye, which is the beginning stage of cataracts. These free radicals can also damage the blood vessels that supply blood to the central part of the eye (the maculas), causing macular degeneration. Therefore, getting enough antioxidants (such as lycopene and lutein) helps to slow and prevent the damage that leads to these eye diseases.
There are so many benefits to getting enough fiber in your diet as high fiber foods help to: prevent constipation and diarrhea, aid weight loss, balance blood sugar levels, and lower cholesterol levels. Apricots are a great source of fiber; three small apricots have about three grams of fiber, twelve percent of the recommended daily intake of fiber. And all that fiber for a mere 50 calories! But make sure to eat the skin of the fruit as that is where most of the fiber is found.
The best apricot season is the summer time, usually June–August. Apricots should be bought when they are still firm because they are easily bruised when they are soft. An unripe apricot is usually more yellow than orange and is hard. Soft and squishy one are overripe. They’re best kept in the fridge. Dried apricots are a popular snack, but it is important to be careful when selecting them, because many brands contain high amounts of the preservative sulfur dioxide.
No Bake (Yes, that means Raw) Apricot Bars
- 1 cup of macadamias.
- 1 cup of dried apricots.
- 1 and a half cups of shredded coconut, plus two tablespoons.
- Two tablespoons of lemon juice.
- One teaspoon of lemon zest.
- Two tablespoons of water.
Get the directions at OfTheKittenKind.com