Apricots are good source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that guards against heart disease and certain cancers. Experts suggest that consuming a daily intake of 3 to 6 milligrams of beta-carotene is associated with a lower risk of chronic disease. Three apricots have 1 milligram of beta carotene. (One serving of fresh apricots is equivalent to 3 small fruits; a serving of dried apricots is ¼ cup (60 ml) or about 6 apricot halves.)
Fresh apricots also contain notable amounts of fibre lycopene, vitamin C and potassium. And they're relatively low in calories: 3 apricots have only 50 calories.
Dried apricots are also a good source of nutrients, although they contain slightly fewer vitamins and minerals than their fresh counterparts.
Apricots also have a low glycemic index, which means they cause a gradual rise in blood glucose (sugar) levels. This makes them an especially healthy snack for people managing their blood sugar.
Nutrient information per 3 fresh apricots:
|Vitamin C||11 mg|
Source: Canadian Nutrient File, 2007b
Nutrient information per 6 dried apricots halves (about ¼ cup):
|Beta Carotene||0.45 mg|
|Vitamin C||0.2 mg|
Source: Canadian Nutrient File, 2007b
There are a many different varieties of apricots that vary in size, colour and flavour. In the area known as the “apricot belt” around Turkey, many varieties are cultivated, including some that are white, black, grey and pink. In Canada, some of the more popular varieties of apricots include Harcot, Harglow, Harvel, Veecot and Vivagold.
Dried apricots may be treated with sulfur dioxide gas or sulfites to extend their orange colour and shelf life. Sulfur-containing compounds can cause an allergic reaction in some people. If you are sensitive to sulfur compounds, look for dried apricots that are a deep brown colour (these will not contain sulfur). To be sure, always check the label.
Fresh, locally grown apricots have a relatively short growing season – July and August – in Canada.
When buying fresh apricots, look for fruit with a rich orange colour. Choose fruit that is unblemished and free of soft spots, as apricots bruise easily. Apricots should be plump and slightly firm with a uniform colour. A ripe apricot will give way to slight pressure.
When purchasing dried apricots, look for those that are slightly soft and free of any mold. Depending on how they’re dried, dried apricots can range in colour from bright orange to dark brown. If buying dried apricots in bulk, make sure the apricots are stored in a well-sealed container, free of any moisture.
Store unripe apricots in a paper bag at room temperature away from heat and direct sunlight. Stored this way, apricots should ripen within 2 or 3 days.
Store ripe apricots in the refrigerator where they’ll keep for a few days. Ensure that apricots are ripe before placing them in the refrigerator since they won’t ripen any further.
Store dried apricots in a sealed container in a cool, dark place.
Fresh, ripe apricots can be eaten just the way they are. You can eat around the stone or simply slice the apricot in half, twist the two halves and then remove the stone.
Apricots that are soft should be eaten immediately, or used in cooking before they become moldy or mushy. They are still delicious at this stage but require immediate attention before they spoil.
Fresh apricot halves can be frozen, but they do lose their shape and become soft during freezing. Apricots that have been frozen are great for using in sauces, sorbets and purees.
Not only are apricots a tasty snack on their own, they also add flavour and texture to both sweet and savoury dishes.
Healthy ways to enjoy:
• Make your own apricot jam to spread on whole grain toast, waffles and pancakes.
• Enjoy a bowl of low fat yogurt topped with homemade apricot granola. Click here for a recipe.
• Make a healthy whole grain salad by combining cooked brown rice, diced dried apricots, dried cranberries, chopped cilantro and sliced green onions. Top with balsamic vinaigrette.
• Add chopped dried apricots to Moroccan-inspired dishes made with chicken or chickpeas.
• Top a salad with grilled apricot halves. Click here for a recipe.
• Finish a meal with apricot sorbet. Click here for a recipe.
• Serve grilled meat with homemade apricot chutney.
• Make your own trail mix by combing chopped dried apricots, toasted coconut and slivered almonds.
• Enjoy a delicious smoothie made with fresh apricots, low fat milk and a drizzle of honey.
Did you know?
• Apricots grow wild in the mountains of north-western China and central Asia.
• It’s believed apricots have been cultivated for nearly 5000 years.
• The Chinese associate the apricot with education and medicine.