When it comes to figuring out what makes apricots so good for you, take a hint from the bright orange color. Apricots derive their pigmentation from carotenoids such as beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin.
The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which contributes to healthy eyes, skin, hair, gums, and glands. Beta-cryptoxanthin may reduce the risk of lung cancer.
Another antioxidant in healthy supply, vitamin C boosts immunity and promotes quick wound healing.
This fragile, peachlike stone fruit also contains its fair share of minerals, too, most notably potassium. An electrolyte, potassium helps regulate blood pressure, maintains muscle function, and converts blood sugar into glycogen, a type of energy that the body stores and uses when needed.
If you can't get fresh, go with dried apricots-and reap their nutritional rewards. Ounce for ounce, the dried variety has more than three times the fiber of fresh, plus more iron and potassium. (Removing water concentrates nutrients.) In fact, with 755 milligrams of potassium per serving, dried apricots have nearly twice the amount as a banana.
How To Buy
Choose plump, golden-orange-hued apricots without soft spots. Once home, they shouldn't sit for too long. Apricots ripen more quickly than other stone fruits. Because of this, they don't travel well; buy locally grown apricots to ensure the most flavorful fruits. Refrigerated ripe apricots should last two days.
With dried apricots, note that most varieties are treated with the preservative sulfur dioxide to maintain their bright orange color. Instead, seek out unsulfured fruit.
If you need to peel a fresh apricot, first cut an "x" in the skin, then blanch the fruit by submerging it in boiling water for 20 to 60 seconds. When the skin starts to wrinkle, remove and plunge it into a bowl of ice water. Once cooled, peel the skin with your fingers or a small paring knife.
Did You Know?
The Hunza people of northern Pakistan, whose diet is especially apricot-rich, are renowned for their overall excellent health. Their longevity is often attributed to their consumption of the small orange fruit.
Per 1 cup, sliced, raw
Calories: 79 kcal
Fat: 0.6 g
Fiber: 3.3 g = 13 percent* of DRI**
Vitamin C: 16.5 mg = 22 percent of DRI
Potassium: 427 mg = 9 percent of DRI
Beta-carotene: 1,805 mcg
* Percentages are for women 31 to 50 who are not pregnant
** DRI, Dietary Reference Intake, is based on National Academy of Sciences' Dietary Reference Intakes, 1997 to 2004
Text by Cheryl Sternman Rule
© 2014 Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. All rights reserved.