Apricot: nutrition facts and health benefits

Apricot

Apricot is a fruit from the apricot tree. Its shape is round and it has an orange color with a furrow in the middle that allows to easily opening it to remove its nucleus. Apricot contains a bitter almond. Its flesh is very juicy, sweet and fragrant when ripe and good quality. His skin goes from yellow to orange, sometimes with traces of red, according to the varieties. The botanical name of apricot is prunus armeniaca, or “Plum of Armenia”, although it’s not a plum and don’t come from Armenia.

History of apricots

The names Apricot of Saint Domingo and apricot of the Caribbean means fruits belonging to the Mammea botanical genus and not to the Prunus genus. Neologisms “Plumcot” and “plumot” refer to the fruits of hybrids coming from mingling between plum and apricot.
Unlike the latin name signification of the specie (armeniaca), the apricot is not from Armenia, but from the northeast of China. It was domesticated 4,000 years ago by a Chinese tribe who has selected varieties particularly rich in sugar. More than 2,000 years ago, Roman legionnaires have introduced apricot in Greece and Italy. However, it had arrived in France in the 15th century and its culture was established only 3 centuries later. Around the same time, apricot was established by Spanish missionaries in southern California, where it will be quickly adopted.

Today, the biggest production of apricots is done in the Mediterranean countries (Turkey, Spain, Syria, Greece, France) and in Iran. In America, California and Chile dominate the market. In Canada, apricots are grown in southern British Colombia and Ontario.

A liquor named abricotine can be made by maceration of fruits in a fruit brandy. In addition, oil can be made from the almond pit. Apricots are also especially used in cosmetology.

Apricot health profile

Fresh, dried, juiced, marmalade or jam consumed, it is rich in fiber, antioxidants and vitamin A. Dried, and it’s enjoyed by sportsmen for the energy it gives them and for its high iron and copper content.

The benefits of apricot

Several prospective and epidemiological studies have shown that high consumption of fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and other chronic diseases. Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables could play a role in these protective effects.

Apricot is a source of fiber. In addition to preventing constipation and reducing the risk of colon cancer, a diet rich in fiber can contribute to the prevention of cardiovascular disease, as well as to the control of type 2 diabetes and appetite.

Very few studies have analyzed the specific effects of apricot on health.

Chronic gastritis. According to one study, the daily consumption of 3 dried or marinated Japanese apricots could decrease the severity of chronic gastritis. Chronic gastritis is an inflammation of the wall of the stomach, caused by the presence of an infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. The Japanese apricot would reduce the inflammatory effects of H. pylori bacteria in the stomach. Chronic inflammation of the stomach may cause stomach cancer in some people. However, further studies will be needed to confirm whether the consumption of Japanese apricot can reduce this risk.

What does the apricot contain?

Antioxidants. Apricots contain different antioxidants, particularly phenolic compounds in the flavonoid family. These compounds make it possible to neutralize free radicals of the body and thus prevent the onset of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and various chronic diseases. The antioxidant content of dried apricots would be higher than that of fresh apricots. Apricot purées, jams and juices (nectars) contain substantially the same antioxidant compounds, but in a lower quantity than in fresh or dried apricots.

Apricots also contain carotenoids, mainly beta-carotene, a carotenoid that contributes largely to its orange color, as well as a small amount of lycopene. In the organism, beta-carotene has the ability to turn into vitamin A. Generally speaking, the total carotenoid content of the apricot peel is 2 to 3 times higher than that of the flesh. Even if, at an equivalent serving, the fresh apricot contains 2 times less beta-carotene than the carrot (one of the best sources), it remains a very interesting source. Dried apricots contain a little less.

Fiber. Apricots, fresh and dried, are a source of dietary fiber. A ½ Cup (125 ml) portion of fresh apricots fills 5% and 8% respectively of the recommended daily fiber contributions of men and women aged 19 years to 50 years. For dried apricots, a ¼ cup (60 ml) portion fills 8% and 12% of these same inputs.

Precautions

Sulphites

Sulphites are one of the 9 most common food allergens. Their consumption can cause very serious reactions in individuals who are allergic to them. Sulphites are naturally occurring compounds in food and in the organism, but they are also found in the form of food additives. They are used as preserving agent. Dried apricots and apricot containing products such as canned jams can be a source of sulphites. It is therefore essential for people who are allergic to sulphites to read the labels properly, in order to avoid consuming food products containing them.

Although the regulations are strict in this regard, undeclared sulphites are occasionally found in some products among others such as apricot-based products. It is therefore important to be doubly vigilant when consuming such products. Dried apricots without sulphites are now available on the market. They are a good alternative for people who need to avoid consuming this food additive.

Oral allergy syndrome

Apricot is an incriminating food in the oral allergy syndrome. This syndrome takes the form of an allergic reaction to certain proteins of a range of fruits, vegetables and nuts. It affects some people with allergies to environmental pollen and is almost always preceded by hay fever.

When some people allergic to birch pollen consume raw apricot (cooking usually degrades allergen proteins), an immunological reaction may occur. These people have itching and burning sensations to the mouth, lips and throat. After consuming or touching the food, the symptoms may appear, then disappear, within minutes.

In the absence of other symptoms, this reaction is not serious and the consumption of apricot does not have to be avoided systematically. However, it is recommended to consult an allergist to determine the cause of the reactions to plant foods. The latter will be able to assess whether special precautions should be taken.

Choice and conservation

Choose

The apricot should be yellow or orange, soft to the touch, fragrant and smooth skin, signs of maturity. If necessary, you can ripen apricots by putting them in a paper bag at room temperature for 1 day or 2. Avoid green fruits because they will not ripen.

The fruits of the best apricot varieties are rarely fresh outside their production area. Indeed, they resist the many manipulations required at the time of storage and long distance transport. Canned or dried fruits are therefore often tastier because they are harvested at full maturity and come from more tasty varieties.

There is also raw apricot oil, which is used mainly for facial care, in natural products stores.

Keep

If they are ready to eat at the time of purchase, apricots and do not retain more than 2 or 3 days at room temperature.

Refrigerator. In the refrigerator, they can be stored for 1 week in a perforated plastic bag, but this changes their texture and flavor. Take them out for a while before tasting them.

Freezer. Cut them in half along the furrow, remove the core and place the halves on a plate to freeze them. Then place them in plastic bags and put them back in the freezer.

Organic Gardening

Although tolerant to cold, the apricot produces little under our latitudes, because its very early flowers are susceptible to frost. However, some varieties have been selected to survive the low temperatures. So you could try to cultivate them in countries with cold climate. These are the varieties Brookcot, PrairieGold, Strathmore, Sub Zero, Sunrise and Westcot.

To increase the chances of getting fruit:
• Preferably a place facing east or north to delay flowering. Planting is protected against cold winds and avoids planting in places with gel pockets.
• A thick mulch is put on the entire surface under which the roots run to delay bud hatching.
• For the same reason, the trunk of a white paint intended for this purpose is coated.
• Avoid areas where the soil is permanently wet.

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