Gorgeous, golden-orange apricots don’t get the glory they deserve. These small, velvety stone fruits are brimming over with valuable nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamin E, and other potent antioxidants. Here’s what you should know about apricot nutrition, including the antioxidants found in apricots as well as apricot health benefits.
An Apricot Refresher
If you live in North America, the dawning of apricot season is one of the first indications that summer will be arriving soon. While you can find these petite, beautifully colored fruits in some grocery stores during the winter, they’ve all been imported from either South America or New Zealand.
Apricots (Prunus armeniaca) are closely related to both peaches and plums, and some say the flavor lies somewhere between the tastes of those two relatives. They’re not as purely sweet as peaches, but don’t have the same tartness plums do. Their unique and delightful taste is juicy, smooth, and verging on musky.
Essential Apricot Nutrition Facts
Apricots are rich in many phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. They’re a phenomenal source of vitamin A and contain significant quantities of vitamin C, copper, fiber, and potassium too. You'll even get some vitamin K and a boost of B vitamins, like vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, niacin, and riboflavin with every bite.
According to Self Nutrition Data, a fresh apricot contains, on average:
- Calories: 16.8
- Protein: 0.49 grams
- Carbs: 3.89 grams
- Total fat: 0.1 grams (made up of monounsaturated fat and omega-6 fatty acids)
- Dietary fiber: 0.7 grams (3% of the daily value)
- Vitamin A: 674 IU (13% of the daily value)
- Vitamin C: 3.5 milligrams (6% of the daily value)
- Vitamin E: 0.3 milligrams (2% of the daily value)
- Potassium: 90.6 milligrams (3% of the daily value)
Apricots also contain phytochemicals called carotenoids, which give apricots as well as other red, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors. Lycopene, an extremely potent antioxidant, is one of the carotenoids found in apricots.
All About Apricots and Antioxidants
Apricots are quite nutrient dense, especially when it comes to antioxidants. They deliver a generous dose of these vital health-promoting compounds in a low-calorie package. In addition to the antioxidants discussed so far—vitamin A, vitamin C, and lycopene—apricots also contain the polyphenolic antioxidants flavonoids.
Here’s a list of several of the most important types of antioxidants and antioxidant groups found in apricots:
- Gallic acid
- Caffeic acid
- Coumaric acid
- Ferulic acid
3 Health Benefits of Apricots
Many apricot health benefits stem from the antioxidants they contain, which help protect against harmful free radicals that promote cellular damage and contribute to chronic health conditions such as heart disease. But other nutrients like potassium have significant health benefits too.
Here are three of the most exciting apricot benefits that have been validated by high-quality research. Don’t you love it when scientists prove that something that tastes as good as an apricot is really, really good for you?
1. Keep Your Eyesight Sharp
Apricots contain two kinds of nutrients—carotenoids and xanthophylls—that researchers have found can help protect your eyes from age-related damage. Studies show that powerful nutrients found in apricots, like vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and lutein, work synergistically to protect eye health. Rather than focusing on specific recommended quantities, they suggest increasing your dietary intake of foods rich in those nutrients.
2. Quell Inflammation
Apricots are an excellent source of catechins, a type of flavonoid. Just one apricot contains between 4 and 5 grams of catechins. These powerful plant compounds have impressive anti-inflammatory benefits. Scientists have found that catechins can inhibit the activity of an enzyme called cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), which drives the inflammatory process. Studies have also shown that eating catechin-rich foods like apricots can protect your blood vessels from damage related to inflammation, which can, in turn, improve your blood pressure.
3. Maintain Healthy Blood Pressure
In addition to improving blood pressure by reducing inflammation, apricots also contribute potassium, a nutrient strongly linked to healthy blood pressure and overall heart health. Failing to eat a sufficient amount of potassium has been linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t get enough potassium from their diet. Dried apricots contain even higher levels of potassium than fresh ones. A single half-cup serving size of this dried fruit provides more than 21% of your daily recommended allowance for this vital nutrient.
4. Optimize Digestive Health
Slice up a cup of apricots and what do you have? Approximately 3.3 grams of fiber, both soluble and insoluble fiber, which is a boon for gut health and weight loss/maintenance.
Soluble fiber, which is the most abundant type of fiber in apricots, provides food for the good bacteria in our guts. It's the type of fiber that becomes gel-like in water and helps us feel fuller for longer, which means fewer calories taken in. Soluble fiber also helps keep blood sugar levels from spiking and keeps cholesterol levels in the normal range.
An "A" for Apricots
We understand that apricots are competing for your attention with lusciously sweet peaches and nectarines, but vary your fruit intake with a fresh apricot every now and then, or add some dried apricots to your homemade trail mix, and you'll score an "A" in health in no time!