Apricots are those beautifully orange colored fruits full of beta-carotene and fiber that are one of the first signs of summer. Although dried and canned apricots are available year-round, fresh apricots with a plentiful supply of vitamin C and are in season from May through August.
Relatives to peaches, apricots are small, golden orange fruits, with velvety skin and flesh, not too juicy but definitely smooth and sweet. Some describe their flavor as almost musky, with a faint tartness that lies somewhere between a peach and a plum.
Nutrients in apricots can help protect the heart and eyes, as well as provide the disease-fighting effects of fiber. The high beta-carotene content of apricots makes them important heart health foods. Beta-carotene helps protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation, which may help prevent heart disease.
Apricots contain nutrients such as vitamin A that promote good vision. Vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant, quenches free radical damage to cells and tissues. Free radical damage can injure the eyes’ lenses.
The degenerative effect of free radicals, or oxidative stress, may lead to cataracts or damage the blood supply to the eyes and cause macular degeneration. Researchers who studied over 50,000 registered nurses found women who had the highest vitamin A intake reduced their risk of developing cataracts nearly 40%.
Apricots are a good source of fiber, which has a wealth of benefits including preventing constipation and digestive conditions such as diverticulosis. But most Americans get less than 10 grams of fiber per day. A healthy, whole foods diet should include apricots as a delicious way to add to your fiber intake.
A few quick serving ideas:
- Add sliced apricots to hot or cold cereal.
- The next time you make whole grain pancakes add some chopped apricots to the batter.
- Give a Middle Eastern flavor to chicken or vegetable stews with the addition of dried, diced apricots.
- Serve fresh apricots in your green salad when they are in season.