Known for its tart flavor and distinct apricot color, this nutritious fruit is good for so much more than just making jams or baked goods. Boasting an extensive nutrient profile and a long list of benefits, the apricot is equally rich in both flavor and health-promoting properties — just like apricot seeds.
Apricots are considered a nutrient-dense food and are low in calories but high in fiber, vitamin A and vitamin C. They have also been credited with a wide range of health benefits, from reducing inflammation to treating dry eyes and more. Plus, they’re super versatile and can be eaten raw or used in baking and cooking, making them a great way to give your diet a healthy upgrade.
What Is an Apricot?
The apricot is a type of edible fruit that comes from the apricot tree. It is a member of the Prunus, or stone fruit, genus of trees, which also includes plums, cherries, peaches, nectarines and almonds. Believed to be native to either Armenia, China or Japan, apricots are now widely cultivated worldwide.
The history of the apricot remains controversial. Due to its scientific name, Prunus armeniaca — or Armenian plum — as well as its long history of cultivation in Armenia, many people believe that it actually originated there. Others argue that it was actually first found in either China or India thousands of years ago.
Regardless of their true origins, apricots have been a staple in many cultures worldwide for centuries. Egyptians, for example, commonly used apricots to make a traditional juice while English settlers used apricot oil in the 17th century to reduce inflammation and treat tumors.
Today, most commercial apricot production in the U.S. takes place on the West Coast. In fact, almost all apricots come from California with a lesser amount coming from Washington and Utah. Worldwide, Uzbekistan produces the greatest amount of apricots followed by Turkey, Iran and Italy.
1. Protects the Liver
Besides being the largest internal organ in the human body, the liver is also one of the most important. It has a long list of functions, from producing proteins that help blood clotting to breaking down fats to produce energy.
Some research suggests that the apricot fruit benefits the health of your liver and may even protect against liver disease.
In one animal study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, apricot was able to protect against liver damage as well as fatty liver, a condition characterized by the accumulation of fat in the liver. Another animal study out of Turkey found that supplementing rats who had part of their livers removed with sun-dried organic apricot helped promote liver regeneration.
2. High in Antioxidants
In addition to supplying a wide array of important micronutrients, apricots is also a high-antioxidant food. Antioxidants are compounds that protect against free radicals and prevent damage to cells. They may also reduce the risk of certain chronic conditions like heart disease and cancer.
Apricots are loaded with carotenoids, a type of pigment with antioxidant properties. According to one study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, apricots are especially high in carotenoids like beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin and gamma-carotene.
3. Reduces Inflammation
Inflammation is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s a perfectly normal response triggered by the immune system to keep out foreign invaders and protect the body from injury.
Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, can wreak havoc on your body and contribute to diseases like heart disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
Some studies have found that apricots could possess potent anti-inflammatory properties to help protect against disease. The apricot seeds, in particular, are believed to be effective in relieving inflammation. In one animal study, giving rats apricot kernel oil extract helped protect against ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease.
Other anti-inflammatory foods include leafy green vegetables, beets, broccoli, blueberries and pineapple.
4. Supports Regularity
Apricots are loaded with fiber, providing about 3.1 grams — or up to 12 percent of your daily needs — in just one cup.
Fiber moves through the body undigested, helping add bulk to stool and prevent constipation. One analysis composed of five studies showed that increasing fiber intake helped increase stool frequency in patients with constipation.
Sweet apricot seeds, which are commonly sold as snack foods, can supply even more fiber. A 1/4-cup serving contains an estimated five grams of fiber, meeting up to 20 percent of your daily fiber needs.
In addition to apricots, other high-fiber foods that can help alleviate constipation include fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds.
5. Promotes Eye Health
Apricots are an excellent source of vitamin A. Just one cup of raw apricots can knock out 60 percent of the vitamin A you need for the entire day while a cup of dried apricot can nearly fulfill your daily vitamin A requirements all on its own.
Vitamin A plays a central role when it comes to eye health. In fact, vitamin A deficiency can result in symptoms like night blindness, dry eyes and vision loss.
Besides being rich in vision-boosting vitamin A, apricots may benefit eye health in other ways. A 2016 animal study, for example, showed that applying apricot kernel extract topically helped reduce dry eyes by promoting tear fluid production in mice. (7)
Other top vitamin A foods include beef liver, sweet potato, carrots, kale and spinach.
Raw apricots are low in calories but high in fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium as well as several other important micronutrients. They also contain a good amount of carbohydrates, with most of the apricot calories coming from carbs rather than fat or protein.
One cup of raw apricot halves contains approximately:
- 74.4 calories
- 17.4 grams carbohydrates
- 2.2 grams protein
- 0.6 gram fat
- 3.1 grams fiber
- 2,985 international units vitamin A (60 percent DV)
- 15.5 milligrams vitamin C (26 percent DV)
- 401 milligrams potassium (11 percent DV)
- 1.4 milligrams vitamin E (7 percent DV)
- 5.1 micrograms vitamin K (6 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram copper (6 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram manganese (6 percent DV)
- 0.9 milligram niacin (5 percent DV)
In addition to the nutrients above, apricot also contains some riboflavin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, magnesium and phosphorus.
The dried apricots nutrition profile varies a bit. Dried apricots contain over four times as many calories and carbohydrates but also provide a more concentrated amount of fiber, vitamin A, potassium, vitamin E and other micronutrients.
One cup of apricot dry fruit contains approximately:
- 313 calories
- 81.4 grams carbohydrates
- 4.4 grams protein
- 0.7 gram fat
- 9.5 grams fiber
- 4,686 international units vitamin A (94 percent DV)
- 1,511 grams potassium (43 percent DV)
- 5.6 milligrams vitamin E (28 percent DV)
- 0.4 milligram copper (22 percent DV)
- 3.5 milligrams iron (19 percent DV)
- 3.4 milligrams niacin (17 percent DV)
- 0.3 milligram manganese (15 percent DV)
- 41.6 milligrams magnesium (10 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligram vitamin B6 (9 percent DV)
- 92.3 milligrams phosphorus (9 percent DV)
Apricot vs. Peach
It’s easy to confuse apricots and peaches. Not only do they belong to the same family of fruits, but they share quite a few similarities in both their appearance and the nutrients that they provide.
Apricots are smaller than peaches and have yellowish-orange flesh covered with fuzz. Peaches, on the other hand, are slightly larger, can range in color from white to bright yellow or red, and like apricots are covered in fine hairs. Apricots tend to have a bit more of a tart taste that makes a great addition to baked goods and desserts.
Nutritionally speaking, the two fruits are very similar with a few minute differences. Gram for gram, apricots are slightly higher in calories, protein, carbohydrates and fiber. Apricots also contain more vitamin A and vitamin C, although the two contain comparable amounts of other micronutrients, like vitamin E and vitamin K.
That being said, both are jam-packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and including a few servings of each can be a healthy and nutritious way to give your diet a boost.
How to Eat
Apricots are easy to enjoy and full of flavor. If eating it raw, simply wash it and feel free to consume the entire fruit, skin and all. You can use a spoon to help gently pull out the large stone, or apricot kernels, found in the middle of the fruit.
For a simple, healthy treat, try adding apricot to a bowl of Greek yogurt or even use it to top off your next bowl of oatmeal or cold cereal. Alternatively, try using either fresh or dried apricots in your cooking and baking recipes to boost both the flavor and nutrient profile of your dishes.
If you’re feeling a little creative, there are plenty of ways to enjoy apricots other than just chowing down on the whole fruit. Some of the most common ways to use apricots include making apricot baked goods and sweets, as well as salads, salsas and even meat dishes.
Additionally, instead of going for the store-bought dried apricots, you can even try drying them at home. Simply use a dehydrator or put them in the oven, bake at the lowest setting for 10–12 hours and enjoy!
Although apricot seeds are often enjoyed as a sweet snack, bitter apricot seeds can contain a large amount of amygdalin, a compound that can raise cyanide levels when consumed in excess. If eating apricot seeds, be sure to opt for the sweet variety to avoid potential toxicity.
Additionally, while dried apricots are high in many beneficial nutrients, they’re also high in carbohydrates and calories, which can lead to weight gain and a spike in blood sugar. Keep your intake in moderation and go for fresh apricots whenever possible to avoid overdoing it.
Some people may also experience food allergy symptoms after eating apricots. If you suspect that you may have an allergy to apricots or have any adverse side effects after eating them, discontinue use and talk to your doctor.
- Apricots are a stone fruit and are closely related to plums, cherries, peaches, nectarines and almonds.
- Raw apricots are low in calories but high in fiber, vitamin A and vitamin C. Dried apricot nutrition, on the other hand, contains a higher concentration of calories, carbohydrates, fiber and micronutrients.
- The apricot is also loaded with antioxidants and has been shown to reduce inflammation, support regularity, protect the liver and promote eye health.
- Because of its tart taste, apricots are incredibly versatile. They make a suitable addition to sweet and savory dishes alike and can be used in baked goods, entrees, jams and salsas.
- Enjoy the apricot in combination with a healthy, well-rounded diet to take full advantage of the multitude of health benefits it can provide.