The apricot is a stone fruit with a seed nut within it. Its shape is similar to that of the peach but slightly smaller, with skin that is velvety and golden orange in color.
Apricot is not suitable for juicing but can be blended to be mixed with other juices. The fresh fruit tastes smooth and sweet, with a flavor that is a cross between a peach and a plum.
An apricot in its raw state is somewhat acidic but the acidity decreases as it ripens and its sugar content increases. When it ripens, the vitamin A within also doubles.
The main powerhouse nutrients and vitamins in apricots are vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, iron, phosphorus, calcium, and perhaps best of all (and a great asset to colon health), fiber. Not to mention they’re one of the healthier fruits you can eat calorie and fat wise.
Apricot kernel has high content of vitamin B17 (laetrile) that effectively helps prevent cancer.
Apricots are a good source of dietary fiber with insoluble cellulose and lignin in the skin and soluble pectins in the flesh. The apricot’s creamy golden color comes from deep yellow carotenes (including beta-carotene) that make the fruit a good source of vitamin A. Apricots also have vitamin C and iron.
The bark, leaves and inner stony pit of the apricot all contain amygdalin, a naturally occurring compound that degrades to release hydrogen cyanide (prussic acid) in your stomach. Apricot oil, treated during processing to remove the cyanide, is marked FFPA to show that it is “free from prussic acid”.
Extract of apricot pits, known medically as Laetrile, has been used by some alternative practitioners to treat cancer on the theory that the cyanide in amygdalin is released only when it comes in contact with beta-glucuronidase, an enzyme common to tumor cells. Scientifically designed tests of amygdalin have not shown this to be true. Laetrile is illegal in the United States.
The most nutritious way to serve apricot is when it is dried. Ounce for ounce, dried apricots are richer in nutrients and fiber than those fresh apricots.
For those with allergies, be aware that most commercially-dried apricots are treated with sulfur dioxide as a color preservative. You should be able to find dried apricots without sulfur (which also lends a bitter taste) in natural food markets, or dry your own in a dehydrator. Those dried without sulfur will usually be much darker in color.
Raw pits of the bitter apricot (not sweet) do contain a small amount of cyanide. However, the accidental ingestion of a single pit or the splitting of a pit to expose it to the fruit flesh should not be a problem. Ingestion of large amounts can be harmful. Fifteen raw apricot pits of some bitter varieties can kill a child. Roasting of the seeds neutralizes the cyanide threat.
Having said this, there are now some varieties available with large, sweet, edible pits that are used like almonds. Roasted apricot seeds are used in confections and as a liqueur flavoring.
The drug laetrile, used for some controversial cancer treatments, is derived from apricot seed extract.
Apricots: the Secret Anti-Aging Weapon
Research shows that of any food, apricots possess the highest levels and widest variety of carotenoids. Carotenoids are antioxidants that help prevent heart disease, reduce “bad cholesterol” levels, and protect against cancer. In traditional Chinese medicine, apricots are considered helpful in regenerating body fluids, detoxifying, and quenching thirst.
The kernels also have several healthy properties, including toning the respiratory system and alleviating a cough. However, be cautioned that the tip of the apricot holds a concentrated amount of the chemical laetrile, which can be upsetting to the system. To safely reap the benefits of apricot kernels, remove the tips of the seeds and do not eat more than five a day.