Sweet, fragrant rich, golden-orange apricot fruits are another summer delicacy of Asian origin. These much-prized fruits were first brought to Europe by Greeks who called them as golden eggs of the sun.Today, the most important commercially producing countries are Turkey, Iran, Italy, France, Spain, Syria, Greece, and China.
Botanically, the fruit is closely related to peaches and nectarine, sharing with them in the broader Rosaceae family of fruit trees in the genus, Prunus.
Scientific name: Prunus armenia.
Apricot is a medium sized deciduous tree growing best in the well-drained mountainous slope soils. During the spring, the plant bears plenty of beautiful pinkish-white flowers, which attract bees. The fruits have almost uniform size, 4-5 cm in diameter, and weigh about 35 g. In structure; the fruit is a drupe, consist of a centrally located single seed surrounded by crunchy, aromatic edible flesh. The seed is enclosed in a hard stony shell, often called a stone.
Health benefits of apricots
- Apricots are low in calories, composing just 50 calories per 100 g weight. Nonetheless, they are rich source of dietary fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. The fruits are enriched with numerous health promoting phyto-chemicals; that helps prevent heart disease, reduce LDL, (bad cholesterol) levels and offer protection against cancers.
- Apricots are excellent sources of vitamin-A, and carotenes. 100 g fresh fruits have 1926 IU or 64% of daily-required levels of vitamin A. Both compounds are known to have antioxidant properties and are essential for vision. Vitamin-A is also required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural fruits rich in carotenes helps protect the body from lung and oral cavity cancers.
- Apricots contain vitamin-C, another natural anti-oxidant. Vitamin-C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals.
- Apricots are an also good source of minerals such as potassium, iron, zinc, calcium and manganese. Potassium is a heart-healthy mineral; an important component of cell and body fluids that help regulate heart rate and blood pressure.
- The total anti-oxidant or ORAC value of raw apricots is 1115 umol TE/100 g. Much of this in these fruits comes from some important health promoting flavonoid poly phenolic anti-oxidants such as lutein, zea xanthin and beta cryptoxanthin. Altogether, these compounds act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging, cancers and various disease process.
- Further, zea-xanthin, a carotenoid selectively absorbed into the retinal macula lutea in the eyes where it is thought to provide anti-oxidant and protective light-filtering functions. Thus, consumption of fruits like apricots rich in zea-xanthin helps eyes protect from age-related macular disease (AMRD), especially in the elderly people.