This tasty fruit originated from China more than 4,000 years ago and spread through the Middle East and Mediterranean in ancient times. Now it's grown in Europe, Africa, Australia and America too. |
This sweet and delicious treat is loaded with a variety of compounds that research has proved to fight infections, blindness and heart disease. Most of the health benefits of apricots are due to their exceptionally diverse carotenoid content. Carotenoids are the pigments that color many of our favorite fruits and vegetables red, orange and yellow. They give a wide range of health protecting benefits in humans. Researchers have identified more than 600 different carotenoids, under which beta-carotene as one of the most powerful.
Support for the Heart The unique mixture of healing compounds in apricots makes this fruit a powerful way to protect against heart disease.Apricots contain another carotenoid called hycopene, together with beta-carotene, they are potent in fighting against oxidation of low-density lypoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. This is important because experts consider oxidized LDL as being an important factor in atherosclerosis, which stiffens and narrow arteries, like the ones taking care of your heart supply.
A Japanese study by which 3,000 men and women were followed for nearly 12 years found that those with high levels of carotenoids, such as beta-carotene and hycopene, were less susceptible to die of cardiovascular disease.
Another study by which 73,000 American women were followed for 12 years, found that those which diets containing the highest levels of beta- and alpha-carotene had significantly lower risk of coronary artery disease.
Powerful cancer protection Besides tomatoes, in particular processed tomato products, which provide nearly 85% of the lycopene in American diets, apricots are another source of this carotenoid. Lycopene is one of the most potent antioxidants that experts know about. It could help prevent cancer by protecting the DNA of your cells from free-radical attacks. The antioxidant properties are also responsible for preventing atherosclerosis involved in cardiovascular disease.
Researchers looked at the role lycopene in tomatoes plays in the protection of prostate cancer. A meta-analysis - which synthesizes research results from a number of studies - found that men who ate a lot of cooked tomato products had 19% less risk of prostate cancer than men who seldom ate any tomato products. So what, you may ask, have this to do with apricots?
Researchers explain that the protective effects from tomatoes may come from other compounds in them. Nevertheless, if you like the taste of apricots, the knowledge that the lycopene inside of them might be helpful for fighting cancer, makes them even sweeter. Source of Vitamin A Eating apricots also provide you with plenty of vitamin A. (The body convert the beta-carotene into vitamin A ). This nutrient is good for the eyes, and as is generally known, the eyes need all the help they can get. Light passing through the eyes triggers the release of tissue-damaging free radicals. Uncontrolled, these destructive oxygen molecules attack and damage the lenses of the eyes, opening up the change of getting cataracts. Free radicals can also attack the blood vessels supplying the central portions of the retinas, called the maculas. If the blood supply gets cut off, the result can be macular degeneration, which is the main cause of vision loss in older adults.
Vitamin A has proved to be a powerful protection against the damaging effects of free-radicals. A study with more than 50,000 nurses proved that women who consumed the most vitamin A in their diet, reduced their risk of getting cataracts by more than one-third. Three apricots provide 2,769 IU of vitamin A, which is 55% of the daily value for this vitamin.
High fiber content When eating apricots with the skin, you can be assured to get a substantial amount of fiber. High-fiber foods can help you lose weight, control high blood sugar, and lower cholesterol levels. They are also essential for keeping your digestion healthy.
Three apricots contain 3 grams of fiber, or 12% of the Daily Value. Also, it's at a minimal calorie cost of just 51 for all three.
To get the most out of apricots, eat them when they are still slightly firm. Apricots contain the most nutrients when they are at their ripest. Once they get soft, these compounds quickly start to break down.
Watch the color. Unlike most fruits, apricots can be yellow or orange and still be ripe.Both colors are acceptable when you're trying to get the most healing benefits. Store them carefully. It's important to keep apricots cool, to prevent them from getting overripe. Unless you're going to eat them within a day or two, it's best to store them in the fruit bin in the refrigerator, where you can keep them for about a week. It's a good idea to store them in a plastic bag to avoid them picking up other smells from food or from the refrigerator itself.
According to Adel Kader, PhD, Professor of post-harvest physiology in the department of plant science at the University of California, you can also reap the benefits from apricots when they are dried or canned. According to the USDA, five fresh apricots contain 3,370 IU of vitamin A, and 1,915 micro grams of beta-carotene. A half cup of canned apricots contains 2,063 IU vitamin A, and 1,232 micro grams of beta-carotene. And 10 dried apricots halves contain 1,261 IU of vitamin A and 757 micro grams of beta-carotene.
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carotenoids, beta-carotene, cateracts, macular-degeneration, cancer protection, vitamin A, fiber,