Apricots: The Sweet Way to Get Your Beta-Carotene

Beta-carotene is a super nutrient for your body, which is the plant form of vitamin A. Do you and your family shy away from vegetables? What if you could get the same form of nutrient with the sweet taste of fruit? You can with apricots.

Like the vegetables that are red, yellow and orange in color, apricots provide beta-carotene that has been linked to cancer prevention among other beneficial reasons to obtain this nutrient. Apricots are also known to help fight infections, blindness and heart disease. You can reach your beta-carotene quota by eating apricots, whether you choose the fresh fruit, dried or canned. This fruit has little or no fat, no cholesterol and no sodium. The bonus to dried apricots is potassium, which is a plus for a healthy heart. The calorie content depends on how you eat them. For example:

3 canned apricots, water packed = 23 calories

3 canned apricots, juice packed = 40 calories

3 medium fresh apricots = 51 calories

10 dried halves = 83 calories

There are three health benefits of apricots worth mentioning:

A heart-friendly fruit

Apricots provide a mix of healing compounds that make it a food that helps prevent heart disease. Along with beta-carotene, apricots also contain lycopene. Both compounds fight the process by which the dangerous low-density lipoprotein (LDL) form of cholesterol goes rancid in the body and sticks to artery walls. When eating dried apricots, you also get a daily allowance of potassium, iron and copper. Potassium helps to keep the rhythm of the heart beating properly. A hand-full (about 10 dried apricots) provides as much potassium as a banana or medium-sized orange.

Apricots are good for the eyes

When light passes through your eyes, it triggers the release of tissue-damaging free radicals. This process damages the lenses of the eyes that could lead to cataracts. Free radicals can also attack blood vessels in the retina, called maculas, which in turn can lead to macular degeneration. This disorder is a leading cause of vision loss in older adults. Beta-carotene converts to vitamin A that helps to protect the eyes. According to the World’s Healthiest Foods, one apricot can provide 914.20 international units of vitamin A, which is 18.3 percent of the daily value (DV).

A fruit full of fiber

Do you get enough fiber each day? It’s known that fiber helps people lose weight, control high blood sugar and lower cholesterol levels. It’s also a leading factor of digestive regularity. So this is another reason to keep apricots in the house and readily available as a snack. Three small apricots contain 3 grams of fiber, which is 12 percent of the DV. Make sure when you are eating the apricots for fiber you consume the skin too.

Contraindication: don’t eat the pits

Many years ago, back in the 1920’s, a doctor named Ernst T. Krebs thought that the compound found in the apricot pits (amygdalin), which convert to cyanide in the body, could destroy cancer cells. Years later, his son reproduced this extract and called it Laetrile. The New York Times reported that in the 1970’s, people with cancer were flocking to find this new miracle cure and found it in health food stores. Today Laetrile cannot be sold legally, although it has been found in Mexico and other countries. Can it cure cancer? No, and studies have even found that it can cause cyanide poisoning.

Other Resource:

The Doctors Book of Food Remedies by Selene Yeaker and editors of Prevention [Rodale Press, 1998]

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