Apricots: Health Benefits, Nutrition, and Uses

Apricots may be small, but they're big on both flavor and nutrition. These yellow-orange fruits are rich in vitamins and minerals, with a flavor ranging from sweet to sweet-tart, depending on the variety. The flesh of apricots is soft and somewhat juicy when ripe, and they have a velvety skin with soft fuzz.

Prunus armeniaca originated in China, where it was first cultivated about 4,000 years ago. This delicious stone fruit held high favor with locals, traders, and travelers, so it's no surprise that it began its journey west along the Silk Road. Over time, apricots began growing across Central Asia and the Middle East.

Apricots reached the Mediterranean about 2,000 years ago, where they flourished in the warm, sunny climate. Today, Turkey and Iran  are the world’s largest producer of apricots.

There are many different apricot varieties to enjoy, the most popular being Blenheim, Tilton, and Moorpark.

Health Benefits

Thanks to their high amount of vitamins, flavonoids, and potassium, apricots have significant health benefits.

Flavonoids work to protect and strengthen your blood vessels while reducing signs of inflammation. Potassium, an important mineral for nerve and muscle function, is also crucial for helping nutrients move around the body. Plus, it supports healthy blood pressure and heart health.

Here are a few more health benefits of apricots:

Skin Protection

Antioxidants like vitamin E and vitamin C are known for their skin-boosting properties. They can help to protect skin cells from ultraviolet (UV) radiation, reduce signs of early wrinkles, and improve skin elasticity. Beta-carotene is another antioxidant that helps to protect your skin from sunburns and additional UV damage. Since apricots have high water content, they're also a good way to hydrate your skin. One cup of apricots offers about 2/3 of a cup of water.

Healthy Vision

Rich in vitamin A, beta-carotene, and other carotenoids, apricots are excellent for promoting eye health. Lutein helps to support retina and lens health, while carotenoids and vitamin E support overall vision. Apricot nutrients also help to reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.

Better Digestion

Apricots offer plenty of good dietary fiber to help your digestive tract. Their total fiber content is about half soluble fiber and half insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps your digestive tract retain enough water and encourages good bacteria to thrive. Insoluble fiber is also good for healthy gut bacteria levels.

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Nutrients per Serving

One whole, fresh apricot contains:

  • Calories: 17
  • Protein: Less than 1 gram
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 4 grams
  • Fiber: 1 gram
  • Sugar: 3 grams
  • Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
  • Sodium: 0 milligrams

Apricots are low in fat but rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene. These nutrients act as antioxidants to protect your cells from damage.

Apricots are also a good source of flavonoids, an antioxidant that helps to protect against inflammation and inflammatory illnesses, along with reducing your risk for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The main flavonoids in apricots are catechin, quercetin, and chlorogenic acids.

Fresh apricots contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, including:

How to Choose and Prepare Apricots

California apricots have a short growing season, typically from May to August. When in season, they are in abundant supply in grocery stores, farmers markets, and roadside produce stalls. Off-season apricots are likely to come from South America.

When you look at the apricots for sale, choose ones with even coloring in a dark golden orange or reddish-orange tone. Pale yellow or yellow-green apricots are underripe and won't have much flavor. Take care not to choose overripe apricots. These ones wrinkle easily and may mash during transport.

You can enjoy fresh apricots in many ways, including eaten by hand. You can also add them to recipes as garnish or incorporate them into a variety of dishes.

Here are a few apricot recipes to try out:

  • Enjoy an apricot cobbler or crisp.
  • Poach apricot halves with fresh vanilla bean.
  • Bake a tart with apricot and pistachio.
  • Combine fresh apricot jam with red pepper flakes for a spicy-sweet sauce over chicken.
  • Top French toast with apricot compote.
  • Drizzle apricot glaze onto baked ham.

Create a pasta salad with chicken, apricots, almonds, vegetables, and lemon dressing.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on August 19, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Washington State University: "Apricots."

International Journal of Unani and Integrative Medicine: "Nutritional and Health Benefits of Apricots."

World's Healthiest (WH) Foods: "Apricots."

University of Rochester Medical Center: "Beta-Carotene." "Antioxidants."

Cleveland Clinic: "Heart Failure Diet: Potassium."

Utah State University Cooperative Extension Food Sense: "Apricots."

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon.

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