Full of aroma and fragrance, a perfect sweet taste, a beautiful orange-yellow colour with random reddish overlay and abundance of various nutrients, this fruit is none other than ‘apricot’. Apricot (also called Jardalu, Khubani & Khumani) is a very delightful and healthy fruit that provides a number of health benefits such as eating apricots help in lowering high cholesterol level, high plasma glucose level, high blood pressure, lowers the risk of heart disease and it is good for the overall gut health. Apricot fruit is not just consumed in fresh form, but its dried and frozen forms are also available in the market. Thus, the goodness and wealth of this fruit can be enjoyed throughout the year.
Health Benefits of Apricots
Apricot (Khumani) is one such super-fruit with great taste and amazing health benefits. This fruit may be small in size, but do not underestimate the goodness of this fruit. Apricot is completely filled with healthy vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, polyphenols and other health-promoting compounds. The presence of so many nutrients in this single fruit makes it beneficial for individuals with type-2 diabetes mellitus, high cholesterol levels, cardiovascular diseases, individuals with gastric disorders, and those with weakened immune system. Apricot is one solution for most of the health disorders. Let’s have a detailed look at health benefits of apricot:
Apricot (Jardalu) is nutritious fruit packed with a number of nutrients. Apricot is a rich source of Vitamins:
- Niacin (Vitamin B3)
- Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
- Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
- Vitamin A (Beta-Carotene)
- Vitamin C
It also contains good proportions of minerals such as potassium, magnesium, selenium, phosphorus, zinc, iron and calcium. Besides this, apricots also contain various metabolites such as sterol derivatives, Glucosides, carotenoids, polyphenols, polysaccharides and fatty acids. It also possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic and cardio-protective properties. Such properties of apricot are attributed to the richness of vitamins, minerals and metabolites present in it. (1)
Rich in Carotenoids
Apricot is extremely rich and abundant in carotenoids. These carotenoids are not just responsible for the beautiful color they provide but they are also very beneficial for good health. Carotenoids present in apricot include:
Out of the total carotenoid content, beta-carotene contributes up to 70-80%. All these carotenoids are powerful antioxidants that scavenge the harmful free radicals, fight oxidative stress and keep diseases and disorders at bay. (2, 3)
Natural Sugars & Dietary Fiber
Apricot contains natural sugars such as sucrose, fructose and glucose. The presence of these sugars gives it a sweet taste, and this makes apricot extremely suitable for desserts. Thus, you can use apricot pulp or flesh for desserts and avoid adding refined sugars.
Besides this apricot (Jardalu) is also a rich source of dietary fiber, pectin. Such a carbohydrate composition makes apricot a perfectly balanced fruit. The high fiber content of apricots makes it suitable for individuals with high cholesterol level, type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension and heart disease.
Rich in Antioxidants
Apricot is an excellent source of beta-carotene that protects low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol from oxidation, thus preventing heart disease. Vitamin C and lycopene are two other powerful antioxidants present abundantly in antioxidants.
Some researches and studies have shown that dried apricots have lesser antioxidants as compared to fresh ones. Such a decrease in their antioxidant content may be due to ‘hot air drying process’ which may be used to make dried apricots. (4)
Rich in Polyphenols
A very early research reported that two polyphenols were isolated from apricots. These include QUERCETIN and ISOQUERCETIN. Furthermore, other polyphenols were identified such as:
- CHLOROGENIC ACID
- NEOCHLOROGENIC ACID
- PROTOCATECHUIC ACID
The amount of CHLOROGENIC ACID, EPICATECHIN and RUTIN were higher in peels than the pulp. Each of these polyphenols provides a different health benefit. Thus, eating an apricot daily is very healthy. (5)
Therapeutic Benefits of Apricots
Hypertension or High Blood Pressure
Consuming fruits and vegetables have always been beneficial for individuals with hypertension. Apricot (Jardalu) is one such fruit with an abundant source of blood pressure-lowering nutrients such as dietary fiber (pectin), potassium and magnesium. Both potassium and magnesium help in vasodilation, that is, they help the inner walls of blood vessels to relax and thus, causes widening of the blood vessels. This leads to easy and smooth blood flow throughout the body.
Scientific studies have also discovered the liver-protective role of apricots (Khubani). Taking some medications may have an ill effect on liver and such a person may end up with liver problems. Certain animal studies have found that consuming apricots may reduce the level of oxidative stress, inflammation and restore the activities of superoxide dismutase, a powerful antioxidant.
The presence of beta-carotene in apricots neutralizes the harmful radicals, fights oxidative stress, and reduces inflammation. Eating apricots daily further showed a reduction in the liver injury. Thus, the presence of beta-carotene in apricots helps to ameliorate the hazardous effects of certain medications on liver. However, these positive effects of apricots have been observed in animal studies only. Further studies are needed to identify the effect of consuming apricots on liver diseases in humans. (8, 9)
The anti-tubercular effects of apricot have been observed by various studies. Such an effect is due to the presence of phytochemicals, flavonoids, antioxidants and other health promoting compounds in apricot that may inhibit the activity of bacteria that causes tuberculosis. In addition to this, apricot possesses anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and inhibitory activity against several enzymes.
Furthermore, the anti-tubercular effect of apricot fruit extract was compared to the effect of ISONIAZID, an important drug used in the treatment of tuberculosis. It was observed that both apricot and ISONIAZID had same effects and thus, apricots can be given to patients with tuberculosis. (10)
Anti-Bacterial & Anti-Microbial Activity
Several scientific studies have found that apricot (Khubani) extracts have a remarkable anti-bacterial and anti-microbial activity against gram positive and gram-negative bacteria, staphylococcus aureus as well as tuberculosis mycobacterium. (11)
Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
Apricots are an abundant source of dietary fiber and flavonoids that help in lowering the plasma glucose level in individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus. When apricots are consumed, the dietary fiber present in it forms a viscous gel in the stomach and due to such a gel formation, glucose is released slowly and thus, the plasma glucose level does not spike immediately after eating apricot.
Furthermore, the presence of flavonoids also helps in reducing the plasma glucose levels. Anthocyanin present in apricots has shown to prevent oxidative stress by lowering the load of harmful free radicals. Thus, it can be concluded that apricot has a great ability to lower plasma glucose level and this is possible due to its high fiber and antioxidant content. (12)
Apricots (Khubani) has anti-inflammatory properties. During gastric ulcers, the inflammation in the stomach increases. Thus, eating apricots may help to reduce the inflammation levels and help in quick healing. Some studies have even showed that foods with high antioxidant content can scavenge the free radicals and protect the gastric lining against damage and injury. In addition to this, apricot possesses a significant antioxidant potential and thus, protects against gastric ulcer. The presence of flavonoids and phenolic compounds are also responsible for anti-ulcerogenic effect of apricot. (13, 14)
High Cholesterol Levels
Dietary fiber (pectin) present in apricot plays a protective role and helps in lowering high cholesterol level in the body. It binds the bile acid, throws it out of the body, and thus prevents its reabsorption in the blood. The liver uses cholesterol in the blood to produce bile acid in order to replace the lost bile acid. This further lowers the level of LDL – low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (unhealthy) and total cholesterol levels. Each time bile acid is excreted, cholesterol is used to replace the lost bile acid. In this way, eating fiber rich apricots can lower the cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. (15)
Uncontrolled plasma glucose levels, high blood pressure and altered lipid profile are the risk factors for the development of cardiovascular diseases. Various studies have shown the protective role of eating apricots against these conditions. Its high potassium, dietary fiber, flavonoids and Polyphenolic content improves the overall health. Furthermore, a flavonoid named ‘Quercetin’ has shown to reduce the risk of heart diseases. Beta-carotene and lycopene activity in apricot has also shown to have heart-protective properties. Thus, eating apricots daily may protect your heart against various diseases. (16)
Side Effects of Dried Apricots
Unlike fresh apricots, dried apricots are available throughout the year. These dried apricots are treated with sulphur dioxide to preserve their color and flavor. It also prevents microbial damage. The presence of sulphur dioxide in dried apricots does not possess a great health risk, but individuals who are sensitive to sulphur dioxide can be at a major risk. A few studies have shown that sulphur dioxide may induce a life-threatening attack of asthma. Thus, before buying always check out for dried apricots that are sulphate free, such apricots can be safely used without any risk of adverse reaction. (17)
Ways to Eat Apricot
- Eat it whole: When you eat fresh whole apricot, you get more of dietary fiber, antioxidants, flavonoids and polyphenols.
- Dried apricots: They are easily available throughout the year
- Eat apricots in frozen form
- Make your own apricot juice
- Blend some fresh yogurt and apricot together to make some refreshing apricot smoothie
- Children or elders with dental problems can enjoy fresh apricot pulp
- Enjoy your bowl of cereal with some chopped apricot
- Fruit pancakes taste amazing when apricots are added
- Add some sliced apricots to your fruit salad
- Make your own apricot yogurt
- Replace refined sugar in desserts with fresh apricot pulp, for example- apricot pudding or apricot custard
- Replace jams made with artificial colors and preservatives with homemade apricot sauce
- Make your own apricot milkshake. You can even combine it with other fruits such as banana-apricot milkshake or fig-apricot milkshake
How to Select Apricots
It is very well know that apricots (Khubani) are very rich in a number of nutrients and eating such a nutrient rich fruit will obviously provide many health benefits. But selecting the right kind of fruit is also very important. Apricot with dull appearance or not so firm texture is surely not a good choice. Proper selection and careful storage of apricots is something you should always keep in kind.
Size: Some apricots may look small and shriveled. This happens when a lot of fluid and moisture is lost from the fruit. When moisture is lost from apricots it’s not just the loss of fluid but many important vitamins, minerals and flavonoids are also lost. Therefore, pay special attention towards the size while purchasing apricots.
Color: No doubt apricot has a very beautiful color. Its yellow-orange color with red tinge in between makes it one of the most attractive fruit. It is true that many people consume apricot just because of the way it looks. While purchasing apricots, appearance and looks become a very important factor. When apricot begins to ripen, the amount of chlorophyll (pigment responsible for its green color) in it decreases and the amount of beta-carotene (pigment responsible for yellow-orange color) in it increases. Thus, a properly ripe apricot will have a beautiful yellow-orange color but an over-ripe apricot will have a darker shade. Thus, while purchasing always look for apricots with bright yellow-orange color.
Texture: The presence of polysaccharides in apricot is responsible for its firm texture. The pectin polymers become less tightly bound and thus, the fruit softens. An over-ripe apricot will have less of polysaccharides and the texture will be less firm. Thus, such a fruit will have a soft texture. Always purchase apricots with firm texture.
Taste: It is very well known that apricot has a sweet taste. The taste of apricot reduces when it is stored for more than 8 days. Such a decrease in the taste may be due to degradation of polysaccharides or carbohydrates into simple compounds. Taste alterations may also be due to formation of phenolic compounds.
Flavor: As apricot ripens, the overall flavor improves. This may be due to formation of organic acid, soluble sugars, alcohols and other volatile compounds that enhances the overall flavor. However, if apricots are stored for too long the flavors may decrease and you may not be able to enjoy it. (18)
How to Store Apricots
Unripe or immature apricots can be stored in a paper bag or you can simply wrap the apricots with a clean paper and keep it at room temperature for at least 2 to 3 days. This will help them to ripen quickly.
If you have already purchased ripe apricots you can easily store it in the refrigerator in an airtight or sealed container.
In case of over-ripe apricots, use them immediately. If you further store them, it will affect their taste, flavor and overall palatability.
Fruit Description & History of Apricot
Apricot, also known as Prunus Armeniaca, is a stone fruit that belongs to ROSACEAE family. It is a drupe, which is similar to plum with a thin outer skin (peel) that encloses the flesh. Apricot tree is a small tree that grows about 8 to 12 meters. Apricot looks somewhat similar to a small peach. Its diameter is around 1.5 to 2.5 cm and is yellow to orange in color. The side of the fruit, which is exposed to sun, is tinged with beautiful red color. The surface of apricot has small hair on it, which makes it smooth and velvety. The flesh of apricot fruit is less juicy but firm. The flavor, taste and aroma of apricot fruit is cherished by the consumers all over the world. The presence of natural sugars in apricots that imparts a sweet taste is the most appreciable quality characteristics.
Apricot first originated in China, in other words it is native to western and central China. It was then introduced to Italy around 100 B.C. Somewhere around 13th century apricot was brought to England and by 1720s to North America where it gained a lot of popularity. The major producers of apricot are Spain, Greece, Turkey and France. Major apricot producing states in India are Uttaranchal, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.