These Apricot Benefits Will Sell You on the Summer Fruit

Plus, the apricot nutrition info that you should definitely keep in mind when shopping for seasonal produce.

Close up of a large pile of apricots
Photo: Getty Images

The next time you're craving a treat, reach for an apricot. The juicy fruit is naturally sweet, somewhat tart, and super tasty. But as it turns out, apricots can do so much more than please your taste buds. They offer a rich cocktail of good-for-you nutrients, from gut-regulating fiber to disease-staving antioxidants. Ahead, learn everything you need to know about apricot nutrition, plus how to use the golden fruit in recipes.

What Are Apricots?

Native to China, the apricot is a type of stone fruit (just like peaches), meaning it has a large hard pit or "stone" in the center. This pit protects a seed, which is not edible, according to the Pennsylvania State University. However, it's surrounded by a soft, juicy flesh and thin skin, both of which are yellow-orange and edible. The fruit is related to peaches and plums, and it typically peaks during the summer months, says Nicole Roach, R.D., a registered dietitian at Lenox Hill Hospital.

Apricot Nutrition Facts

Apricots offer carotenoids, aka plant pigments that give produce their yellow-orange color, according to registered dietitian nutritionist Mia Syn, M.S., R.D.N. Carotenoids also happen to play a major role in apricot nutrition, as they boast antioxidant properties. The most abundant carotenoid in apricots is beta-carotene, which makes up 60 to 70 percent of the fruit's carotenoid content. In the body, beta-carotene can turn into vitamin A, a nutrient that's essential for healthy eyes, teeth, and skin, according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM).

In addition to carotenoids, apricots offer other antioxidants such as flavonoids, and vitamins C and E, says Charmaine Jones, M.S., R.D.N., L.D.N., registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Food Jonezi. The juicy fruits are also stellar sources of fiber and minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and potassium, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Here's the nutritional profile of one raw apricot (35 grams), as listed on the USDA database:

  • 17 calories
  • <1 gram protein
  • <1 gram fat
  • 4 grams carbohydrate
  • <1 gram fiber
  • 3 grams sugar

Health Benefits of Apricot

Between its iconic hue and impressive nutrient content, the apricot is known as the "golden fruit" — and for good reason, too. Here's what the benefits of apricots can do for you:

Staves Off Chronic Disease

ICYMI above, apricots are chock-full of carotenoids or yellow-orange plant pigments that double as antioxidants. Antioxidants keep cells healthy by neutralizing free radicals, aka molecules that cause oxidative stress when present in high amounts, according to Marissa Meshulam, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., registered dietitian and founder of MPM Nutrition. This is crucial because, over time, oxidative stress can contribute to chronic conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, according to a 2020 article in Frontiers in Physiology. The flavonoids and vitamins C and E in apricots also provide antioxidant abilities, notes Meshulam. All that said, if you're on a mission to up your intake of antioxidants, it might be time to munch on apricots.

Promotes Healthy Digestion

Next on the list of apricot benefits is gut health. Both the flesh and peel contain a plethora of fiber, says Meshulam. And this includes soluble *and* insoluble fiber, which are both essential for a happy GI tract. Basically, in the gut, soluble fiber dissolves in water and creates a gel-like substance, according to the Mayo Clinic. This helps bulk up your stool, notes Jones, potentially preventing or alleviating diarrhea. On the flipside, insoluble fiber doesn't dissolve in water, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. This type of fiber adds bulk to the stool, which may ease constipation by promoting regular bowel movements, says Syn.

Maintains Heart Health

There's a lot to love about apricot nutrition, including the perks for heart health. For starters, it's a rich source of potassium, a mineral and electrolyte that helps support the heart, says registered dietitian nutritionist Laura Iu, R.D., C.D.N., C.N.S.C., R.Y.T. Specifically, potassium "conducts electrical impulses that help muscle contractions, including [the production of] regular heartbeat," explains Iu. The mineral can also help reduce high blood pressure, aka hypertension, a major risk factor for heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Oh, and remember how apricots have soluble fiber? This type of fiber can help lower high blood cholesterol, yet another risk factor for heart disease, adds Iu. This is due to the way soluble fiber interacts with bile acids or molecules that support fat absorption, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Essentially, soluble fiber binds with bile acids in the gut. But when the fiber exits your body via stool, it brings the bile acids along with it. Your liver responds by pulling cholesterol from the blood to produce more bile acids, thereby reducing blood cholesterol levels.

Supports Immune Function

Want to bolster your immune system? Add apricots to your cart. Vitamins C and E — which are found in apricots — are essential for healthy immunity, says Jones. Specifically, vitamin C protects white blood cells (i.e. cells that fight against infection) from oxidative stress, ensuring said cells effectively destroy disease-causing germs, according to a 2020 review in Frontiers in Immunology. Vitamin C also helps phagocytes (i.e. white blood cells that "eat" dangerous microorganisms) travel to sites of infection in the name of keeping you healthy. Meanwhile, vitamin E "supports T cells, which are [white blood cells] in charge of protecting your body from virus and bacteria," shares Jones. T cells work by "remembering" germs, making it easier for your body to fight 'em in the future, according to a 2018 article in the journal Immunity.

Supports Eye Health

As mentioned earlier, apricot benefits include beta-carotene, a carotenoid that turns into vitamin A in the body. This is great news for your peepers, as "vitamin A is vital to maintaining eyesight and [preventing] night blindness," says Meshulam. Apricots also contain the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, according to the USDA. While lutein and zeaxanthin don't turn into vitamin A, they're still crucial for eye health, as they protect the retina, which is the tissue along the back of your eye, according to a 2021 article in Advances in Nutrition. As the NLM explains, the retina detects light and sends images to your brain, ultimately helping you see. Lutein and zeaxanthin also protect the eye from oxidative stress, which is involved in eye disorders, such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.

Contributes to Hydration

As it turns out, cucumbers and celery aren't the only hydrating produce. "Fresh apricots are about 86 percent water or about 30 grams for each apricot," explains Meshulam. The math works out to about 1/8 cup of water per apricot, she adds. This means the "golden fruit" can contribute to your hydration needs, which is approximately 4 to 6 cups of water per day for healthy adults. And, friendly reminder, staying hydrated is vital for overall well-being, as H2O is essential for regulating your body temperature, removing wastes from your body, and protecting your spinal cord, according to the CDC. (See also: The Best Ways to Stay Hydrated All Day Long)

Potential Risks of Apricots

If you have hyperkalemia, or high potassium levels, you might need to limit or avoid high-potassium foods, such as apricots. Hyperkalemia "can interfere with the body's electrolyte signals, which can lead to an irregular heartbeat," explains Iu. The condition is often associated with chronic kidney disease, but heart failure and some medications can also cause it, says Iu. In these scenarios, eating apricots may increase your potassium levels even more, potentially causing complications such as weakness and nausea, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Apricot allergies are a thing, too. That said, you might want to proceed with caution if you're allergic to plums, peaches, sweet cherries, hazelnuts, or kiwi, as they all share potentially allergy-causing proteins with apricots, according to a 2020 review. Not sure if you're at risk? Watch for out for common food allergy symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, hives, and stomach cramps, as indicated by the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology and talk to your doctor if you do experience any of them after eating apricots.

If you have a sensitive gut, consuming too much of the fruit can cause digestive issues, such as stomach cramps and indigestion, says Jones. Remember, apricot is rich in fiber — so you might be more prone to post-apricot GI issues if you don't eat a lot of fiber in general. To play it safe, start with a small amount and gradually increase your intake of fiber-rich foods, including apricots.

How to Buy and Eat Apricots

"Apricots are available in the supermarket in many forms," according to Meshulam. The juicy fruits are available fresh, dried, canned, or as jams/spreads. Looking for the most nutritionally dense choice? Go for fresh apricots, as this version contains the most water — and thus, it's the most hydrating, explains Meshulam. Plus, according to Syn, fresh apricots are the best source of vitamin C. Here's why: Vitamin C naturally degrades over time, so canned apricots (which are shelf-stable) contain less of the nutrient. Similarly, heat — which is used to make dried apricots — destroys vitamin C, explains Syn. If you decide to go for canned or dried apricots, consider choosing a product with no added sugar — and, in the case of canned apricots, packaged in natural juice instead of sugary syrup.

When choosing fresh apricots, look for ones with a golden color, suggests Roach. Also, pick fruits that are firm — but not too hard, she adds. Leave behind apricots that are soft, mushy, cracked, or bruised, which may indicate spoilage. On that note, you'll want to handle fresh apricots with care because they bruise easily, according to Washington State University. At home, store ripe apricots in the refrigerator and use them within three to five days. When it's time to eat, wash the fruit under cool water, slice in half, remove the pit, and dig in. (Reminder: The skin is edible!) You can also slice or cube apricot to be used in delicious dishes.

New to apricots? They're mostly sweet and slightly tart, so they pair well with a variety of dishes, says Iu. Here's how to enjoy the health benefits of apricots, from savory recipes to summery desserts:

In salads. Both fresh and dried apricots are excellent for brightening up your salads, such as wild rice salad with radicchio.

Grilled. Elevate your barbecue game by adding firm fruits — see: apricots — to the grill. From there, pair chopped grilled apricots with salads or other grilled proteins, such as chicken or salmon, recommends Iu. Another option is to simply grill apricots and top with feta, basil, and cucumber.

Baked. No grill? No problem. Baked apricots are just as tasty. Preheat the oven to 375°F, then "place sliced apricots on a baking sheet [and] bake for 20 to 25 minutes until bubbly," says Roach. Garnish the sweet treat with cinnamon, honey, or both for some extra sweetness, she adds.

In oatmeal. To give extra flavor to your oatmeal, add fresh or dried apricots, suggests Roach, who's partial to serving the pairing with cinnamon, honey, and almonds, but of course, don't be afraid to experiment.

In a charcuterie board. Sweeten up your next charcuterie board with a handful of dried apricots. Or if you're feeling crafty, whip up an apricot jam and serve it with crackers and soft cheese. Try this recipe for apricot jam with thyme from food blog Nourish and Nestle.

In ice pops. This summer, cool down with homemade apricot ice pops. Toss them in your go-to smoothie and freeze them in popsicle molds.

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