Apricots

Although dried apricots are a fun and convenient snack, you may be wondering if their sugar content is too high to be considered a healthy snack. But apricots provide several nutrients and health benefits whether eaten fresh or dried. Choosing apricot products with no added sugar can help you reap the maximum benefit from this antioxidant-rich fruit.

Nutritional Facts: The following information is provided by the USDA for one (35g) fresh apricot.

  • Calories: 17
  • Fat: 0.1g
  • Sodium: 0.4mg
  • Carbohydrates: 3.9g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0.7g
  • Sugars: 3.2g
  • Protein: 0.5g

Carbs:  A fresh apricot has about nearly 4 grams of carbohydrates, with just under 1 gram of fiber and a little over 3 grams of naturally occurring sugar.

Dried apricots not only offer more sugar per serving, but they may also have sugar added during processing, so it’s always a good idea to review the food label. Dried fruit loses volume when dried, making it easier to eat a larger sized portion and more sugar as a result. Nonetheless, the glycemic index of dried apricots (without added sugar) is still considered to be low, at around 42.

Fats: Apricots have minimal fat, with about only 0.1 grams per apricot.

Protein: Fresh apricots have some protein with one apricot providing 0.5 grams.

Vitamins and Minerals: Apricots are rich in potassium and beta carotene. They also provide calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin C, and folate. Although dried fruit may be a more concentrated source of calories and sugar, it also tends to be higher in vitamins and minerals. Dried apricots provide the same nutrients as fresh, in higher quantities.

Health Benefits: The juice and pulp derived from fresh apricots are often described as the “nectar of the gods” in Greek and Roman mythology to convey immortal properties. While apricots won’t magically allow you to live forever, they do support good health in the following ways.

Aids Heart Health: Whether fresh or dried, apricots provide soluble fiber which is well-known to lower blood cholesterol levels. Furthermore, the potassium in apricots effectively reduces blood pressure. These two factors, along with the numerous anti-inflammatory polyphenols in apricots and other fruits and vegetables, offer cumulative cardiovascular benefits.

Aids Blood Sugar Control: Dried apricots are often consumed in conjunction with nuts, such as in trail mixes. Nuts slow the gastric emptying rate and release of glucose to the bloodstream due to their natural fat content. When nuts are combined with low-to-medium glycemic index dried fruits, including apricots, the rise and fall of blood sugar is more even. For people trying to avoid blood sugar fluctuations, eating dried apricots and nuts together can be a healthy snack.

Protects Eyesight: Along with other orange fruits and vegetables, like carrots, pumpkin, and mango, apricots owe their rich hue to beta carotene. Beta carotene is a form of vitamin A that’s been associated with the prevention of age-related macular degeneration. Because age-related macular degeneration is a condition that progresses over a period of several years, making a habit of consuming beta-carotene rich fruits and vegetables can provide a lifetime of added protection against the disease.

May Reduce Risk of Neurodegenerative Diseases: The flavonoid quercetin is found in many fruits, including apricots. Rutin, a component of quercetin, shows promise in the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and prion diseases.

Some of the mechanisms by which apricots could help include genetic modulation (upregulation of beneficial genes and downregulation of harmful genes), reduction of proinflammatory cytokines, and enhanced antioxidant activity. While more human research is needed to confirm these effects, increasing apricot consumption could reduce the burden of certain neurological conditions.

May Help Prevent Cancer: Apricots contain several phytonutrients that act as antioxidants including polyphenols, flavonoids, and beta-carotene. These can protect your cells from the day-to-day damage that may lead to cancer over time.7 It is no secret that eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is beneficial for cancer prevention. Apricots make a great addition to an antioxidant-rich meal plan.

Allergies: Apricot food allergies are rare but not impossible. You may be more likely to experience an apricot allergy if you are allergic to related fruits in the Rosaceae family, especially peaches, cherries, apples, and almonds. Speak to your doctor if you notice common allergy symptoms after eating apricots like skin hives, swelling, vomiting, or tightness of breath.

Adverse Effects: Apricots are naturally high in components referred to as FODMAPs. For individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), FODMAPs are poorly digested and result in gastrointestinal discomfort. If you notice diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, or other unpleasant reactions to eating apricots, see your doctor or a specialist for a full evaluation.

People who are sensitive to sulfites should use caution with commercially dried apricots, as they may be treated with sulfur-containing compounds during processing. Sulfites may cause harm to healthy gut bacteria.

It is important to remove the stone (pit) of apricots as it is not edible. In fact, the kernel inside the shell of the pit contains the poisonous compound amygdalin and can cause cyanide poisoning.

Varieties: There are several varieties of apricots that vary slightly in size, color, and taste. Some examples include Goldrich, Rival, Perfection, Chinese/Mormon, Moorpark, and Tilton. Certain varieties can be mixed with others, creating hybrid apricots with unique properties as well. Speak to farmers at your local farmers market to find out more about the apricots produced in your area.

In Season: Apricots can be purchased fresh, dried, canned, and in jams, spreads, and preserves any time of the year. Find these products in supermarkets, gift shops, or farmers markets. Dried apricots can be purchased in the grocery store next to other dried fruit, such as raisins and cranberries. When purchasing dried, jellied, or canned apricots, look for unsweetened products for the most nutritional value.

Fresh apricots are in season during spring and summer. Choose fresh apricots that have a rich, orange uniform color. Avoid fruit that is pale or has any yellow on it, as it is not yet ripe. Apricots should be slightly soft, but firm to the touch. Avoid fruit with bruises, blemishes, or mold.

Storage and Food Safety: Fresh apricots can be stored at room temperature and should be eaten within a few days. Wash under running water before eating or cutting into them. Once you slice an apricot, store the pieces covered in the refrigerator and consume within a couple of days. If you don’t plan on eating apricots right away, store them whole and unwashed in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.

There are several options for preserving fresh apricots at home. Prior to freezing, canning, or dehydrating apricots, wash apricots and remove the pits. Place apricots in a solution made with 1 gallon of water and 3 grams of ascorbic acid. This prevents browning. Ascorbic acid can be purchased as vitamin C tablets, fruit juice dips, powdered forms, or commercial mixes.

Apricot nectar and canned apricots can be stored at 40 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 48 months. At 70 degrees Fahrenheit, these products will last 24 months. Dried apricots last 24 months at 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 3 months at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have any concerns about the integrity of your product, always remember the food safety motto: “When in doubt, throw it out.”

How to Prepare: Apricots can be eaten whole, skin and all. The only time you may want to remove the skin is if you are using apricots to make baked goods, as the skin can change the texture and appearance of your finished product. 

Enjoy apricots by themselves as a snack. Or chop apricots and add to yogurt, cottage cheese, hot cereal, or baked goods. A few dried apricots pairs well with a handful of nuts for a filling, fibrous post-workout or energy-boosting midday snack.  

Apricots can also be used in dessert recipes, fruit spreads, and sauces. Apricot preserves can be used as glazes for meats. Experiment with this versatile fruit to add flavor and nutrients to your favorite recipes.

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