Apricots are the fruit of the apricot, scientific name Prunus armeniaca, a plant native to Armenia. Legend has it that, originally, the apricot tree was just an ornamental plant capable of giving wonderful white flowers but not fruit. One day, the enemies invaded the land where apricots also rose and gave the order to cut down all the trees that gave no fruit in order to obtain wood. This would also have been the fate of the apricot tree if it were not for a girl who cried all night near it. The next morning the white flowers had given way to juicy golden fruits, apricots. Thus it was that, as the story wants, the apricot tree could grow and multiply until a great conqueror, Alexander the Great, fell in love with its fruits so much that he brought an apricot plant with him. From that moment, the apricot was made known and appreciated in the Mediterranean basin and from there all over the world. But what is special about apricots for creating even myths and legends around them? Let's find out.
Apricots are one of the most eaten and appreciated summer fruits. It may be for the soft and juicy texture, for the sweet and fragrant note, or perhaps because they are practical to take with you, but very few people manage to say no to a beautiful apricot. And apricots are also a valuable source of health properties. Apricots are rich in water, essential for regulating body temperature, but also to preserve the health and functionality of the heart, kidneys and joints, they provide carbohydrates, therefore energy, fiber, useful for regulating intestinal transit, and proteins (Moustafa et al, J Food Sci Technol, 2019 - Food and Data Database). Not only that, apricots also contain polyphenols, which are antioxidants, more concentrated in the peel than in the pulp. Carotenoids, other substances with a precious anti-aging action, give these fruits the bright orange color and are mostly composed, about 60%, of beta-carotene. Do not forget that apricots also provide vitamin C, vitamin A, E and K, as well as mineral salts such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and iron, although the latter is more abundant in dried apricots than in fresh ones. (Pintea et al, Antioxidants, 2020).
In addition to the important nutritional contribution, apricots, thanks to the substances they contain, are characterized by antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antihypertensive, anti-tumor and neuroprotective properties, being able to counteract the accumulation of beta amyloid protein aggregates, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease (Pintea et al, Antioxidants, 2020). Not only that, apricots support and strengthen the immune system, reducing inflammation and improving the health of the gut microbiota, and have been found to be protective for the liver, since, according to scientific studies, they have reduced the risk of fatty liver and damage caused by free radicals (Ozturk et al, Br J Nutr, 2009). Apricots counteract fatigue, stress and insomnia and reduce hypercholesterolemia, thus also protecting heart health (Sochor et al, Moelcules, 2010). Finally, thanks to the presence of carotenoids, apricots also protect eyesight, since they help prevent eye diseases caused by advancing age, such as macular degeneration, and protect also the skin from UV damage (Rasmussen et al, Clin Interv Aging., 2013 - Koepcke et al, Photochem Photobiol, 2007).