As with any dried fruits, dried apricots are sweet and thus many would say they are bad for health due to high sugar and calories. This is true but only when eaten in excess. Come, let’s find out what are the benefits eating dried apricots. You’ll be delighted to know of dried apricots laxative effect if you always have a problem with constipation. Do you? No need to tell 😉
What About Dried Apricots
Apricot is a small pitted fruit, roughly the size of a golf ball. Similar in appearance to a small peach, you may be mistaken if you’re not familiar with fresh apricot fruit.
Apricots have been cultivated in Central Asia since ancient times. In dried form, they could be transported over huge distances due to their long shelf life and were an important commodity on the Silk Road.
In recent times, California was the largest producer but has now been taken over by Turkey, accounting for 28% of Top 10 world apricot production. Followed by Iran and Uzbekistan at 16% and 12% respectively.
So, How Are Dried Apricots Made
Briefly, here’s the process of drying apricots that may interest you.
It starts with fresh fruits that are “eating ripe” meaning firm and sweet, rather than “juicy ripe” that’s soft and sweet. The firmer the fruit is, the more nutritional value you’ll get out of it.
During the preparation process, under-ripe fruit will be rejected as these produce a tasteless and colourless product. Also, over-ripe apricots are rejected too as they will absorb too much sulphur dioxide in the next processing stage.
Small apricots are normally dried whole while larger varieties are dried in halves, without the kernel or stone.
Next, is the sulphuring process.
Have you seen dried apricots in brown colour? Thought they went bad?
Normally, you’ll be attracted by bright orange dried apricots but the brown ones may be better for you. Here’s why.
Sulphur dioxide prevents the browning of the apricots. The sulphur dioxide is added either by dipping the apricots in a solution of sodium metabisulphite or by placing the fruit in a chamber in which sulphur is burnt for 2-3 hours.
It is sulfur that apricots hold the orange colour that you recognize them for. Brown apricots have no sulphur added.
After being treated with sulphur, the actual drying of the fruits begins. The method of drying apricots varies from simple sun-drying to large-scale solar dryers.
In natural sun-drying, de-stoned apricots are placed directly on the earth, concrete or cloth and it takes approximately 6-9 days to achieve the desired results. Normally, sun-dried apricots are not treated with sulphur hence their dark colour and they are sweeter than sulphured ones. However, the quality may be affected due to the handling and environmental conditions such as bruises, dirt, dust and insects.
Using the solar dryer, not only shorten the drying time but reduce contamination from dirt and dust. Mostly treated with sulphur, the fruits are placed in the dryer and dried to a moisture content of 15%.
Once dried and cooled, they are packed in various retail packaging or wholesale. That’s how you get to snack on the sweetness of dried apricots.
Next, the important question is, are dried apricots healthy? Let’s see.
Dried Apricots Nutritional Information
Firstly, let’s take a quick look at the nutrients in dried apricots.
Based on a portion size of 100g dried apricots, you’re getting
- Calories: 241 kcal
- Total Fat: 0.5g → 1% Daily Value* (DV)
- Total Carbohydrate: 63g → 23% DV out of which 7.3g (26% DV) is dietary fibre
- Protein: 3.4g → 7% DV
*The Daily Value (DV) percentage tells you how much a nutrient contributes to your daily diet in a serving.
The minerals and vitamins content is
- Copper → 38% DV
- Iron → 15% DV
- Potassium → 25% DV
- Niacin (Vitamin B3) → 16% DV
- Vitamin A → 20% DV
- Vitamin E → 19% DV
As you can see, dried apricots are rich in important nutrients, especially fibre, copper, potassium and Vitamin A and E. The impressive fibre content contributes to the dried apricots laxative effect which you’ll read more about below.
Benefits Eating Dried Apricots
The nutrients found in dried apricots benefit your well-being in several ways and here they are.
1. Fibre for Digestive System – Gut Health & Constipation
Apricot fruits contain both soluble and insoluble fibre.
Soluble fibre dissolves in water and gastrointestinal fluids when it enters your stomach and intestines. It is then transformed into a gel-like substance and get digested by bacteria in the large intestine. These bacteria are called gut flora or gut microbiome.
Most probably, you’ve heard the importance of gut health, haven’t you?
I quickly explain here. All food you eat is ultimately broken down in the gut and the nutrients are delivered throughout your body via the bloodstream. A healthy gut needs “good” bacteria to ward off ‘bad” bacteria, viruses and fungi. In addition, a healthy gut communicates with the brain through nerves and hormones which helps maintain general well-being.
In this case, the food as in fibre you consume feeds your beneficial gut bacteria and boost your digestive health.
What about dried apricots laxative effect? This is where insoluble fibre plays its part.
Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water or gastrointestinal fluids, instead absorbs liquid and sticks to other byproducts of digestion to form stools. This process leads to softer, bulkier stools making them easier to pass.
You ought to know one piece of dried fruit contains about the same amount of nutrients as the fresh fruit but condensed in a much smaller package (1). For this reason, you’re getting more fibre into your diet by eating 3-4 dried apricots. You can’t really eat the same amount in fresh form, can you?
In addition to gut health and constipation, fibre is important for maintaining blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
A study showed healthy individuals who participated in a clinical trial improved their LDL cholesterol and glucose levels with intake of a modest increase in soluble fibre.
2. Copper for Immune System & Bone Health
Copper is an essential nutrient for your body and has several important roles to play.
You may have known copper is vital for the production of red blood cells. It helps to form haemoglobin, a protein molecule in red blood cells, essential for transferring oxygen in your blood from the lungs to the tissues.
Red blood cells do more than shuttling oxygen. They may also help your body fight off infections by capturing and invade pathogens.
Copper has also been found to play a role in bone health.
In the last decade, studies and clinical trials showed micronutrients including copper, magnesium, manganese and zinc have a positive impact on bone health, preventing bone loss and fractures, decreasing bone resorption and increasing bone formation. Numerous studies found copper to play an important role in bone health maintenance. (1)
3. Potassium for Body System
Why is potassium important for health? Potassium is one of the most important minerals in your body. It is necessary for the normal function of all cells.
The 3 important roles played by potassium are
i. Maintain salt and water balance in your body.
You know that up to 60% of the human adult body is water. There is more you should know. 40% of the water inside the cells is called intracellular fluid (ICF) and the rest of the water is present outside the cells, called extracellular fluid (ECF).
The balance between the fluid inside and outside the cells is vital to maintain the cell shape and is regulated by potassium and sodium. Potassium is the main electrolyte in the cells, while sodium is the main electrolyte in the outside space.
An imbalance in the electrolyte levels can cause the cells to shrink or swell and burst, and this may lead to organ damage.
ii. Maintain your nervous system.
Your brain and body communicate through the nervous system and the messages are delivered in the form of nerve impulses.
How does potassium help? Nerve impulses are generated by sodium ions moving into cells and potassium ions moving out of cells. The movement of these ions changes the voltage of the cell which then activates a nerve impulse.
So, a drop in blood levels of potassium can affect the body’s ability to generate a nerve impulse. For that reason, potassium is important in maintaining healthy nerve function.
iii. Regulate muscle and heart contractions.
This relates to the nervous system. Altered blood potassium levels affect nerve signals in the nervous system and may lead to weakening muscle contractions. This may affect heart health. How?
When blood potassium levels are too high, the heart may become dilated and can weaken its contractions, producing an abnormal heartbeat.
On the other hand, low levels also alter the heartbeat. Regardless of high or low levels, an irregular heartbeat can be fatal.
Although potassium deficiencies or excess rarely occur through the diet, maintaining an adequate potassium intake is important for your overall health.
Changes in body potassium may not be a concern if you don’t have risk factors. Healthy kidneys are often enough to regulate body potassium.
A 100g serving of dried apricot gives you 1162mg of potassium and that contributes 25% to your daily diet, based on 2,000 calories per day. (1)
World Health Organization (WHO) recommended consuming at least 3,500 mg per day through food. (1)
Niacin (Vitamin B3) for Body Function
Similar to potassium, niacin is another nutrient your body needs to function properly.
Niacin, you may be more familiar with its other name, Vitamin B3, helps your body process components from food into usable energy. It also plays a role in cell signalling and making and repairing DNA. (1)
Since niacin is water-soluble, your body does not store it and any excess will be excreted through urine. So, you need to get niacin from food.
Vitamin A for Eyesight
Vitamin A is essential for maintaining your eyesight. It plays a crucial role by maintaining a clear cornea, which is the outside covering of your eye.
A study suggests that diets high in vitamin A may be associated with a reduced risk of cataracts.
In addition, Vitamin A is a component of rhodopsin, a protein in your eyes that allows you to see in low light conditions. Its deficiency can lead to your tear ducts and eyes drying out. Eventually, the cornea softens, resulting in irreversible blindness. (1, 2)
Vitamin E for Oxidative Stress
What is oxidative stress? Oxidative stress is caused by the imbalance between the production and buildup of oxygen reactive species (ROS) and your body’s ability to detoxify them.
ROS, known as free radicals, can weaken and break down healthy cells. These molecules may contribute to chronic health issues such as heart disease and cancer.
Antioxidants help neutralise free radicals hence protect against cellular damage.
Vitamin E works as an antioxidant in your body. It is a fat-soluble antioxidant that stops the production of ROS formed when fat undergoes oxidation. (1)
So, Why Are Dried Apricots Bad For You
Most dried fruits per serving contain no more calories or sugar than fresh ones. The problem arises as you may easily eat more than you realised in one sitting.
With all the nutrients concentrated in a smaller package, you’re consuming more calories than needed.
Although you’ll benefit from getting other nutrients such as fibre, minerals and various vitamins, sugar is not what you need in excess. Particularly, when you’re watching your weight or with diabetes concerns.
Dried apricots, high in fibre may make you feel fuller longer and reduce snacking but their high sugar content can lead to weight gain.
Diabetics must be mindful of eating dried apricots. Regardless of fresh fruits or dried, both must be factored in when building meal plans.
Dried Apricots Benefits And The Bad At Glance
Here is a summary of the good and bad for your easy reference.
How to Eat Dried Apricot
I usually eat dried apricots as they are as an afternoon snack or add them to oatmeal that is overnight oats or warm morning oats.
Besides that, there are other ways you can enjoy dried apricots.
Add to fruit salads. It could be fruit salad, green salad, even cold meat or pasta salad.
Use as toppers. Dried apricots are healthy toppings on yoghurt. Ice-cream too.
Add to trail mix. Build your own trail mix by combining dried apricots with your favourite nuts and seeds such as walnuts, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds and other dried fruits like dried cranberries.
Dip! Chocolate-dipped dried apricots. You have to try this. It’s easy to make and a satisfying snack or dessert to eat. Beware though, not to overindulge. Choose dark chocolate (healthier) instead of white or milk chocolate.
Canapes. Canape is a small savoury dish served as an appetizer mostly at formal parties or receptions but that doesn’t mean you can’t have it at home. Made with a base of a small piece of bread, pastry or cracker, you can make them differently. Now, use a dried apricot as the base. A piece of dried apricot topped with blue cheese and add a piece of walnut on top. You can eat them any time of the day.
I hope these ideas are good for you to get started eating dried apricots.
You can buy them at the bulk section of the grocery stores or health stores. Or conveniently buy online.
For US Shoppers, buy on Amazon US. Take a look at what I’ve found for you.
Although sulfur dioxide is added for colour retention in this Traina Home Grown California Sun-Dried Apricots, it does not make them less nutritious.
Here’s another product of California, B&R Farms Slab Apricots. Pricier but take a look at all the delicious, tasty positive reviews.
For my fellow Malaysians, shop on Shopee. There’s a good selection of dried apricots, sulphured and unsulphured. Click here, takes you directly to the page.
If you wish to shop on Lazada, mini sun dried apricots from Signature Market has excellent positive reviews. Go on, take a look!
In a Nutshell
Apricots are highly perishable and they continue to ripen after picking. It is only in dried form that I get to enjoy the fruit. Since they are nutritious and delicious, I don’t mind eating them dried. How about you?
Although the drying process degrades a fruit’s content of water-soluble and heat-sensitive vitamins such as vitamin C, other nutrients are about the same amount. Ounce for ounce, dried apricots provide higher levels of nutrients than fresh ones as they are more concentrated.
On the other hand, the drying method using sulphur may cause concern even though it is more hygienic drying in a controlled environment. Drying fruits in the open under the natural sun are usually not treated with sulphur but dust and dirt may settle on them.
If you’re allergic to sulphur or prefer not having those treated with preservatives, you can always buy naturally dried apricots. Although the colour of the fruit is not as attractively orangey bright (in a darker shade of brown) as those treated ones, there is a small but growing demand for naturally dried apricots.
Of course, how they look is secondary to the nutritional value benefiting your health. But, always keep in mind not to eat dried apricots, in fact, any dried fruits in excess due to their high sugar content.
You may want to read about dried cranberries here. Find out what is dried cranberries good for.
I hope the information here is helpful for you to make a better decision to include dried apricots in your diet or not.
Tell us what your thoughts are in the comments section below. Good to go for it? Yes! How would you eat them? Also, I am curious to know if the colour of the fruit matters to you? Bright orangey or dark coloured? Both have pros and cons, what matters most to you?
Last but not least, please share this article with anyone you think may find this information useful. Click the share button!
If someone happens to ask you, are dried apricots healthy, you know the answer now.
Thanks for reading.
Me YourHealthy Corner – Healthy Snacking is Possible
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Medical Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or medical professional, and this post should not be taken as medical advice. Please do your own research. The material on this blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is general information that may not apply to you as an individual and is not a substitute for your own doctor’s medical care or advice.