One of the pleasures of living in the Sedona area is the opportunity to enjoy fresh-picked fruit right off of the trees. While apricots, apples, plums, and persimmons may not have the tropical glamour of the lime, lemons, and oranges found in the Phoenix Valley, they are packed full of nutritional health benefits. And, if you visit the Sedona Community Center in the next several weeks, chances are you will see a big bowl of plump apricots available for guests; a rich treat from a generously bearing tree belonging to our Meals on Wheels Coordinator, Donna Newcomb.
I have enjoyed dried apricots for years, but the availability of fresh apricots is new to me and got me wondering about the food value of the delicate, smooth little fruit. The intriguing history of apricots goes back into the depths of antiquity. Some scholars say its origins are on the Russian and Chinese border dating back to 3000 BC. Other sources say the apricot tree originated in India or Armenia, and it has its official name –Prunus armenica L.—for that reason.
How the apricot tree came to America is not quite as disputed – most historians agree that seeds arrived before or during the 1700s with explorers and early colonists. The coastal colonists with the French explorers in the East and the Spanish explorers and missionaries in the West get credit for starting and spreading the trees throughout the United States. When you consider the nutritional punch the apricot packs, along with its delicious flavor, it’s no wonder that the trees have accompanied humanity around the globe. Some encouraging health benefits that may have you reaching for a fresh apricot are—
- Sharpened Eyesight; Apricots contain beta-carotene that converts to Vitamin A to help maintain eyesight, skin membranes and immune function. Studies show apricots are especially beneficial to your ophthalmic health. According to Fitness.com , consuming two to three serving of apricots daily strengthens the optic nerve, could prevent age-related Macular Degeneration and lowers the risk of Neovascular ARMD.
- Multiple Vitamin Benefit; 100 grams of fresh apricots can deliver as much as 12% of vitamin C, 12% of vitamin A, and 6% of potassium towards your daily requirements in less than 50 calories. Additionally, they are a source of non-heme iron, a type of iron that stays in your system longer and thus is more effective in preventing anemia. Calcium is also found in apricots, and along with the potassium, is a support for healthy bones.
- Protection Against Free Radical Damage; Apricots contain a host of antioxidant nutrients too numerous to name that help your body get rid of toxins. You may be familiar with catechins, a broad family of flavonoid phytonutrients, because they are often listed as the primary health benefit in green tea. Researchers continue to study catechins as a potent anti-inflammatory nutrient, and studies show catechin-rich food can protect blood vessels, leading to better blood pressure control. A single apricot provides 4-5 grams of catechins.
- High Fiber Content for a Healthy Heart & Digestive System; Apricots are a good source of dietary fiber that helps to reduce bad cholesterol and aids in keeping our digestive tract cleaned out, too.
Add to all of this that the diminutive apricot serves as a great, low-cal supplement to those wanting to lose weight and can also aid in maintaining a healthy, youthful glow due to the multiple antioxidants and vitamins. ‘Sounds like a fruit custom made for the Sedona Community Center, where we are all about nutrition, good health, wellness, and delicious food. Community members are invited to join us for our Mon-Fri lunch at the Center. Served at noon in our dining room, each meal is prepared in our award-winning kitchen, a $6 value for guests under 60, or $5 for people 60 and above, reservations requested. If you would like a home-delivered meal, call us to talk about the eligibility requirements. The monthly activity calendar, menus, and more information about the Community Center resources can be found at www.sccsedona.org. or drop by for a visit. And, be sure to pick up a few fresh apricots while you are here!