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Apricot Kernels and Their Health Benefits

Apricot Kernels
apricot kernels

Apricot kernels offer a number of health-boosting properties.

Apricots themselves are delicious fruits which are believed to have originated either from an ancient country of Armenia, or from Northern China.

They have now spread around the world and become one of the favourite foods for generations of people internationally.

We all enjoy eating dried apricots as well as raw ones - especially in summertime.

There are many different varieties of apricots - some of them are bigger in size than others.

In Asian countries, apricot trees grow in the wild, so to say, and local populations can pick their own apricots if they wish to do so.

I was born and grew up in a Central Asian country of Turkmenistan where apricots are smaller in size - as compared to those I have seen in Europe. This kind of small apricots is usually called "uryuk" there.

But apricots are much more than just tasty sweet fruits.

Their hard shells ("pits") have soft cores, or apricot kernels, which, according to many nutritionists, offer a powerful combination of some chemical compounds highly valuable for human health. (Ref. 1)

Apricot Kernels Nutritional Profile

Apricot kernels are rich in oils (45-50%), proteins (23-26%), and carbohydrates (8%); they also contain dietary fibre (5%) and ash (4%). (Ref. 2)

The oil content of apricot kernels comprises mostly of monounsaturated (ex., oleic acid) and polyunsaturated (ex., linoleic acid) fatty acids, but includes some saturated fats as well. (Ref. 1, 2 and 3)

One study gives the following breakdown of fatty acids in apricot kernels: (Ref. 1)

  • Oleic acid (C18:1) ~ 74.59%;
  • Linoleic acid (C18:2) ~ 19.57%;
  • Stearic acid (C18:0) ~ 0.96%;
  • Palmitic acid (C16:0) ~ 4.11%;
  • Palmitoleic acid (C16:1) ~ 0.59%;
  • Arachidonic acid (C20:4) ~ 0.18%.

Apricot kernels are reported to have a high content of phenolic compounds as well. A study on 14 apricot genotypes in India revealed that their total phenolic content ranged from 92mg to 162mg of gallic acid equivalent per 100g apricot kernels. (Ref. 4)

Here are some of the phenolic compounds that have been identified in apricot fruits: quercetin, catechin, epicatechin, p-coumaric acid, caffeic acid, ferulic acid. (Ref. 1)

Phenols are powerful anti-oxidants that fight free radicals in our systems. By neutralizing free radicals and reducing oxidative stress in the body, phenols may be useful for the treatment of various conditions such as: cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease, and other neurodegenerative disorders. (Ref. 5)

USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory also reports that apricot kernel oil has a significant presence of vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), which is another potent fat-soluble anti-oxidant. (Ref. 3)

Apricot kernels are also rich in a rare chemical called amygdalin, or vitamin B17. (Ref. 6)

Amygdalin was discovered as a compound in apricot kernels by Dr. Krebs in the early 1950s. In natural nutrition circles, amygdalin is widely thought to help with cancer treatment and prevention.

There are basically two types of apricot kernels - bitter and sweet. Bitter apricot kernels contain the highest concentration of vitamin B17 and should be taken instead of sweet ones if you plan to consume apricot kernels specifically for this nutrient.

Another interesting compound that was also found in apricot kernels by Dr. Krebs is pangamic acid, or vitamin B15.

Here is how this scientist described vitamin B15:

"The best way to understand the effect of vitamin B15 is to think of it as instant oxygen. It increases the oxygen efficiency of the entire body and aids in the detoxification of waste products". (Ref. 6)

As we know, lack of proper oxygen supply to the cells is a major cause of long-term illness. Therefore, taking apricot kernels may possibly correct this issue, at least to a certain degree. So by re-oxygenating our systems, the kernels will help detoxify them as well.

Since apricot kernels are rich in oils, they may help support the brain function and the work of the central nervous system. Healthy oils also strengthen the muscles and may therefore boost the function of the cardiovascular system.

Apricot kernels are a staple food widely sold in Asian bazaars. Asian cultures have traditionally used apricot kernels in cooking, and as a snack in its own right or combined with other nuts and seeds.

I remember eating apricot kernels straight after cracking apricot pits with a nut-cracker, while the kernels were still moist - I loved the taste! I also have very fond memories of my grandmother making her own jams with apricot halves and apricot kernels :).

A very fascinating example here is that of Hunza people who live in Pakistanian Himalayas. They are known to consume large amounts of apricot kernels as part of their diet and have high longevity rates, as compared to the rest of human populations.

Please note that we don't make any claims about this product; please refer to the disclaimer at the bottom of this page.

How to Take Apricot Kernels

The general recommendation is to eat several apricot kernels per day.

If you like soaking your nuts in water before eating them (like I do), you may want to skip this step with apricot kernels because soaking them in water may reduce their vitamin B17 content.

References for this article