Enjoying Apricots

Apricots are sweet, delicious, and rich in beta-carotene, potassium, and fiber. And, like all fruits, they can be enjoyed starting on Phase 2 of the South Beach Diet. Fresh apricots are found from May through mid-August, then disappear for the rest of the year. Luckily, you can purchase dried apricots year round. If you eat dried apricots, limit yourself to 7 halves because they are high in concentrated sugar.

Buying and Storing Apricots
Whether you buy fresh apricots at a supermarket or farmers’ market, look for fruit that is plump, firm, and orange-gold in color. Avoid apricots that are very hard and with any hint of green — they will never develop full flavor. A ripe apricot should yield to gentle pressure and have a sweet fragrance. In addition, look for velvety skins without bruises or shriveling.

If your apricots aren’t quite ripe when you buy them, place them in a paper bag away from heat or direct sunlight for a day or two. Once they ripen, store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, where they will keep for up to two days. Avoid washing the fruit until you're ready to eat it. Fresh apricots can be eaten like any other fruit, but beware of the small pit in the center. To keep cut apricots from browning, simply dip them in lemon juice diluted with a little water.

As for dried apricots, you'll find a wide variety in the market. Most dried apricots are treated with sulfur dioxide to retain their orange color. If you are allergic to sulfites or want to avoid this additive, you can buy untreated apricots in health-food stores. Be aware that canned apricots may contain added sugar or heavy syrup, so avoid those brands.

Healthy and Delicious Ways to Cook with Apricots
Always rinse fresh apricots in cold water before eating. To remove the skins for a recipe, drop the fruits into simmering water for 15 to 20 seconds, then transfer to a colander and cool under cold running water. You can then use a sharp knife to gently pull away the skin.

There are many healthy and delicious ways to incorporate apricots into your Phase 2 meals. Try these ideas:

  1. Create a tasty marinade for lean meats, chicken, or fish. Purée some skinned apricots and blend with Dijon mustard and fresh lime juice (or perhaps with a South Beach Diet–friendly barbecue sauce). This also works as a delicious dipping sauce.
  2. Chop fresh apricots into a whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta main dish, or add them to a brown rice or whole-wheat couscous side dish. Add fresh vegetables such as zucchini or red bell peppers, and herbs like basil or thyme, if you like.
  3. Grill fresh apricot halves along with other fruits, such as nectarines or peaches. Top with nonfat plain Greek yogurt or part-skim ricotta, a little natural sugar substitute, and slivered almonds for a light and healthy dessert.

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