Nutritionally, apricot seeds are similar to other nuts. They’re rich in healthful fats and provide some fiber and iron. There are a number of ways that apricot seeds are used in our foods today.
Seeds or kernels of the apricot grown in central Asia and around the Mediterranean are so sweet that they’re sometimes substituted for almonds. The Italian liqueur amaretto, and amaretti biscotti, is flavored with extract of apricot seeds as well as almonds; plus, oil pressed from these cultivars has been used as cooking oil.
Sweet apricot seeds are sometimes sold as snacks or for baking, and they contain very little or no amygdalin, a controversial component in the kernel. People eat apricot seeds as a snack, very much like nutritious almonds. Bitter apricot seeds, on the other hand, do contain amygdalin, which can raise cyanide levels once consumed.
The worrisome issue here is that many times apricot seeds aren’t labeled properly, whether they are sweet or bitter, and snacking on handfuls of these tasty seeds is potentially dangerous to your health. It’s hard to find a clear answer about the safety of these seeds — sweet apricot kernels are known to boost immunity and fight off bodily infections, but there is also a major debate about amygdalin (or laetrile) and its efficacy as a natural cancer treatment.
Anticancer Compounds in Apricot Seeds
Apricot seeds contains a toxic chemical known as amygdalin, which is also referred to as laetrile. Some companies call this compound vitamin B17 in order to label and market the product as an essential substance. In the body, this chemical is converted to cyanide, which is poisonous and can cause serious harm.
There has been interest in using apricot kernels, which are inside the seeds, to fight cancer because of this toxic chemical that fights cancer cells before it’s converted to cyanide and spread throughout the body. Some researchers believe that the cyanide would only harm the cancerous tumor, but scientific studies suggest that this isn’t always true.