To Freeze or Not to Freeze Your Apricot Seeds?
2 Years Ago | By Apricot Power
To Freeze or Not to Freeze Your Apricot Seeds?
For such an unassuming question, it is one that elicits a surprising amount of controversy. Proponents of both sides of the discussion are normally adamant in their views, but why isn’t this a cut and dry topic? After all, when it comes to fruits, vegetables, and meat, it's hard to deny the negative long-term impact of freezing - just ask anyone who has ever experienced freezer burned food. While we have advised against freezing apricot seeds for the 19 years we have been in business, this is mainly because it is not necessary for storing them efficiently. But as it turns out, apricot seeds MIGHT be one of the few foods that could potentially endure freezing under specific circumstances without noticeable harm to their nutritional integrity. Ultimately, the reason this question is so hotly debated boils down to each person’s views on the risks versus the rewards associated with freezing and which aspect of apricot seeds’ nutritional profile is most important to them.
What Happens When Foods Freeze?
When exposed to freezing conditions, generally one of two things happen to a food’s moisture content:
- It will be drawn to the surface, creating an outer layer of ice (eventually resulting in dry “freezer burned” food). This occurs if the surrounding air is particularly dry.
- It will undergo expansion and crystallization while remaining inside the food, thereby disrupting the overall structural composition.
The reason seeds and nuts could be one of the rare exceptions that experience less harm from being frozen stems from their low moisture content. Extensive studies have demonstrated that the moisture content of apricot seeds is an average of 13% right after harvest and decreases to an average of 3% after about 4 weeks. 2 This low percentage should provide decent protection from these situations. However, there is a third interaction to which even low moisture foods like seeds can fall victim.
- If the surrounding air is especially moist, the moisture will condense and freeze to the food’s surface which can then potentially catalyze the drawing of more moisture from within it.
How Does Freezing Affect Nutritional Content?
While there doesn’t seem to be evidence that B17 (amygdalin) itself is harmed by low temperatures (though high temperatures are another story), the other nutrients that apricot seeds contain, particularly enzymes, are susceptible to damage if the moisture that contains or surrounds them is crystallized by freezing.1 It is actually the physical damage from crystallization which is a concern, not actually the low temperature. The reason for this is enzymes, which are composed of protein, rely upon their shape functioning in a key and lock relationship with their counterpart; if their shape becomes altered, they can no longer activate.5 Thankfully, if crystallization does not occur, enzymes will simply slow down or cease their activity until they warm up. However, this potential for damage isn’t to be taken lightly because many of the enzymes in apricot seeds are beneficial for digestion and have key synergistic roles with B17 in the body, which is why we offer a separate enzyme product for those who take B17 capsules or tablets instead of apricot seeds - they are that important. Fruits and vegetables, many of which average between an 80-90% water content, 3 therefore do suffer considerable damage to their enzymes, though the option of freezing these foods is still worlds better than having them go bad on you because not all nutrients are lost. However, because seeds and nuts are not nearly as perishable, this shouldn’t be a dilemma that needs to be faced with them.
Aren’t Seeds Exposed to Freezing Conditions in Nature?
Obviously, the type of seed and its preferred climate determines how often it encounters the possibility of being frozen and how significantly this affects its ability to survive. However, in many cases, seeds are provided insulation by the soil and to a certain extent by their pit (if they have one) even when the temperature itself goes below freezing.
Actually, in the case of apricot seeds, the temperature range of a refrigerator or cellar is much more similar to the conditions an apricot seed might experience during its germination process in nature anyway, so you could say it is a more natural state for them.4 But don’t worry, your nutritious bag of seeds will not spontaneously develop into baby trees inside your fridge unless you actively try to sprout them!
Fun fact: our apricot seeds are raw and unprocessed so it really is possible to germinate them; however, doing so probably wouldn’t give you a great return on investment since most apricots don’t reproduce true to their variety and don’t fruit for several years anyway.
We recommend just eating them; we have plenty, and they are locally grown in the central valley of California so you know exactly where they come from. Some people do promote sprouting seeds prior to eating them, but that is a topic for another day.
In short, information suggests that the low moisture content of an apricot seed should protect its nutrients from freeze damage as long as it is stored in vacuum-sealed bag and thereby protected from the fickleness of the moisture levels of the air in the freezer, but why bother going to extremes when they aren’t necessary, especially with something as complex as nutritional content at stake?
- Cao, E., Chen, Y., Cui, Z. and Foster, P. (2003). Effect of freezing and thawing rates on denaturation of proteins in aqueous solutions. Biotechnology and Bioengineering, 82(6), pp.684-690.
- Fathollahzadeh, H., Mobil, H., Beheshti, B., Jafari, A. and Borghei, A. (2008). Effects of Moisture Content on Some Physical Properties of Apricot Kernel (CV. Sonnati Salmas). [ebook] Tehran, Iran: University of Tehran and Islamic Azad University. Available at: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0ahUKEwiAs8iu3u_bAhXVHTQIHaT1DIMQFggxMAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fcigrjournal.org%2Findex.php%2FEjounral%2Farticle%2Fdownload%2F1220%2F1077&usg=AOvVaw0xnSdcYZqmJj0Gvv-2aaRt [Accessed 25 Jun. 2018].
- Healthyeating.sfgate.com. (2018). List of Fruits & Vegetable With a High Water Content. [online] Available at: http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/list-fruits-vegetable-high-water-content-8958.html [Accessed 25 Jun. 2018].
- Kumar, G., Larsen, F. and Schekel, K. (2009). Propagating Plants from Seed. [ebook] Pacific Northwest Extension. Available at: http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/pnw0170/pnw0170.pdf [Accessed 25 Jun. 2018].
- Rsc.org. (n.d.). Chemistry for Biologists: Enzymes. [online] Available at: http://www.rsc.org/Education/Teachers/Resources/cfb/enzymes.htm#3 [Accessed 25 Jun. 2018].