My 3-year-old daughter loves fresh apricots, and eats them often. What is their nutritional value?

Apricots have three notable nutritional attributes. They are quite low in calories: only 50 in three pieces of fruit. They also contain a lot of beta carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A. Those same three apricots provide more than half the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance for vitamin A. Apricots' third distinctive feature is that they are a good source of potassium. This is especially important for people who take diuretics that cause them to lose potassium.

Beyond that, they provide small amounts of other vitamins and minerals.

Apricots are native to China. They grow wild in the mountains near Beijing, and have been cultivated at least as far back as 2200 B.C. They were grown in the hanging gardens of Babylonia. They were not known in England until the middle of the 16th century, and in this country not until the 18th century.

Our doctor has prescribed a type of drug he called a MAO inhibitor for my husband. At the same time he gave him a list of foods to avoid. Can you explain the link between the food and the drug?

MAO inhibitors are most commonly used to treat depression and some anxiety disorders, although they have other uses. They are thought to work against depression by blocking the action of enzymes that would otherwise inactivate neurotransmitters in the brain.

Unfortunately, tyramine and other so-called "pressor amines" found in varying amounts in certain foods are no longer inactivated either. These compounds can have powerful effects on blood pressure. Toxic levels can cause such serious hypertensive symptoms as severe headaches and irregular heartbeat. In the extreme, fatal brain hemorrhage can occur.

For a host of reasons, recommendations for foods to avoid have not been consistent. But recently Beverly J. McCabe, Ph.D., R.D., of the University of Arkansas took a fresh look at the problem of reactions associated with the drug. She examined case reports and data from food composition tables. Then she divided foods that could cause problems into two groups: those to be avoided altogether and those to be eaten only in limited amounts.

Because 80 percent of the published case reports involved cheese, it is not surprising that cheese (except cottage and cream cheese) heads the roster of foods to be avoided by people taking MAO inhibitors. Also on the list are smoked and pickled fish, nonfresh meat, liver, chianti and vermouth wines, and broad beans, as well as meat extracts, yeast extracts and brewer's yeast, dry sausage, sauerkraut, beer and ale. Banana peels are also taboo. They may seem an unlikely food, but one case of tyramine reaction involved consumption of a whole stewed green banana, peel and all. It is in the peel where tyramine and another amine called dopamine are concentrated.

The list of foods to be used with caution -- in servings no bigger than an half-cup or four ounces -- is short. It includes avocado, raspberries, soy sauce, chocolate, red and white wines, port wine, distilled spirits, peanuts, and yogurt and cream from unpasteurized milk.

According to McCabe, many foods have the potential for developing moderate to high tyramine content if handled poorly or kept for prolonged periods. Because reports of single cases often involve spoilage, it is best to use fresh foods. Finally, individuals are vulnerable to reactions as long as three weeks after the drug is discontinued. Therefore, the diet should be followed for four weeks after one stops taking the drug.

In a recent column containing meal tips for dieters, you mentioned a shrimp dish made with dijon mustard and white wine. I am short on kitchen skills, and would appreciate detailed instructions, as well as facts about calorie content.

This dish is perfect for dieters in a hurry because it can be prepared in less than 10 minutes once the raw shrimp are cleaned and deveined. For four servings, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of a fruity olive oil in a heavy skillet, and slowly cook about 2 tablespoons of minced shallots until they soften. Add one pound of shrimp and cook for a couple of minutes until they turn pink and curl. Overcooking the shrimp is really the only point at which you can go wrong.

Add 2 teaspoons or more of dijon mustard, several grinds of white pepper, and 2 teaspoons of pickled capers and toss to coat the shrimp. Remove the shrimp to a serving dish. Add 1/4 cup of dry white wine to the skillet, raise the heat and stir rapidly, scraping the pan for a minute or two. Pour the sauce over the prepared shrimp.

The dish contains only 140 calories per serving. Noodles or rice go equally well with this dish.

1987, Washington Post Writers Group