Health Benefits of Figs

Figs are bursting with sweetness to provide a versatile, healthy ingredient which goes well in plenty of dishes, such as walnut-crusted pork chops with figs, fig tart tatin, blue cheese and fig tarts, chocolate and fig mousse cake, or many other popular fig recipes.

Fresh and dried figs are fiber-rich and packed with vitamins and minerals. While the fig isn’t rich in protein, it does contain a lot of carbohydrates, which is largely because of the natural sugars and fiber content.

Plus, this nutritious fruit is a reliable source of vitamins A, E & K, and minerals like copper, iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium.

How many calories in a fig? A 100g serving of fresh figs (about ½ cup) has about 78 calories, 2.2g of fiber, 20.2g of carbohydrate, 0.3g of fat, and 1.3g of protein.

In comparison to the nutritional highlights for the fresh figs – the dried figs per 100g serving contains 247 calories, 5.6g of fiber, 67g of carbohydrate, 0.9g of fat, and 3.0g of protein

Pros: Figs are a good source of dietary fiber, and a very low in sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat.

Cons: A high percentage of the calories contained in figs come from sugars (16g per 100 grams).

Health Benefits of figs

Here are eleven benefits of eating fresh or dried figs:

1 – Anti-cancer

The high antioxidant content in figs, such as vitamins A, C and K are helpful for fighting-off free radicals, which is beneficial for lowering the risk of certain cancers, including breast cancer. Plus, the high fiber content is useful for cleansing the colon and therefore prevents cancer in this area of the body.

Figs thrive in the dry, hot climates with Turkey, Iran, Greece, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria topping the world production.

2 – Antioxidants

Rich in antioxidants like vitamin C, E and B-complex, figs are a reliable source of vital nutrients to protect the system from a build up of oxidative stress (usually caused by UV radiation and pollution). This can lead to increased production of free radicals, which attack normal cells and heighten the risk of developing cancerous cells. But, the naturally sourced antioxidants have the ability to fight-off the potential damage and protect the existing cells from further damage. It is believed the dried, processed figs are a more practical option to increase the antioxidant intake.

3 – Bones

Figs are rich in calcium which has the potential to promote and strengthen healthy bones. Any food source high in calcium (almonds, dried beans, kale, sardines, and tofu) is useful for preventing the onset of osteoporosis.

Figs are low-calorie and contain plenty of vitamins and minerals, as well soluble dietary fiber.

4 – Diabetes

Rich in the healthy dietary fats, fig leaves are a reliable source of Omega 3 and Omega 6, which has the potential to provide an anti-diabetic property and naturally lowers the need for insulin in the diabetic patient. But, the dried figs can be rich in sugar, so it pays to be more cautious when eating this type of snack.

5 – Digestion

The rich dietary fiber content in figs makes this fruit a reliable option to help improve digestion, prevent constipation, and avoid other digestive problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Eat fresh figs (mainly black mission figs) to benefit from the rich vitamin A, E & K content, as well as antioxidants like chlorogenic acid, tannis, lutein and carotenes.

6 – Eye health

Figs are vitamin A rich which are a type of antioxidant that helps to prevent eye damage and fight-off free radical damage. This helps to lower the risk of macular degeneration, cataracts, or similar issues in later life.

7 – Fiber

Figs are fiber-rich (2.2g per ½ cup) which helps to maintain the proper function of the digestive system. Any diet rich in fiber is appreciated for its ability to lower the cholesterol levels. Plus, a regular dietary intake of fiber has the potential to lower the risks of certain cancers and type-2 diabetes.

The recommended daily intake for fiber is 38g for men and 25g for women.

The chlorogenic acid in figs is believed to help control the blood glucose level for type-2 diabetes patients.

8 – Heart-friendly

Figs are heart-friendly because of the ability to reduce triglycerides (fats from cooking oils, dairy produce, and meats) in the blood which has a positive influence on the heart.

9 – High blood pressure

Figs are a reliable source of potassium which plays the role of maintaining the sodium level and reducing the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack. A proper sodium-potassium balance helps to minimize the onset of high blood pressure. A single fig has nearly 127mg of potassium and a mere 2.1mg of sodium.

Both fresh and dried figs are rich in B-complex vitamins like pantothenic acid, folate, pyridoxine and niacin.

10 – Iron-deficiency anemia

Other health benefits of figs (dried) are the great source of iron (2% of the daily intake per dried fig) which is useful for moving hemoglobin throughout the body. Other iron rich foods include fish, lentils, pulses, red meat and ginger.

11 – Weight loss

A single serving of figs has a useful amount of dietary fiber (nearly 2.2 grams) which can have a positive impact on weight control, as well as keeping the system regular. Eating one piece of figs (dried) has about 46 calories and only 0.3g of total fat. So, for an on-the-go snack, a supply of dried figs is certain to help those looking to lose weight.

Dried figs are great for the mineral content which includes zinc, iron, selenium, manganese, potassium, copper and calcium.

Fresh vs. Dried figs

Fresh figs: A serving of fresh figs includes plenty of essential nutrients, but in trace amounts; the key nutritional value is sourced from the readily available energy, potassium, and fiber content. Eating two fresh figs (large-sized) has the potential to provide nearly 15% of the daily recommended intake of fiber, while also including 7% of vitamin B6 and vitamin K, and 8% of potassium. Most of the calorie count in fresh figs comes from the carbohydrates (simple sugars fructose and glucose).

Dried figs: Nearly 60% of the water content is lost from the figs during the drying process. For this reason, the dried figs provide a highly concentrated source of fiber, nutrients, and calories. A ½ cup serving has about 8% of the daily value of iron; 12% of magnesium and calcium; 14% of potassium and vitamin K; and 29% of dietary fiber.

 

Caramelised Figs with Balsamic Vinegar, Rosemary and Ricotta (Video)

 

Further reading:

  1. Fig Fruit Facts
  2. Figs: Picking Tips, Facts and Recipes
  3. Grow Your Own Figs

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