Don’t forget about figs for the holidays! These luscious, sightly fruits are one of the oldest cultivated fruits you can find, likely because of their sweet, honey-like flavor and jam-like texture.
You can eat an entire fig. Its thin, purple (or green) skin and red flesh and seeds are all edible, making the Ficus carica very easy to eat.
Figs are a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and can contribute to a number of health benefits. Some potential fig benefits include:
- Better digestion
- Improved heart health
- Stronger bones
- Blood sugar control
Keep reading to learn more about these nutritious holiday staples.
Figs: Nutrition Facts
Figs feature a variety of nutrients in a nice, pretty package. They are generally eaten whole or dried, and each form has a different nutritional profile. Let’s take a look at both.
Here is the nutrition you’ll get from one small (40-gram) fresh fig:
|Nutrient||Amount||% Daily Value (DV)|
|Carbohydrate||8 grams (g)||3%|
|Copper||0.0 milligrams (mg)||1%|
|Vitamin B6||0.0 mg||2%|
|Vitamin K||2 micrograms (mcg)||2%|
Keep in mind that you’re likely to eat more than one fig. A 40-gram serving is very small. A medium-sized apple, for example, is more than 200 grams.
A 100-gram serving of dried figs contains:
|Nutrient||Amount||% Daily Value (DV)|
|Vitamin B6||0.1 mg||5%|
|Vitamin K||15.6 mcg||19%|
Dried figs contain significantly more sugar per weight than fresh figs, but they are by no means unhealthy. They can be included as part of a healthy diet; however, going fresh is ideal to reduce your sugar intake and limit calories.
The Health Benefits of Figs
Here are some of the potential health benefits you might experience from making figs part of your healthy diet:
Figs, much like prunes, are a first-line, in-home defense system for constipation. They are rich in fiber that can both soften and add bulk to your stool, to help it move through your digestive tract more easily.
Fiber is also a prebiotic, which allows healthy bacteria to flourish and populate your digestive system. This can have a number of health benefits, and may offer defense against chronic conditions like ulcerative colitis and more.
One study showed that people with irritable bowel syndrome who ate about four dried figs (about 45 grams) twice per day, experienced reduced symptoms like pain, bloating, and constipation, compared to a control group.
Improved Heart Health
Fiber intake is also closely associated with heart and vascular health. Research suggests that fiber can remove “bad” LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol deposits along arterial walls to help reduce blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.
Animal studies have suggested that fig extract may help improve blood pressure and cholesterol; however, human studies examining fig consumption have not produced similar results.
It’s likely that, when included in an overall healthy diet, figs may contribute to improved heart health and blood flow.
Blood Sugar Control
There is limited evidence to suggest figs can play a role in blood sugar and glucose metabolism.
One very small study featuring only 10 participants with type 1 diabetes found fig extract could reduce post-meal glucose levels. Additionally, the patients’ insulin doses lowered by 12% on average.
Animal studies also offer some hope in figs’ ability to lower blood glucose.
Although there is little data to suggest figs can help control blood sugar, fiber-rich fresh figs, when added to a healthy diet, may help keep blood sugar in control.
Better Skin Health
There is some data to suggest fig extract may help people who experience dry or itchy skin caused by allergies—called allergic dermatitis.
One small study found that a cream made from dried fig extract, applied twice per day, was better at treating dermatitis symptoms than hydrocortisone cream, the standard treatment.
Fig tree latex may also serve as a viable treatment for common warts.
How to Eat Figs
Figs come in a few different forms and their use will ultimately depend on how you buy them.
Dried figs are much higher in sugar and should be used sparingly. Sprinkling some on salads or oats, or even eating them on their own as a little snack, from time to time is where you should probably draw the line.
Fresh figs are in season between the summer and autumn, with variances in timing depending on the type. They go bad quickly and should be eaten within two days of purchase.
A ripe fig has a sweet scent and is plump and tender. Select options with a deep, full color that are free from bruises. Store in the fridge for up to two days before eating, and if unripe, leave out at room temperature.
You can eat fresh figs whole or peeled. The entire fruit is edible.
Dried figs have a much longer shelf-life. Inspect them for mold and feel; they should be nice and soft. Keep them in a cool, dark place or in the fridge.
You can eat figs in a number of ways, from as is to sprinkled over salads. They can also be baked or roasted for inclusion in a number of appetizers or meals. Pairing them with nuts or any salty can offer satisfying treat.
Here’s a recipe you can try:
Crunchy Fig Bruschetta
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Yields: 4 servings
For the roasted fig puree:
- 225 grams (1/2 pound) ripe figs
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, divided
- Baguette (or another crusty bread loaf), thinly sliced and toasted
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 5 to 6 ripe figs, quartered
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans
- Fresh thyme leaves
For roasted fig puree:
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Slice the stems off figs and discard. Slice figs into quarters and place in a baking dish. Add in one tablespoon each of brown sugar and balsamic vinegar, and toss. Cover dish with foil and roast for about 15 minutes, or until figs are soft.
- Let cool, then add figs and leftover balsamic vinegar to a bowl. Use the back of a spoon to smash figs until smooth and chunky.
- Put puree in a bowl and place in fridge until ready to use.
- Brush both sides of sliced bread with olive oil. Toast bread until crisp.
- Spread ricotta cheese over each slice of bread.
- Place fig puree, pecans, fresh figs, and fresh thyme leaves on each bread slice.
Figs are perfectly safe for most people, while some may experience the following:
- Digestive issues: Fig consumption may lead to diarrhea or digestive problems when used to treat constipation.
- Blood-thinning issues: Figs are high in vitamin K, and therefore may interfere with blood-thinning medications. (Patients on these medications are advised to keep their vitamin K intake consistent.)
- Allergies: People with allergies to birch pollen and latex might experience a reaction to figs.
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