What are figs?
Figs are the fruit of the ficus tree, which is part of the mulberry family (Moraceae). They have a unique sweet taste, soft and chewy texture and are littered with slightly crunchy, edible seeds. Fresh figs are delicate and perishable, so are often dried to preserve them. This produces a sweet and nutritious dried fruit that can be enjoyed all year round.
There are multiple varieties of fig, all of which vary in colour and texture. Their unique feature is a little bud-like opening called an ostiole at the top which helps the fruit develop. Their natural sweetness means that, before the days of refined sugars, they were often used as a sweetener.
Discover our full range of health benefit guides and check out some of our favourite fig recipes, from our rye pizza with figs, fennel, gorgonzola and hazelnuts to our fig sponge pudding.
A 30g serving of dried figs provides:
- 68Kcal / 290KJ
- 1.1g protein
- 0.5g fat
- 15.9g carbohydrates
- 3.0g fibre
- 291mg Potassium
- 75mg Calcium
- 24mg Magnesium
- 1.26mg Iron
An 80g serving of fresh figs provides:
- 34 Kcal / 148KJ
- 1.0g protein
- 0.2g fat
- 7.6g carbohydrate
- 1.6g fibre
- 160mg Potassium
- 12mg Magnesium
- 30mg Calcium
- 120mcg Carotene
An 80g serving of fresh figs counts as one of your five-a-day, which is about two medium-sized fruit. Just 30g of the dried fruit counts as one of your five-a-day because this would be equivalent to an 80g fresh fruit.
Check out our printable infographic to find out what else counts towards your 5-a-day.
Top 5 health benefits
1. Promotes digestive health
Figs are often recommended to nourish and tone the intestines, they act as a natural laxative because of their high fibre content. The fibre they provide also has prebiotic properties, feeding the gut bacteria and promoting a healthy gut environment which as a result improves digestive wellness.
2. Rich in antioxidants
Figs, especially ripe ones, are rich in protective plant compounds called polyphenols. These compounds have protective antioxidant properties, this means they help prevent oxygen from reacting with other chemicals and causing damage to cells and tissues, by so doing they are key to managing oxidation.
3. May support healthy blood pressure
Many of us consume too much sodium (salt), which is found in processed foods. High intakes of sodium can lead to deficiencies of potassium and this imbalance may lead to high blood pressure (hypertension). A diet rich in fruit and vegetables, including fresh figs, naturally increases potassium levels and is therefore encouraged to help manage blood pressure.
A study examining the specific effects of fig extract in animals showed reductions in blood pressure for those with normal as well as hypertensive readings.
4. May support bone health
Figs are a good source of bone-friendly minerals including calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Figs are especially rich in calcium with some studies suggesting they contain 3.2 times more than other fruits.
Being a good source of potassium may help to counteract the urinary excretion of calcium, caused by a high salt diet. This in turn helps to keep calcium in bones and as a result may lessen the risk of osteoporosis.
5. May improve diet quality and aid weight management
Naturally high in dietary fibre and packed with vitamins and minerals, figs may be a useful dietary inclusion to improve the nutritional density of your diet and in turn help with weight management. High fibre foods provide feelings of fullness and can reduce hunger and cravings whilst key nutrients improve blood management.
Are figs safe for everyone?
If you have an allergy to birch pollen, you may experience a cross reactivity to certain fruit, including figs. Fig trees also contain natural latex, which some people have an allergy to.
If you have been advised to follow a low oxalate diet you should be aware that figs contain high level of oxalates. They are also rich in vitamin K so if you are prescribed blood thinning medication you should keep your intake of figs, as well as other vitamin-K rich foods, consistent from day to day.
Not all people feel comfortable eating figs, for example, vegans may avoid eating figs because some varieties are pollinated by wasps which die during the pollination process. Commercial figs are grown without wasp pollination and should, therefore, be acceptable
If figs are new to you, enjoy them in moderation because large amounts may have a laxative effect.
If you are taking prescribed medication always check with your GP or registered dietician before making any dietary changes.
They are a great addition to breakfasts:
Winter fruit salad
Porridge with quick berry compote, figs & pistachios
This article was reviewed on the 27Th July 2021 by Kerry Torrens.
Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a registered nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in personalised nutrition & nutritional therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food
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