Figs are an ancient fruit, first cultivated thousands of years ago in the Middle East and Mediterranean regions. Not only are they deliciously sweet and versatile in the kitchen, but there are also numerous health benefits of figs. From improving digestion to promoting heart health, figs are packed with essential vitamins and nutrients that make them an excellent addition to any diet. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the incredible health benefits of eating figs and explore why you should consider incorporating this nutritious fruit into your daily routine.
Nutritional value of figs:
Figs are a delicious and nutritious fruit that is enjoyed all over the world. They are low in calories, high in fiber, and packed with essential vitamins and minerals. Per 64 g serving of fresh raw figs contains:(64 g)
- Calcium: 22.40 mg (2% DV)
- Copper: 0.04 mg (4% DV)
- Iron: 0.24 mg (1% DV)
- Magnesium: 10.88 mg (3% DV)
- Manganese: 0.082 mg (4% DV)
- Phosphorus: 8.96 mg (1% DV)
- Potassium: 148.48 mg (3% DV)
- Selenium: 0.13 mcg (0% DV)
- Sodium: 0.64 mg (0% DV)
- Zinc: 0.10 mg (1% DV)
- Protein: 0.48 g (1% DV)
- Vitamin A: 4.48 mcg
- Thiamin (Vitamin B1): 0.038 mg (3% DV)
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): 0.032 mg (2% DV)
- Niacin (Vitamin B3): 0.256 mg (2% DV)
- Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5): 0.192 mg (4% DV)
- Vitamin B6: 0.072 mg (4% DV)
- Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin): 0.00 mcg (0% DV)
- Folate (Vitamin B9): 3.84 mcg (1% DV)
- Vitamin C: 1.3 mg (1% DV)
- Vitamin D: 0.00 mcg (0% DV)
- Vitamin E: 0.07 mg (0% DV)
- Vitamin K: 3.0 mcg (2% DV)
- Carbohydrate: 12.28 g (4% DV)
- Fiber: 1.86 g (7% DV)
- Sugars: 10.41 g
- Fat: 0.192 g (0% DV)
- Cholesterol: 0.00 mg (0% DV)
- Phytosterols: 19.84 mg
- Water: 50.63 g
Health benefits of figs:
1. Promotes digestive health:
Figs are packed with dietary fiber, making them a fantastic fruit to add to your diet for optimal digestive health. Just one cup of fresh figs provides a whopping 14% of your daily recommended intake of fiber. This makes them a great addition to smoothies, oatmeal, salads, or as a snack on their own.
Fiber helps promote bowel regularity, prevent constipation, and may even help reduce the risk of colon cancer. Additionally, figs are a natural laxative, helping alleviate digestive discomfort and reduce bloating.
Figs also contain enzymes that aid in the breakdown of food, improving nutrient absorption and supporting overall digestive function. So, if you’re looking to support your digestive system, adding figs to your diet is an excellent way to do it.
2. May improve heart health:
Figs contain several heart-healthy nutrients, making them a great addition to your diet. They are a rich source of potassium, which can help lower blood pressure, reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke. Figs are also a great source of dietary fiber, which can help lower cholesterol levels and keep your heart healthy.
In addition to their nutrient content, figs contain antioxidants, which can help protect against oxidative stress and reduce inflammation in the body. These benefits can help lower your risk of heart disease and other chronic health conditions.
Research has shown that eating figs may have a positive impact on cardiovascular health. One study found that participants who ate figs daily experienced a significant reduction in their triglyceride levels, a type of fat that can increase your risk of heart disease.
Another study showed that fig extract may have a protective effect on the heart, helping to prevent damage caused by free radicals. While more research is needed, these findings suggest that adding figs to your diet may help promote heart health and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
To reap the benefits of figs for heart health, try adding fresh or dried figs to your diet. You can eat them as a snack, add them to salads or smoothies, or use them as a topping for oatmeal or yogurt. By incorporating figs into your diet, you can help keep your heart healthy and reduce your risk of chronic health conditions.
3. Boosts immune system:
One of the most significant health benefits of figs is their ability to boost the immune system. Figs are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help strengthen the body’s defenses against infections and diseases.
Figs are rich in vitamin C, which plays a crucial role in supporting the immune system. Vitamin C stimulates the production of white blood cells, which help fight off infections and protect the body from harmful viruses and bacteria.
Figs are also a good source of zinc, which is an essential mineral for immune health. Zinc is necessary for the proper functioning of white blood cells, and a deficiency can weaken the immune system.
Moreover, figs contain antioxidants like polyphenols, which help prevent oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation can weaken the immune system, making it more susceptible to infections and diseases.
Incorporating figs into your diet can help you stay healthy and boost your immune system naturally. By eating figs regularly, you can give your body the nutrition it needs to fight off infections and diseases and maintain optimal health.
4. May lower the risk of cancer:
Figs are a rich source of antioxidants, which can help prevent cell damage and reduce the risk of cancer. The high fiber content in figs also aids in maintaining a healthy digestive system, which in turn reduces the risk of colorectal cancer. Research suggests that figs may help prevent breast and colon cancer, thanks to their phytochemical content.
Studies have shown that figs contain several types of compounds that have been found to possess anticancer properties, such as flavonoids and coumarins. The antioxidants present in figs can protect against DNA damage and oxidative stress, which are known to play a significant role in the development of cancer.
Figs also contain a type of dietary fiber called pectin, which has been shown to have a positive impact on the gut microbiome. A healthy gut microbiome is associated with a lower risk of cancer.
5. Rich in antioxidants:
Figs’ rich antioxidant content sets them apart from other fruits. Antioxidants play a crucial role in neutralizing free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to aging and disease. The specific antioxidants found in figs, such as quercetin, rutin, and chlorogenic acid, have been linked to various health benefits:
- Anti-inflammatory effects: The antioxidants in figs possess anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is associated with many diseases, including arthritis, heart disease, and certain cancers.
- Cancer prevention: The presence of antioxidants in figs may help protect against certain types of cancer by neutralizing free radicals and inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. However, more research is needed to fully understand the extent of figs’ anticancer properties.
- Neuroprotective effects: Preliminary studies suggest that the antioxidants in figs may have neuroprotective effects, potentially reducing the risk of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Further research is necessary to establish the direct benefits of figs in this regard.
6. Blood sugar regulation:
Figs have a moderate glycemic index, meaning they release sugars into the bloodstream gradually. This characteristic, along with their high fiber content, makes figs a suitable fruit choice for individuals with diabetes or those aiming to manage blood sugar levels:
- Glycemic control: The fiber in figs slows down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, preventing rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. This can help individuals maintain stable blood sugar levels and better manage diabetes.
- Insulin sensitivity: Some studies suggest that fig leaf extract may have insulin-sensitizing properties, potentially improving insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. However, further research is needed to confirm these findings.
7. Bone health and calcium absorption:
Figs provide several essential nutrients that contribute to maintaining strong bones and preventing osteoporosis:
- Calcium: Figs are an excellent plant-based source of calcium, a mineral crucial for bone health. Adequate calcium intake, along with other bone-supporting nutrients found in figs, helps prevent bone loss and reduces the risk of fractures.
- Magnesium and phosphorus: Figs also contain magnesium and phosphorus, two minerals that work synergistically with calcium to build and maintain healthy bones and teeth.
- Postmenopausal bone health: Postmenopausal women, who are at a higher risk of osteoporosis, can benefit from including figs in their diet due to their calcium and other bone-supporting nutrients.
8. Weight management:
Figs can be a valuable addition to a weight management plan due to their low-calorie content, high-fiber content, and natural sweetness:
- Satiety and hunger control: The fiber in figs adds bulk to the diet, promoting a feeling of fullness and reducing hunger cravings. This can help prevent overeating and support weight management goals.
- Low-calorie option: With approximately 50-70 calories per medium-sized fig, they are a satisfying and nutritious snack choice compared to many processed and calorie-dense snacks.
- Healthy sugar alternative: Figs’ natural sweetness can provide a healthier alternative to processed sugars in various recipes, allowing for reduced added sugar intake.
9. Skin health benefits:
Figs offer numerous benefits for healthy and radiant skin, thanks to their antioxidant and nutrient content:
- Antioxidant protection: The antioxidants found in figs help combat free radicals, protecting the skin from oxidative stress and damage. This can contribute to a more youthful appearance and reduced signs of aging, such as wrinkles and fine lines.
- Skin hydration: Figs’ high water content helps hydrate the skin from within, promoting a healthy and glowing complexion. Additionally, their natural oils can help moisturize and nourish the skin when applied topically.
- Anti-inflammatory effects: The anti-inflammatory properties of figs can help soothe and calm irritated skin conditions, such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis.
Fig Leaves Benefits:
While fig fruits steal the spotlight, the leaves of the fig tree also offer noteworthy health benefits:
- Diabetes management: Fig leaf extract has been traditionally used to help regulate blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes. Research suggests that certain compounds in fig leaves, such as ficusin, may possess antidiabetic properties and improve insulin sensitivity. However, further studies are needed to establish their efficacy and safety.
- Liver health support: Fig leaves have been used in traditional medicine to promote healthy liver function. Certain compounds in fig leaves, such as flavonoids and coumarins, exhibit hepatoprotective properties and may support liver health.
- Anti-inflammatory effects: Fig leaf extract has shown anti-inflammatory effects in some studies, which may have implications for managing inflammatory conditions and promoting overall well-being.
Benefits of figs soaked in water overnight:
Soaking figs in water overnight can provide additional benefits beyond those offered by fresh figs. When figs are soaked, they absorb water and undergo changes that can enhance their nutritional content and promote better digestion. Here are some potential benefits of consuming figs soaked in water overnight:
- Improved Digestion: Soaking figs helps soften their tough outer skin and increase their water content, making them easier to digest. Softened figs can provide relief from constipation and promote regular bowel movements due to their high fiber content.
- Increased Nutrient Availability: Soaking figs can enhance the availability and absorption of certain nutrients. The water acts as a medium for releasing and activating nutrients, making them more accessible for the body to utilize.
- Hydration: Soaked figs contain more water content, which can contribute to better hydration. Staying properly hydrated is essential for overall health and supports various bodily functions, including digestion, circulation, and temperature regulation.
- Alleviation of Acid Reflux: Soaking figs can help soothe symptoms of acid reflux or heartburn. The softened figs are gentle on the digestive system and may provide relief from the discomfort associated with acid reflux.
- Enhanced Flavor and Versatility: Soaking figs can infuse them with additional moisture, enhancing their natural sweetness and flavor. The soaked figs can be enjoyed as a delicious and refreshing snack on their own or incorporated into various dishes like salads, oatmeal, smoothies, or desserts.
It’s important to note that while soaking figs can provide these potential benefits, individual experiences may vary. If you have specific dietary concerns or health conditions, it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized advice.
Side effects of figs:
Figs are generally safe to consume for most people, but it’s important to be aware of potential side effects, especially if you have certain medical conditions or are taking medications. Here are a few considerations regarding the potential side effects of figs:
- Allergic reactions: Some individuals may be allergic to figs or develop allergic reactions after consuming them. Symptoms can include itching, swelling, hives, difficulty breathing, or digestive distress. If you experience any signs of an allergic reaction, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately.
- Digestive issues: While figs can promote healthy digestion for many people, consuming large quantities or eating them too quickly may lead to digestive issues such as bloating, gas, or diarrhea. This is particularly true if you have a sensitive digestive system or a history of gastrointestinal disorders.
- High in natural sugars: Figs are naturally sweet and contain natural sugars, which can affect blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes or need to manage your blood sugar, it’s important to monitor your fig intake and consider the overall carbohydrate content of your diet.
- Interaction with medications: Figs contain certain compounds that may interact with specific medications. For example, figs contain vitamin K, which can interfere with the action of blood-thinning medications like warfarin. If you’re taking any medications, especially those with known interactions with certain foods, it’s advisable to consult with your healthcare provider or pharmacist to ensure the safe consumption of figs.
- Oxalate content: Figs, like many fruits and vegetables, contain oxalates, which can contribute to the formation of kidney stones in susceptible individuals. If you have a history of kidney stones or are at risk for developing them, it may be wise to moderate your fig intake or discuss it with your healthcare provider.
As with any food, moderation and individual tolerance are key. If you have any concerns about consuming figs or experience any adverse effects after eating them, it’s recommended to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice.
From their remarkable nutritional profile to their range of health benefits, figs have rightfully earned their status as a superfood. Incorporating figs into a balanced diet can provide advantages such as improved digestion, cardiovascular health, blood sugar regulation, and bone strength. Moreover, figs’ antioxidant power, potential skin benefits, immune system support, and the lesser-known advantages of fig leaves make them a truly versatile and valuable addition to a healthy lifestyle. Embrace the goodness of figs and savor their unique flavor while reaping the many health benefits they offer.