Figs, sweet fruits of June and September, have always been used for their properties: they are in fact useful in case of metabolic problems, infections and constipation, but not only. Find out the benefits and how to eat figs.
The ficus carica, known by the term “fig”, is a fruit tree native to Asia and transplanted for many years now in all regions of the Mediterranean basin. Especially in the southern regions, the fig tree finds a habitat particularly favorable to its diffusion.
This plant, in fact, belonging to the Moraceae family, resists drought quite well, but does not tolerate low temperatures or hail. The fruits produced by this tree (also called figs) are very sweet small fruits with numerous nutritional properties.
Early figs are distinguished from real figs: the former are formed in autumn and ripen in spring. The second courses are formed in spring and can then be enjoyed in summer.
There are several varieties of figs, which are also distinguished by the color of the peel, which can be white or green or black or purple. These fruits can be tasted fresh or dried: in both cases the figs are always a great success.
In the kitchen they are widely used for the preparation of jams and desserts: an example is the fig salami, a typical dessert of the Marche region. Furthermore, the fig is widely used in herbal medicine to improve gastritis and heartburn caused by anxiety. Let’s now explore the nutritional properties of figs.
Figs: calories and nutritional values
Figs are a particularly tasty fruit and are usually appreciated for their sweetness. In fact, when they reach complete maturity they contain a good quantity of simple sugars which gives them their particular flavor. This high sugar content, however, makes the fig a fruit unsuitable to be consumed in large quantities in the case of slimming diets or diabetes: in these cases, moderation is needed!
The dried fig is even more problematic in this sense and its glycemic index is 50. The calories of fresh figs are 51 while the dried figs offer about 282 calories per 100 gr.
They are fruits rich in vitamins and mineral salts: in particular the quantity of sodium is very low and the higher is the quantity of potassium, which is the most represented mineral, followed by magnesium and iron. They are also a good source of fiber, while there is almost no fat intake.
Nutritional values per 100g of fresh fig berries:
- Waterfall: 81.9 g
- kcal: 51
- Proteins: 0.9 g
- Fat: 0.2 g
- Fibers: 2 g
- Carbohydrates: 11.2 g
- Of which sugars: 11.2 g
- C vitamin: 7 mg
- Vitamin B1: 0.03 mg
- Vitamin B2: 0.04 mg
- Pantothenic acid: 0.22 mg
- Vitamin B6: 0.08 mg
- Biotin: 1 ugr
- Vitamin K: 4.70 ugr
- Soccer: 43 mg
- Phosphorus: 25 mg
- Magnesium: 15 mg
- Sodium: 2 mg
- Potassium: 270 mg
- Iron: 0.5 mg
- Glycemic index: 35
- Cholesterol: 0 g
Figs: nutritional properties
As we have seen, the fig contains some minerals and vitamins, present in fair quantities. In particular, 100 g of figs contain 15 mg of phosphorus, 15 of magnesium and 0.5 mg of iron, respectively 7% -6% and 5% of the daily amount recommended by our guidelines.
As far as vitamins are concerned, we find a good quantity of vitamin C (approx. 7% of the recommended quantity), vitamins of group B and vitamin K are represented. Let’s see together the properties of these substances.
- Vitamin C: figs are a good source of vitamin C which, with its antioxidant function, is essential for our immune system, it is also involved in the synthesis of collagen and is important for the assimilation of iron by red blood cells;
- Magnesium: mineral with multiple properties, essential for the well-being of the nervous system, for the construction of the skeleton and for the metabolism of fats;
- Potassium: figs are fairly rich in this mineral, involved in various physiological processes such as muscle contraction, the maintenance of a correct hydro-saline balance and the regulation of blood pressure;
- Iron: macronutrient which is part of two fundamental proteins for the transport of oxygen: hemoglobin and myoglobin;
- Vitamin K: figs contain vitamin K, essential for bone metabolism and blood coagulation;
- Vitamin B6: another water-soluble vitamin whose deficiency is linked to dysfunctions of the nervous system. It is necessary for the synthesis of serotonin (or good mood hormone) and is therefore also useful in the case of depressive disorders;
- Pantothenic acid: also known as vitamin B5, it is a fundamental component of coenzyme A, a molecule involved in the metabolism of nutrients, and of a protein responsible for the formation of fatty acids.
From an analysis made on the main components of the fig it emerged that the most represented flavonoid is luteolin, a substance that seems to have a very beneficial role for our health thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. Luteolin, in particular, has been extensively studied in recent years for its neuroprotective and cancer prevention effect.
Figs: health benefits
The richness of nutrients makes the fig an energizing food known for its important pharmacological properties in the oncology and cardiovascular fields. But now let’s see in detail the properties of figs and the benefits they offer to health.
✓ Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties
Some components of the fig have been shown to have anti-inflammatory activity. Furthermore, as we have anticipated, figs contain some substances with antioxidant properties. In addition to the aforementioned luteolin and quercetin, we also find a cyanidin (indicated by the acronym C3R) with a strong anti-oxidant action. This characteristic makes figs a good ally in countering the oxidative stress caused by the excess of free radicals. In this regard, it is interesting to know that the darker varieties of figs have a higher antioxidant content than the lighter varieties.
✓ Benefits in case of constipation
As anticipated at the beginning of the article, one of the best known properties of figs is that against constipation. A small study conducted on 20 women with constipation demonstrated the usefulness of supplementation with fig in the improvement of this problem.
✓ Hepato-projective activity
Some studies conducted in recent years on mice in the laboratory have demonstrated the ability of fig extract to improve blood parameters related to liver damage (Alt and Ast transaminases).
✓ Benefits in case of high blood sugar and cholesterol
The use of fig extract also appears to be useful in improving blood levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides and total cholesterol / hdl cholesterol ratio in some studies conducted on animals. Likewise, fig extract appears to have hypoglycemic properties and improve the parameters and health of diabetic rats.
✓ Antibacterial and antifungal properties
Figs (in particular their “milk”, or latex) have antibacterial properties and can therefore be considered natural antibiotics. In particular, the fig seems to have a good ability to inhibit the growth of Candida albicans and would be useful in improving oral hygiene.
✓ Oncological prevention activities
Some compounds present in the fig have been shown to be able to inhibit the growth of cells of different tumor lines thanks to its cytotoxic effect.
✓ Benefits for the digestive system
The fig has long been known for its benefits on the digestive system. In fact, in traditional medicine, it is used in cases of colic, indigestion, loss of appetite and diarrhea to relieve the aforementioned symptoms. In addition, the fig bud extract is used to counteract stomach acid.
✓ Benefits for the skin
The properties of figs also extend to the skin, defending it and relieving inflammation caused for example by pimples and ingrown hairs. In addition, its milky juice, according to popular tradition, helps eliminate warts that form on the skin and fight parasites, due to the aforementioned antibacterial and antifungal qualities.
How many figs to eat
A standard portion of figs corresponds to about 150 grams or 3 or 4 fresh fruits. Under normal conditions, when they are in season, it is possible to consume even a portion a day while, in case of overweight or diabetes, it is better to limit yourself to one fruit a day, unless otherwise indicated by the doctor or nutritionist.
Fresh figs and dried figs: nutritional differences
Both excellent foods, dried figs are undoubtedly a much more caloric and sugary product: 100 g of dried figs contain, in fact, 282 kcal and 58 g of sugars (mainly glucose and fructose). For this reason their consumption must be careful.
At the same time, dried figs are much richer in all the micronutrients mentioned above: from potassium, to calcium, to iron. In particular, dried figs contain about four times the calcium, potassium, phosphorus and vitamin B1 contained in fresh figs; more than double the other B vitamins and 5 times or 6 times the magnesium and iron, respectively.
Similarly, sodium is also much more present (87 mg against the 2 mg found in fresh figs), while vitamin C is completely absent. Dried figs contain a higher quantity of proteins and fats, including a fair quantity of polyunsaturated fatty acids of the omega 6 group. They also contain a very good quantity of fiber, which makes them even more suitable in case of constipation.
However, we advise you to pay attention to the choice of the product: many dried figs are added with additional preservatives or sugars, which can modify the properties of the product!
Figs: some usage tips
Some of us are lucky enough to be able to pick figs directly from the tree! In these cases it is important to evaluate the color of the fruit and learn to understand which color identifies the ripe fruit.
This fruit should be picked when ripening has already occurred and should be consumed as quickly as possible because, once picked, it continues its ripening process.
For those of us who have to be satisfied with buying figs already picked, we advise you to choose fruits that are fairly soft but with a stalk that is still firm. Overly mushy or sour-smelling fruits will not be good.
As we have already mentioned, figs can be eaten fresh, simply by opening the fig in half and eating the red pulp. We advise you to open the fig in half to have the opportunity to evaluate the presence of parasites.
Fresh figs can also be used as an accompaniment to other dishes or for the preparation of tasty appetizers: an example are bruschetta with cream of robiola, figs and fresh thyme.
Most of the figs produced are instead left to dry and sold as dried figs. The latter lend themselves very well to the preparation of tasty desserts: an example, of very simple preparation and which is suitable for special occasions, are dried figs covered with dark chocolate.
Figs: contraindications and potential negative effects
Figs are not without contraindications and, as we have anticipated, they can represent a problem in case of obesity or diabetes mellitus. Their sweetness sometimes does not make you want to stop, but the high sugar content means that they should be consumed in moderation.
Furthermore, figs contain a high quantity of oxalates and are therefore not recommended in some cases for those suffering from stones. Finally, we told you that figs can be useful in case of constipation: be careful not to overdo it or you could get the opposite effect!