Often mentioned in the Bible as a sign of peace and prosperity, the fig tree is so ancient, remnants of the fruit have been discovered in Neolithic excavations sites circa 5,000 B.C. Thought to be native to Western Asia or Egypt, figs were cultivated very early throughout the Middle East and Europe and finally reached England and China by the mid-1500s. Spanish missionaries planted orchards in California in the late 19th century, where they still thrive today.
Belonging to the mulberry family, there is a plethora of fig tree varieties. Most of them are small at 10-30 feet and thrive in warm, dry climates. Pollinated by a tiny wasp, fig trees never blossom because the flowers are on the inside, producing dozens and sometimes hundreds of miniscule seeds that give figs their unique, crunchy texture.
Figs can be consumed either raw or dried, which affects the nutritional value. Thus, 100 grams of raw figs contains about:
- 74 calories
- 19 grams carbohydrates
- 0.7 grams protein
- 0.3 grams fat
- 3 grams fiber
- 232 milligrams potassium (7 percent DV)
- o.1 milligram manganese (6 percent DV)
- 4.7 micrograms vitamin K (6 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram vitamin B6 (6 percent DV)
- 17 milligrams magnesium (4 percent DV)
- 35 milligrams calcium (4 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram thiamine (4 percent DV)
- 142 IU vitamin A (3 percent DV)
- 2 milligrams vitamin C (3 percent DV)
When dried, the health benefits of figs increase — thus, 100 grams of dried figs contain about:
- 249 calories
- 63.9 grams carbohydrates
- 3.3 grams protein
- 0.9 gram fat
- 9.8 grams fiber
- 0.5 milligram manganese (26 percent DV)
- 15.6 micrograms vitamin K (19 percent DV)
- 680 milligrams potassium (19 percent DV)
- 68 milligrams magnesium (17 percent DV)
- 162 milligrams calcium (16 percent DV)
- 0.3 milligrams copper (14 percent DV)
- 2 milligrams iron (11 percent DV)
- 67 milligrams phosphorus (7 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligrams vitamin B6 (6 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligrams thiamine (6 percent DV)
- 0.1 mg riboflavin (5 percent DV)
- 0.5 milligram zinc (4 percent DV)
Considered exotic in some areas of the world, figs are sweet and juicy when ripe. They can be red, yellow, or purple-skinned or green-striped, each with their own unique flavor.
Figs are quite perishable and should be refrigerated if not eaten within a few days. Like apples, figs are a great snack by themselves, but also can be added either peeled or unpeeled to many recipes. It's interesting that the seeds only add to the satisfying, tasty chewiness. Best at the firm-to-tender stage, the more ripe they are, the more antioxidants they provide.
Figs are high in fiber and a good source of several essential minerals and vitamins:
· calcium (which promotes bone density)
· potassium (which helps lower blood pressure)
· vitamins K, A, C, and B6
Besides keeping much longer, the nutritional value of figs increases when they're dried. A half-cup of fresh figs, for instance, provides as much calcium as one-half cup of milk, but a single dried fig contains almost as much calcium as an egg. Whether fresh or dried, figs contain powerful antioxidants that neutralize free radicals in your body and fight disease.
The following are some health benefits of figs:
1. Losing Weight: Figs contain a lot of fiber and a helpful digestive enzyme called ficin which may have a positive effect on weight management. It metabolizes protein into amino acids. This means that regular consumption of figs promotes a healthy digestive system. However, plese consume figs in moderation because they contain fructose, which may be harmful to your health in excessive amounts.
2. Preventing Cancer: Figs contain the phytochemical called benzaldehyde, and according to research, is shown to have cancer-fighting capabilities, specifically for post-menopausal breast cancer.
3. Protect heart
4. Regulate kidney and liver functions
5. Slowing down aging process: Figs are high in antioxidants like flavonoids, polyphenols and anthocyanins. Antioxidants contained in figs help neutralize the free radicals that accelerate the aging process.
6. Controlling High Blood Pressure: Figs are packed with potassium, a mineral that helps to control blood pressure and hypertension.
7. Promoting Strong Bones: Figs are rich in calcium and phosphorus, which promotes bone formation and helps in their regrowth if there is any damage or decay.
8. Preventing anemia: Figs are very high in iron, the mineral that helps create red blood cells and prevent anemia.
Benefits of Fig Leaves
In some cultures, fig leaves are nearly as important as the fruit, not just because of what they add to Mediterranean-style cuisine, but because of the unique health-related benefits they offer. This includes their ability to regulate blood sugar levels, since research has shown they contain properties that can actually reduce the amount of insulin needed by diabetics.
· Help Treat Skin Cancer
Fig leaves are great providers of bioactive compounds that are great at fighting free radical damage. As a result, some studies have used information about the makeup of the fig leaf to develop better forms of photodynamic therapy to treat certain types of skin cancer.
· Anti-Wrinkle Capabilities
There have been multiple studies using fig tree leaf extract (combined with other fruits and alone) that have shown successful examples of anti-wrinkle capabilities. Individuals using creams including fig leaf and fig fruit extracts showed significant decrease in length and depth of facial wrinkles, thanks to antioxidant and anti-collagenase activity.
Another study published in the Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences even concluded that creams containing fig extract could also be used to help hyper pigmentation, acne and even freckles.
Along with their anti-diabetes properties, fig leaves also have been shown to lower the body’s triglyceride levels. A triglyceride is the storage form of fat inside the body. Although a certain supply of triglycerides is required for proper health and body function, too many triglycerides greatly increase the risk for obesity and heart disease. However, a diet with regular fig leaf consumption may help lower these health risks as it gradually lowers triglyceride levels.
· Home remedies
Along with their remarkable anti-diabetes and triglyceride-lowering effects, fig leaves are also used in a variety of other home remedies for various medical conditions. In fact, the Natural News website recommends the mild leaf for conditions ranging from bronchitis to ulcers. According to the website, fig leaf tea can be beneficial for cardiovascular problems, cancer patients and people with high blood pressure. To make fig leaf tea, simply boil fig leaves in water for at least 15 minutes. A home remedy for bronchitis involves boiling water with three fig leaves and piloncillo, an unrefined sugar. A home remedy for ulcers involves chewing and swallowing two whole fig leaves daily.