The fig tree is one of the oldest known fruit species. References to the fig tree appear throughout biblical texts. Figs—along with wheat, barley, grapes, pomegranates, olives, and date honey—are considered one of the seven ancient foods that contribute to a healthy diet rich in whole grains, nutrient-dense fruits, and oils (now coined the Mediterranean diet). Researchers believe that following such a diet has several health advantages, including a lower risk of obesity, heart disease, and other chronic health problems.
Before the days of refined sugars—and more recently, artificial sweeteners—figs were used to sweeten foods like meats and breads. Like honey, figs were highly valued by ancient civilizations for their role in cooking, improving the flavor of numerous dishes and baked goods. At one time, figs were so coveted by the Greeks that laws were enacted to ban their export and trade.
Nutrient Profile of Figs
High in natural sugars and packed with essential vitamins and minerals, figs are a healthy fruit that offer a sweet, hearty taste. One of the most notable nutrition facts about figs is that one serving provides 20 percent of your recommended daily fiber intake. Just three to five fresh or dried figs contain a whopping five grams of dietary fiber. Fiber has been found to contribute to a healthy diet; it helps improve cholesterol levels and also supports heart and digestive health.
In addition to fiber, figs also contain the following beneficial nutrients:
- Vitamins A, E, and K
Health Benefits of Figs
So how do these sweet, flavorful treats promote heart health? In two important ways, actually. Read on to learn how figs can help improve your blood pressure and cholesterol levels (two major markers of heart health).
Many of the popular, processed foods we eat today are loaded with sodium. Excessive levels of sodium in the body can lead to mineral imbalances and deficiencies. Emerging research has found that incorporating more potassium in your diet can help restore these imbalances. Luckily for you, figs are one of the best natural sources of potassium. When eaten regularly in combination with a healthy diet, figs may work to lower your blood pressure. And lower blood pressure makes for a happy, healthy heart.
Foods rich in soluble and insoluble fiber contribute to healthy cholesterol levels. As noted earlier, one serving of figs contains 5 grams of fiber. Adding more fiber to your diet is a great way to improve “good” cholesterol levels and lower “bad” cholesterol levels. Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels protects your heart from damage and disease.
You’ve learned that the potassium found in figs improves blood pressure while the fiber in figs combats unhealthy cholesterol levels. These are some of the other ways the nutrients in figs affect your health:
- High levels of calcium reduce your risk of osteoporosis
- Prebiotics support healthy bacteria in your gut
- High levels of fiber can keep you feeling fuller for longer (a good thing for all those trying to trim down)
With all these remarkable, protective benefits, it might be time to give figs a second look next time you visit the supermarket.
Tips for Adding More Figs to Your Diet
Figs can be eaten fresh, dried, frozen—you name it. So the possibilities are really endless when it comes to adding more of this versatile fruit to your diet. Start off with the tips below for inspiration, then try out some of your own variations:
- Add sliced figs to your morning breakfast bowl: Line the bottom of your bowl with a helping of non-fat yogurt, then add a generous sprinkling of granola or muesli, and top with figs and some of your other favorite fruits (grapes, blueberries, and pomegranate seeds all make good options).
- Bake a sweet figgy treat for the holidays: Follow these directions to prepare unforgettable honey roasted figs for your next family gathering. You’ll need 16 figs, one tablespoon of honey, juice and zest from one orange, one tablespoon of butter, and a dash of cinnamon.
- Whip up a flavorful fig salad: Chop up six dried figs and set them aside. Now add mixed greens, slivered almonds, chopped celery, diced apples, and low-fat yogurt dressing to a salad bowl. Toss these ingredients and top with figs.
Figs are a wonderful energy source for you and your family. Whether it’s munching on a few fresh figs before your morning meeting or feeding your little guy a baggy of dried figs before his big soccer game, figs are filling, packed with heart-healthy nutrients, and an easy food to eat on-the-go. If you’re looking to get your family hooked on a new superfood, it’s figs you’re after—and your loved ones are sure to eat them up!
Lewin J, BBC. The health benefits of figs. https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/health-benefits-figs. Accessed January 29, 2018.
Berry EM, Arnoni Y, Aviram M. The Middle Eastern and biblical origins of the Mediterranean diet. Public Health Nutr. 2011;14(12A)2288-2295. doi:10.1017/S1368980011002539.
California Fig Advisory Board. Fig facts. https://www.californiafigs.com/index.php?pageid=11. Accessed January 29, 2018.
California Fig Advisory Board. Nutrition. https://www.californiafigs.com/nutrition.php. Accessed January 29, 2018.