Figs, a sweet and nutritious fruit, are a treasure trove of health benefits. Known for their high fiber content, they are a natural aid for digestive health, making them a smart choice for those looking to manage constipation, diabetes, and cholesterol levels. Rich in calcium, figs also contribute to bone health. With their potential to lower blood pressure and improve skin health, figs offer a range of advantages for a healthy lifestyle. Whether consumed ripe, dried, or as part of various recipes, figs or anjeer are not only delicious but also packed with essential nutrients. Let’s delve into the world of figs to explore their nutritional value, benefits, and versatile uses.
What are Figs (Anjeer)?
Figs are a sweet fruit with multiple seeds and soft skin, which can be eaten ripe or dried. Figs are also called nature’s candy because they are high in natural sugar. It is the fruit of the fig tree (Ficus), which is a member of the mulberry family, usually found in Asia. In India, the fruit is called anjeer. Dried figs, like several other dried fruits, are a rich source of phenol antioxidants and nutrients, especially fiber. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition suggests that adding dried figs to your regular diet may also help overcome the oxidative stress of consuming high fructose corn syrup in a carbonated soft drink.
Watch Video: 8 Reasons To Eat Figs
Types of Figs
Different varieties of the fruit can have different colors from purple, red, green, and golden yellow. The most popular types of figs include:
- Black mission figs
- Sierra figs
- Calimyrna figs
- Kadota figs
When are Figs in Season?
Fresh figs usually come in late June and last till the start of fall. On the other hand, the dried form of fig is easily available almost everywhere, all year round.
How to Eat Figs?
Figs or anjeer are sweet and soft and their paste is often used as a replacement for sugar. Fig paste is used as a healthier option instead of corn syrup and sucrose. Fig spread can also be incorporated into pies, pudding, cakes, assorted baked goods, and preserves. Organic Turkish figs are considered a healthy snack. It is also made into jams, parfait, sauce, and energy bars.
Serving Size : Nutrient Value Water [g] 79.11 Energy 74 Energy [kJ] 310 Protein [g] 0.75 Total lipid (fat) [g] 0.3 Ash [g] 0.66 Carbohydrate, by difference [g] 19.18 Fiber, total dietary [g] 2.9 Sugars, total including NLEA [g] 16.26 Calcium, Ca [mg] 35 Iron, Fe [mg] 0.37 Magnesium, Mg [mg] 17 Phosphorus, P [mg] 14 Potassium, K [mg] 232 Sodium, Na [mg] 1 Zinc, Zn [mg] 0.15 Copper, Cu [mg] 0.07 Manganese, Mn [mg] 0.13 Selenium, Se [µg] 0.2 Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg] 2 Thiamin [mg] 0.06 Riboflavin [mg] 0.05 Niacin [mg] 0.4 Pantothenic acid [mg] 0.3 Vitamin B-6 [mg] 0.11 Folate, total [µg] 6 Folate, food [µg] 6 Folate, DFE [µg] 6 Choline, total [mg] 4.7 Vitamin A, RAE [µg] 7 Carotene, beta [µg] 85 Vitamin A, IU [IU] 142 Lutein + zeaxanthin [µg] 9 Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg] 0.11 Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg] 4.7 Fatty acids, total saturated [g] 0.06 14:0 [g] 0 16:0 [g] 0.05 18:0 [g] 0.01 Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g] 0.07 18:1 [g] 0.07 Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g] 0.14 18:2 [g] 0.14 Phytosterols [mg] 31 Tryptophan [g] 0.01 Threonine [g] 0.02 Isoleucine [g] 0.02 Leucine [g] 0.03 Lysine [g] 0.03 Methionine [g] 0.01 Cystine [g] 0.01 Phenylalanine [g] 0.02 Tyrosine [g] 0.03 Valine [g] 0.03 Arginine [g] 0.02 Histidine [g] 0.01 Alanine [g] 0.05 Aspartic acid [g] 0.18 Glutamic acid [g] 0.07 Glycine [g] 0.03 Proline [g] 0.05 Serine [g] 0.04 Sources include : USDA
As per USDA data, figs may be a good source of water, energy, protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and sugar. They also may contain a high content of calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and potassium. They have a good supply of vitamins A, E, and K. Figs might also be a rich source of polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidants that protect the human body against oxidative stress.
Health Benefits of Figs
Figs have many amazing health benefits. Let us discuss them in detail below.
May Lower Blood Pressure
Incorporating figs into your diet could be beneficial for managing blood pressure. High sodium intake, often found in salt, is a known contributor to hypertension. Balancing this with high-potassium foods is key. Figs, being rich in potassium and low in sodium, offer an ideal option for this balance. The positive effects of figs on blood pressure don’t just stop at regulation; they also promote relaxation and calmness, easing the nerves.
A study highlighted on PubMed confirms that fig extract has the potential to lower blood pressure. It was observed to be effective both in rats with normal and elevated blood pressure levels, as per the study published in 2017
May Manage Diabetes
Figs could play a crucial role in diabetes management, thanks to their rich content of abscisic acid, a phytohormone known for enhancing glucose tolerance and contributing positively to overall health.
A significant highlight is a 2018 study from the journal ‘Diabetes’, which revealed that abscisic acid extracts from figs might be a promising solution for moderating blood sugar and insulin levels after meals. This study specifically points to the potential of developing fig extracts as an effective method to control postprandial glucose and insulin responses, marking a notable advancement in dietary approaches to diabetes management.
May Promote Digestive Health
Figs, known for their rich fiber content and numerous nutrients, have long been recognized for their role in improving digestive health. Particularly, they are effective in alleviating constipation. A study in 2011, published in the Laboratory Animal Research journal, demonstrated the positive effects of fig paste on relieving constipation in beagles, suggesting its potential application as a complementary treatment for chronic constipation in humans.
Additionally, fig bars are often recommended as a dietary addition for easing constipation.
A notable study involving 150 individuals with irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) showed significant relief in symptoms, including pain, bloating, and constipation, for those consuming about four dried figs (45 grams) twice daily.
This finding is echoed in another study, where participants with similar conditions experienced less pain, fewer hard stools, and improved defecation upon consuming a similar amount of dried figs, compared to a placebo group.
May Treat Piles
If you are suffering from piles, a popular home remedy may be to soak dried figs in water overnight and have the fruit along with the water in the morning. This has a laxative effect and can help reduce the pressure on the anus, thus helping to soothe the hemorrhoids.
According to a report published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal in 2013, they might have been traditionally used for their laxative, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory properties.
May Lower Cholesterol Levels
Figs could be a key player in managing cholesterol levels. Research published in ‘Phytotherapy Research’ indicates that figs can positively impact the lipid profile by increasing HDL (good) cholesterol.
This is supported by other studies that have observed improvements in overall cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels following the supplementation with fig leaf extract.
One of the beneficial components of figs is pectin, a type of soluble fiber. Pectin not only promotes healthy bowel movements but also possesses a laxative effect due to the high fiber content in figs. This fiber-rich nature of figs allows them to absorb excess cholesterol in the digestive tract, aiding in its elimination from the body.
Moreover, studies focusing on pectin have linked it to the reduction of cholesterol levels, showcasing the multifaceted benefits of figs in cholesterol management.
May Reduce the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
Recent studies highlight the potential of figs, also known as anjeer, in mitigating symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Research on animals suggests that figs can reduce inflammatory cytokines, which may positively affect neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s in humans.
Another study in ‘Biomed Research International’ journal indicates that figs could improve memory-related behaviors and possibly reduce Alzheimer’s symptoms and oxidative damage, thanks to their potent antioxidant properties.
Alzheimer’s disease, prevalent among the elderly, is often exacerbated by oxidative stress. Figs, rich in nutrients and antioxidants like proanthocyanidins and quercetin, were studied in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s. The study found that dietary supplementation with figs improved cognitive and behavioral functions in the mice, suggesting a promising direction for Alzheimer’s treatment in humans.
May Be Rich in Calcium & Potassium
People who maintain a high-sodium diet may be affected by increased urinary calcium loss. The high potassium content in figs may help avoid that condition and regulate the content of waste in your urine, according to a study published in Public Health Nutrition. It might minimize calcium loss while increasingly eliminating the amount of uric acid and other harmful toxins from your body.
May Improve Skin Health
Figs may offer significant benefits for skin health. A study in the Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences revealed that fig extract can effectively enhance skin hydration, sebum content, and reduce melanin and transepidermal water loss.
Their richness in antioxidants such as flavonoids and polyphenols helps counteract free radical damage. Figs, containing high levels of alkanes, contribute to maintaining the body’s pH balance and have been used in treating skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
May Provide Relief from Venereal Diseases
Figs may have been traditionally used in the Indian subcontinent and some other parts of the world as a calming salve for venereal diseases. Ingestion or topical application of these fruits may work towards providing relief from sexually transmitted diseases, although further research needs to be done on the exact range of symptoms and diseases that these fruits positively affect.
Additionally, a study involving 45 children with dermatitis showed promising results: a cream containing dried fig fruit extract, applied twice daily for two weeks, was more effective than the standard hydrocortisone cream in treating dermatitis symptoms.
Where to Buy?
Almost all fresh figs/anjeer in the United States come from California and they are seasonal. You can buy these sweet and delicious fruits from your local grocer or farmer’s market. Golden California variants are also available online. But you don’t have to wait for the season to enjoy it. The dried variety such as organic Turkish figs and dried black mission figs are available all year long.
Word of Caution: Eating too many of these can cause diarrhea. Furthermore, dried anjeer is high in sugar and can potentially cause tooth decay. Also, some are allergic to figs or certain chemical components within them, and the resulting allergic reactions can be mild to severe. As always, before making a major change in your diet, speak with your doctor.
It is best not to consume this fruit in excess in the first few weeks leading up to surgery because it can occasionally cause bleeding in the digestive tract in sensitive people.