Why it “FIGures.” All the Health Benefits of Eating Figs

Nutrition

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

Figs are one of the oldest fruits known, and California ranks first in the nation for fig production.

It has been reported that Franciscan monks, who started missions from San Diego to Sonoma, brought figs to California from the Mediterranean around 1768. The name Black Mission Figs was created, because figs were planted in all the missions along the Camino Real. 

California figs are available from June through September, but you can enjoy dried figs year-round. The more ripe the fig, the more potent the antioxidants in this fruit, but be mindful fresh figs are highly perishable and should be consumed within about two days after bringing them home.

Both fresh and dried figs are very versatile. Dried figs are delicious eaten alone as a healthy, sweet snack and are sometimes roasted and ground for a coffee alternative. Fresh figs are great for sweetening up a smoothie or elevating a simple salad. They are great for jams and can be used as a substitute for fat or sugar when baking.   

You can poach figs in juice or red wine for a simple but elegant dessert at your next home get together. Dark chocolate covered figs are also a sophisticated but simple dessert you can prepare without being a chef!

On top of being delicious and versatile, figs are nutrient powerhouses you may want to think about including in your diet if you are not already.

Dried figs are very convenient to have around the house, throw in your kid’s backpack or travel with so you don’t have to surrender to candy in the airport and other unhealthy temptations. I love to put dried figs in my purse when I go to the movies. And here is why:

One cup of dry, uncooked figs contains

  • Fiber, 14.6 g. Depending on age and sex, adults should consume 22 to 34 g. of fiber daily. Fiber may help relieve constipation, maintain a healthy weight and lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Figs contain soluble fiber (dissolves in water). Soluble fiber may help lower glucose levels and help lower blood cholesterol. Some evidence has even shown diabetics who consumed the leaves of the figs were able to reduce their dose of insulin. Fiber may also help soothe irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • Iron, 3.02 mg. Adult males need about 8 mg. of iron, and adult females need around 18 mg. of iron. Pregnant women should aim for about 27 mg. Iron is a critical mineral that every single cell in your body needs. It is needed to make hemoglobin, a component of your red blood cells that delivers oxygen to all the cells in your body. Without adequate iron, your body can’t carry enough oxygen to your vital organs.
  • Calcium, 241 mg. An adult between 19-50 years of age (male or female) in general should aim to have about 1,000 mg. of calcium per day. This mineral is needed to build and maintain strong bones and teeth. Calcium is also needed for clotting of the blood to stop bleeding and for proper functioning of the nerves, muscles and heart. The National Cancer Institute conducted a study that monitored calcium intake in 135,000 men and women. The subjects who had a calcium intake of more than 700 mg. per day had a 35-45% reduced risk of cancer of the distal (lower) part of the colon than those who had a calcium intake of 500 mg. or less per day.
  • Magnesium, 101 mg. Men need about 400-420 mg. of magnesium per day. Women need about 310-320 mg. Figs, these little fruits you can hold in the palm of your hand, contain a lot more magnesium per serving than many common everyday foods including, instant oatmeal (1 pack, 36 mg.), banana (1 medium-sized, 32 mg.), apple (1 medium-sized, 9 mg.), avocado (1 cup, 44 mg.) and milk (1 cup, 24-27 mg.). Magnesium’s importance for the heart can’t be overstated. This mineral influences heart muscle energy production, keeps calcium levels balanced, loosens up tight blood vessels, reduces inflammation and overall keeps activity in the heart working properly.
  • Phosphorus, 100 mg. Adults 19 and older usually need about 700 mg. of phosphorus daily. This mineral often does not get the credit it deserves, but it does so much for your body. Phosphorus is almost as abundant in your body as calcium and helps calcium build strong bones and teeth. Phosphorus is also important for how your body stores and uses energy, repairs cells and is needed to make proteins like the one responsible for the oxygen-carrying capabilities of our red blood cells.
  • Potassium, 1013 mg. Adults generally need about 4700 -5100 mg. of this must-have mineral daily. It helps keep blood pressure under control, may help reduce kidney stones and may prevent bone loss as you age. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), potassium may help reduce osteoporosis and prevent heart failure.

Honestly, this only touches on the health benefits you can reap from eating figs. Figs are also rich in vitamins A, C and E. These vitamins are antioxidants that may help reduce free radical damage, keep your skin and hair looking beautiful and may even help prevent macular degeneration.

Just be aware figs do contain fructose. This is why they are so sweet and delicious, but like many foods (even healthy ones) they need to be eaten in moderation.

To learn more about the must-have minerals in figs, read Minerals - The Forgotten Nutrient: Your Secret Weapon for Getting and Staying Healthy.

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Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, health care attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here.

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