Did you know that every time you eat a fig, you are actually eating a collection of tiny blossoms, which turn into seeds upon ripening? Figs are one of the oldest-known fruits in history and have many health as well as nutritional benefits.
If portion-controlled, figs can fit into any nutritious meal plan. One medium-sized fresh fig (50g) contains about 9g of carbohydrates and 180kJ (43 kcal) of energy. It is comparatively low in protein and fat-free, but an excellent source of fibre (3g) – ideal for treating constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. A dried fig contains about 1g of fibre, which is higher than any other dried or fresh fruit (even dates), making them an ideal snack (much better than chocolate). For adults, the daily recommended fibre intake is 28g for men and 25 g for women. For children, it is 5g plus their age.
Due to a fig’s high fibre content, it has a moderate glycaemic index, which means that it won’t spike your blood sugar rapidly. This is advantageous for persons with diabetes. Fig leaves have also been seen to lower insulin requirements in diabetes.
High fibre intake has been linked to a reduced risk for breast cancer. Fibre can also make you feel full, which can lead to weight loss due to eating less. So if you’re worried about your weight, you can tuck into your figs guilt-free!
Figs contain moderate amounts of thiamine, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium; and small amounts of riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, iron, phosphorus and zinc. Fig leaves can lower triglycerides (a type of cholesterol) and inhibit the growth of specific cancer cells.
The pyridoxine in figs helps with serotonin production, which boosts your mood. It also helps with immunity, brain development and forming red blood cells. Magnesium regulates blood sugar, blood pressure and immune function. Calcium promotes bone health and research has shown a link between fig consumption and lowered osteoporosis occurrence. Zinc and iron encourage hair growth and prevent hair loss, and also help with immunity.
Benefits of the antioxidants and phytochemicals
Apart from the vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates, figs also contain antioxidants and phytochemicals (the darker figs contain more). Antioxidants may help prevent or minimise damage to cells throughout the body, leading to slowing the ageing process and lessening damage to organs. The anti-inflammatory properties lower the risk for heart disease; high blood pressure; diabetes; Alzheimer’s disease; Parkinson’s disease; and eye diseases (e.g. cataracts and macular degeneration). They show anti-cancer properties, enhance immune function, and may improve memory.
After seeing all the benefits of figs above, you surely must be keen to try some—however, a few words of caution. Eating excessive amounts of figs have a laxative effect. Keep your intake moderate when you have Wilson’s disease or use anticoagulants (Warfarin). Avoid them if you have kidney disease. If you are allergic to latex, avoid figs. Avoid eating fig skins, which can cause burning or itching of the mouth and tongue.
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