Health Benefits of Figs

Figs have been associated with health and prosperity since ancient times. They’re symbolically linked to Demeter, the Greek goddess of agriculture and fertility, and were offered to the god Bacchus in ancient Rome. 

Not your typical fruit, figs are technically a collection of inverted flowers that, if left alone, would bloom from the inside out. They grow commonly in the Mediterranean and the Middle East — locations that are hot, sunny, and dry for a large portion of the year. 

Before sugar became popular, figs were commonly used to sweeten desserts — you’ve probably heard of “figgy pudding.” Today, as people begin to turn away from refined sugars, many are turning back to figs to provide a healthier alternative.

Health Benefits

One reason many healthy eating websites feature food with figs is that figs satisfy sweet cravings while also providing many important health benefits. In fact, even if you’re not looking to satiate a sweet tooth, you may benefit from adding figs to your diet. Here are some of the health benefits you can expect to enjoy when you eat figs. 

Reduce High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can lead to complications like heart disease and stroke. One factor that leads to high blood pressure is a potassium imbalance caused by eating too much sodium and not enough potassium. 

Figs are a potassium-rich food and can help correct that imbalance. Meanwhile, high levels of fiber in figs can help to flush excess sodium from the system. 

Improve Digestion

Digestive issues range from constipation to diarrhea. At both ends of the spectrum, increasing fiber intake can help. In addition to their high fiber content, however, figs aid digestion in another way. They are an excellent source of prebiotics, which improve overall gut health.

Increase Bone Density

Figs are a good source of both calcium and potassium. These minerals can work together to improve bone density, which can, in turn, prevent conditions like osteoporosis

Studies suggest that a potassium-rich diet, in particular, can improve bone health and reduce bone turnover. Meanwhile, calcium is a key structural component of bones, and increasing calcium intake has been shown to improve bone mineral structure in children and adolescents. 

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Nutrition

One major benefit of figs is that they are a naturally fat-free, cholesterol-free food. They are also an excellent source of: 

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium

Nutrients per Serving

One medium (2 ¼ inch) fig contains: 

  • Calories: 37
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
  • Sodium: 1 milligram
  • Carbohydrates: 10 grams
  • Fiber: 1 gram
  • Sugar: 8 grams
  • Protein: 0 grams

Portion Sizes

Although figs are healthy in moderation, it’s important to keep in mind that a serving size is one medium fig. The sugars in figs can add up quickly if you eat figs by the fistful, and many of the recipes you’ll see online call for large numbers of figs. Always be mindful of the amount of figs in the foods you eat and limit yourself to keep your overall sugar intake low. 

How to Prepare Figs

Figs can easily be eaten fresh as a snack, or halved and tossed into a salad or sandwich for added crunch and flavor. However, there are also a number of tasty ways to bake using figs as a sweetener. 

One option is to cut figs up small and mix them into dough the way you might mix in raisins. Prepared like this, figs go great in breads, cookies, and muffins. 

Fig bars can be made by cooking chopped figs over medium heat until they are soft and moist. Then, they can be pressed into a pan with other ingredients. 

Another option is to cut your figs lengthwise, season with honey and cinnamon, and roast them in the oven for 40 minutes to make a sweet dessert or delicious side dish. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 08, 2020

Sources

SOURCES: 

Clinical Microbiology and Infection: “Probiotics and prebiotics: microflora management for improved gut health.”

Current Hypertension Reports: “Does Potassium Deficiency Contribute to Hypertension in Children and Adolescents?”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon.

Mayo Clinic: “Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet.” 

The Journal of Nutrition: “The Balance of Bone Health: Tipping the Scales in Favor of Potassium-Rich, Bicarbonate-Rich Foods.”

Proceedings of the Nutrition Society: “The role of dietary calcium in bone health.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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