This magnificent fruit is a genuine delight in both fresh and dried form, not to mention extremely nutritious. Dried figs are obtained from the fruit of the fig tree, Ficus carica. Figs distinguish themselves from other dried fruits by a honey-like sweetness which is turns into a grainy, sugary, chewiness in the dried fruits. What makes figs healthy is the fact that drying methods usually do not include heat exposure from baking so most brands of dried figs preserve all of their vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, resulting in a higher nutrient concentration per unit of fruit.
In other words, dried figs are loaded with dietary fiber, B vitamins, calcium and potassium, sugars and antioxidants. Their high potassium content, 680 mg per 100 g, recommends them as the perfect snack for anyone with cardiovascular problems, especially high blood pressure. With 9.8 g of dietary fiber per 100 g, they are a great remedy for relieving constipation naturally. Being sweet, savory and overall healthy, they can be successfully introduced in children’s diet. At the same time, they do concentrate significant amounts of sugar which, albeit natural, does not recommend them for diabetics or anyone with high blood sugar levels.
Dried figs are a wonderful source of dietary fiber: 9.8 g of fiber/100 g of fruit. What does this mean? It means that dried figs are a potent natural laxative and regular consumption can ease and relieve constipation naturally. When it reaches our intestines, fiber soaks up water, making stools more voluminous, softer and ready to be expelled. More important, the less you are constipated, the less your colon is exposed to waste material which reduces the risk for colon cancer, hemorrhoids and related side effects of constipation such as fatigue, a general feeling of unwell, even dizziness or nausea and so on.
How do we eat them? You can add a few chopped dried figs to your morning yogurt, oatmeal or muesli, etc. or chew on them in the afternoon when you are feeling a bit low on energy or crave something sweet. In addition to increasing your fiber intake, dried figs will supply you with natural sugars (around 48 g of sugar/100 g of fruit) which are easily digested and provide energy without any side effects.
Why is sugar from dried figs better than candy? Dried figs contain healthy forms of sugar, produced as a result of natural processes, whereas candy contains processed sugar, sweet indeed, yet devoid of the rest of the nutrients accompanying the plant. When eating a few dried figs, we ingest not only small amounts of sugar, but also vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. When eating a piece of pie or candy, we consume a lot of sugar, additional fats, carbohydrates and limited amounts to no nutrients.
Even more, we tend to have a spike in energy and then become sluggish. Chew on some dried figs and the natural sugars in them will slowly enter your bloodstream and thus you will prevent mood and energy swings. You can also dry fresh figs yourself: wash them and gently dab them dry, then place them on a drying rack, cover them with a cheesecloth to protect from insects and place in direct sunlight for 2-3 days.
Other health benefits of dried figs concern their vitamin and mineral content. Dried figs contain small amounts of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B9 which help our digestive system absorb other nutrients from food. In addition to this, they boast good amounts of vitamin K, calcium and phosphorus, the perfect trio for bone health.
Our bones are 60-70% minerals, notably calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin K increases calcium absorption in bones and prevents bone demineralization. If you are suffering from bone conditions such as osteopenia or osteoporosis, you should look for foods that provide the three above-mentioned nutrients, dried figs included.
Moreover, dried figs contain an antioxidant mineral called manganese, as well as the following polyphenols: gallic acid, chlorogenic acid, rutin. As antioxidants, these naturally-occurring substances keep us looking younger and protect against free radical damage to cells and DNA. But they provide other impressive health benefits as well. Gallic acid has powerful antibacterial properties, anticancer potential and is efficient against hemorrhage (ex: hemorrhoids).
Chlorogenic acid has been found to help lower blood pressure and thus is protective of cardiovascular health. Rutin improves blood circulation and prevents blood clots. Also, dried figs have a good potassium (14%) and magnesium content (19%), two minerals with great positive effects on heart activity and blood circulation.
Why dried figs are good for you
And here are the best 5 reasons why you should eat dried figs:
1) Rich in antioxidant polyphenols and manganese, they repair cell damage and keep us free of chronic disease and looking good.
2) As a result of their high fiber content, dried figs are an excellent natural laxative, extremely efficient in preventing constipation and counteracting side effects such as abdominal pain in the right or left lower side, nausea, lack of appetite or feelings of unwell (see article on constipation and feeling unwell).
3) Dried figs are rich in natural sugars, meaning they improve mood and boost energy as well as make a delicious snack.
4) The calcium-phosphorus-vitamin K trio makes dried figs great for bone and teeth health.
5) Last, but not least, they contain magnesium, potassium and chlorogenic acid, three natural compounds which promote cardiovascular health.
Good to know: if your figs have a white, flour-like coating, it means they might be stale and it is best not to buy them as they are no longer fit for consumption. In pantry conditions, they may last anywhere between 3-10 months, but their shelf life depends on just how good storing conditions are. It’s good to also check the label for sulfites or sulfur dioxide – these additives are added to increase shelf life or improve color, but can potentially trigger allergic reactions.
Overall, dried figs are a wonderful option for anyone looking to up their energy levels while making sure their energy comes from a nutritious food source. Considering the variety of nutrients they contain, regular consumption can help meet daily requirements of multiple essential vitamins and dietary minerals, contributing to good overall health. Of course, dried figs are best consumed in limited amounts as they pack both calories and sugar. On the downside, dried figs can cause stomach upset, abdominal pain, loose stools and diarrhea or even allergic reactions if they contain sulfur dioxide or other sulfites used for increasing shelf life and improving appearance by brightening fruit color. Sulfur dioxide and other sulfites used as preservatives in the food industry are common food allergens and a source of multiple side effects.