Although not the most popular fruit, figs have the reputation of being one of the healthiest fruits in the world. An excellent source of nutrients including vitamins, minerals and fiber, they have long been known as a delicious and versatile ingredient that can impart a wonderful taste to various dishes, be it sweet or savory dishes. Coming from the mulberry family, figs are soft and sweet fruits produced by the ficus tree. This fruit comes in different varieties, varying in texture and color. Native to the Mediterranean and middle eastern regions, figs are nowadays grown widely in areas with a temperate climate. They contain various active compounds such as antioxidant polyphenols that have the potential to be used for treating numerous diseases and health conditions.
Nutritional facts about Figs
Figs hold a great deal of health benefits, all of which can be attributed to the high amounts of nutrients contained in it. It is rich in natural sugars, vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Vitamins that are essential for maintaining good health such as vitamin A, C, E, K and B complex vitamins like thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and folate can be obtained by the regular consumption of figs. Calcium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, magnesium, copper, selenium and iron are some of the minerals found in abundance in this fruit. It is the high concentration of these nutrients in figs that sets them apart from other fruits and make them qualified to be called super foods.
Health benefits of Figs
Densely packed with a vast array of nutrients, it should come as no surprise to learn that figs are one of the healthiest foods available in the planet. Adding this fruit to your dishes will not only kick it up a notch but will also help enhance your health and prevent diseases. Read on to know more about the health benefits of this lusciously sweet fruit:
- Figs are heart healthy
Figs are rich in nutrients that can offer protection to your cardiovascular system. High potassium levels in the fruit helps lower blood pressure. Figs also contain phytosterol compounds along with heart healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which help in improving the strength of arteries and in lowering cholesterol levels. The high amount of fiber in them binds to cholesterol, thus helping to remove it from your body. By controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels – the two main factors that increase the risk of heart problems, figs go a long way in protecting your cardiovascular system.
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- Figs for healthy skin
Figs are not only a healthy and nutritious culinary treat but they are highly beneficial to your skin as well. Being an excellent source of antioxidants, they protect your skin from damages caused as a result of oxidative stress and aging. Just like the other organs in your body, your skin also requires proper nourishment to stay healthy and beautiful. Figs can provide this nourishment as they are rich in a wide array of nutrients. Applying a paste of fresh figs on the face is a great remedy for getting rid of acne and pimples. It can tighten the pores of the skin and regulate the production of excess oil.
Figs contain certain enzymes that can cleanse your skin by eliminating the dead skin cells and dirt. Using a figs face mask can therefore keep your skin fresh, smooth and radiant. The omega fatty acids in figs rejuvenate the skin and keeps it well moisturized. This fruit contains plenty of vitamin C that lighten the skin tone and also increases the production of collagen. This helps in improving the elasticity and suppleness of the skin. Vitamin C, along with other antioxidant compounds makes figs a great anti-aging ingredient. It helps prevent free radical damage to the skin cells and inhibits the appearance of aging signs like wrinkles, dark pigments and fine lines.
- Hair benefits of figs
Loaded with vitamins and minerals, figs provide a boost to the health of your hair. These nutrients nourish your hair, improve blood circulation and promotes the healthy hair growth. The extracts from figs are helpful in moisturizing the scalp and preventing scalp problems including dry scalp and dandruff. Figs contain certain enzymes that helps maintain the color of hair and prevent graying. Because of these beneficial properties, fig extracts are often used as an ingredient in many hair care products such as shampoos, hair masks and conditioners.
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- Figs help you lose weight
Figs, owing to their high fiber content are often recommended to people with overweight for losing weight. Fiber rich foods fill you up quickly, satiates your hunger and prevents you from overeating. Figs also contain a digestive enzyme known as ficin that helps metabolize protein from the food into amino acids. These enzymes also stimulates the production of saliva, which in turn helps break down food into smaller molecules. Thus the regular consumption of figs not only optimizes the functioning of the digestive system but also helps keep your weight under control.
- Figs and digestion
The high fiber content in figs make them an excellent remedy for digestive issues. Foods rich in fiber are essential for a healthy digestive system. While soluble fiber slows down the process of digestion and promotes the absorption of nutrients from the food, insoluble fiber adds bulk to the stools and helps it to move easily through your system. This helps make the bowel movements regular and prevent constipation.
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- Figs can fight cancer
Studies reveal that various phytochemicals found in figs have cytotoxic properties that helps in inhibiting the growth and proliferation of various types of cancers. This fruit is rich in bioactive compounds like coumarins and phenolics with amazing antioxidant and cancer fighting capabilities. Fiber rich foods are known to be helpful in preventing certain types of cancers like colon cancer. Figs, being an excellent source of fiber, should therefore be considered as a perfect addition to a healthy diet. According to studies, a number of compounds extracted from this fruit may have the ability to destroy brain, breast, bone, liver, skin, stomach and throat cancers. Psoralen is a compound found in figs that has the ability to stop the DNA from copying itself as well as to trigger the death of cancer cells when activated with UV light. Research indicates that this compound may be effective in the treatment of lymphoma and HER2-positive breast cancer.
- Figs are excellent for diabetics
Most fruits, especially those rich in fiber like figs are helpful in keeping the blood sugar levels under control. Figs have a moderate glycemic index rate and are considered to be a great food for people with diabetes. The fiber in these fruits slows down digestion and the absorption of sugar into the blood, thus preventing the dangerous spikes in blood glucose levels. The leaves of the fig also have been found to have anti-diabetic effects as they have the ability to reduce the amount of insulin required by diabetics who need regular injections of insulin.
- Figs for asthma
Figs are considered to be one of the effective natural remedies for controlling the symptoms of asthma. They show expectorant effects, which helps to eliminate the mucus and phlegm accumulated in the respiratory tract. The best way to use figs as a remedy for asthma is to soak 2 or 3 of them in water, leave it overnight and drink the water the next day. This drink has been found to offer relief from not only asthma symptoms but also sore throat, dry cough, colds and bronchitis.
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- Figs strengthen your bones
Figs are good for your bones because of their high calcium content that helps maintain bone density. They also contain high levels of potassium that prevents the loss of calcium through urine. This helps in ensuring the absorption of calcium by the bones, thus lowering the risk of osteoporosis. Figs are rich in magnesium and vitamin K2, two essential nutrients that help build stronger bones.
- Figs for kidney stones
Figs are considered to be helpful in eliminating kidney stones. For this, prepare a tea by boiling about 5 or 6 figs in a cup of water. Allow the tea to steep and drink it every day for a month to get the desired results.
- Figs improve eye health
Figs are also excellent for improving the health of the eyes. They contain a good deal of Vitamin A, which is also an antioxidants that enhances eye health. In addition to improving vision, they also protect the eyes from free radical damage and eye disorders like cataract and age related macular degeneration.
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Figs are very delicate and are easily perishable. So in order to preserve them, they are often dried and stored. Very sweet in taste and highly nutritious, dried figs are available all year around. Owing to their sweet taste, figs were often used as a natural sweetener before refined sugars and artificial sweetening agents came into being. Figs can be eaten fresh or dried, and can be added to salads, soups, stews and desserts. A wonderful source of fiber and jam packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, both dried and fresh figs have been blessed with a wealth of health and nutritional benefits. Adding this healthy and versatile fruit to your dishes not only improves their flavor profile but also amps up your health in numerous ways.