Figs: Health Benefits and How-To
Fresh figs are indeed one of the sweetest offerings of summer. Their tough peel can be cracked open to reveal the interior, which contains a mass of seeds bound with jelly-like flesh. The seeds are edible, and are crunchy and somewhat nutty in flavor. Naturally sweet, fragrant, and succulent, figs have been enjoyed by people all over the world for centuries. To the Chinese, figs are used in medicinal soups and are known as “flowerless fruits,” but they are actually inverted flowers. In ancient Greece, figs were eaten by the early Olympic athletes as a training food and they were presented to the winners as laurels. Figs even made an appearance in the Book of Genesis in the Bible, when Adam and Eve used fig leaves to cover themselves. Today, people in the US enjoy fresh California figs from June through September, as well as dried figs all year long.
Nutrition Tidbits for Figs
- 5 fresh figs contain:
- Calories: 185 kcal
- Fat: 0.5 g
- Carbohydrates: 28.8 g
- Protein: 2 g
- Fiber: 4.2 g
- Glycemic Index (GI):
- Fresh Figs: Low (Below 55)
- Dried Figs: Moderate (56-69)
Not only are figs delectable, they are also highly nutritious. Figs are a rich source of fiber, potassium, calcium, and antioxidants, among other vitamins and minerals. Just one serving of figs (3-5 fresh or dried) provides about 4 grams of fiber, making them an easy way to increase our fiber intake.
This “fruit,” which was sacred to the ancient Romans, is very delicate, so you need to handle figs with care. Look for darker figs that are soft but not mushy. Don’t worry about a minor tear or slit on the skin so long the fig still smells fragrant and is not bruised. A sour-smelling fig means it is overripe or even spoiled. Once purchased, you can keep them fresh in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. If you cannot finish them all, simply rinse and freeze (in a single layer wrapped inside a plastic bag) to keep for up to six months. Dried figs can either be kept in a cool, dark place or stored in the refrigerator for several months.
Ways to Include More Figs in Your Diet
- Add fresh or dried figs to your breakfast cereal to up the fiber intake.
- Snack on dried figs for a quick source of energy.
- Add fresh figs to your otherwise-boring green salad.
- Figs and cheeses (such as blue cheese and goat cheese) are a perfect pair. Enjoy stuffed figs as hors d’oeurves.
- Poach figs in juice or red wine and serve with your dessert.
Alumni: University of British Columbia – Owennie is a registered dietitian with a soft spot for chocolate and coffee. She is a believer in balance and moderation, and is committed to keeping healthy eating enjoyable and fun. Owennie received her dietetics training in Vancouver, and is a member of Dietitians of Canada and the College of Dietitians of British Columbia. She has experience in a wide variety of settings, such as clinical nutrition, long-term care and outpatient counseling. Owennie has also worked for a community nutrition hotline and participated regularly as a guest radio host, where she enjoyed sharing her passion and knowledge about food and nutrition with people.