Medically reviewed by Kierra Brown, RD
Fig fruit (Ficus carica L.) is indigenous to western Asia. In the Middle East and Mediterranean regions figs symbolize longevity and have been consumed since ancient times.
Figs have been called a "fruit without a flower" because they don’t display an outward bloom. Figs do however produce hundreds of tiny edible flowers that form, grow, and bloom on the inside cavity of the fruit. Their skins, which range from green to black-violet are edible and their small seeds provide a subtle crunch.
There are many types of figs and unlike wild figs, most commercially available varieties do not require pollination by wasps. This is contrary to the common belief that all figs contain wasps that have died inside the fruit after depositing pollen from another fig.
Figs provide fiber, antioxidants, and smaller amounts of vitamins and minerals. Fig consumption is linked to a number of positive health outcomes, including inflammation reduction, less painful periods, and healthy weight management.
Keep reading to learn more about fig’s main health benefits.
Rich in Antioxidants
Both the flesh and skins of figs contain several antioxidants, primarily phenolic acids and flavonoids. Phenolic acids, which are absorbed from the digestive system into the bloodstream, have potent anti-inflammatory effects in the body. They offset damage caused by compounds called free radicals.
Free radicals are produced through normal metabolism and in response to exercise, sun exposure, and environmental pollutants, like cigarette smoke and smog. Over time, the buildup of free radicals is largely responsible for aging and may play a role in the development of diseases, including cancer and heart disease, as well as conditions like arthritis.
Support Digestive Health
The fiber in figs supports bowel regularity. Figs also have prebiotics, which help feed beneficial probiotic bacteria in the gut tied to anti-inflammation. Fig consumption may also be helpful for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) who have predominant-constipation IBS, also known as IBS-C.
In one study people with this condition who ate about four dried figs twice per day experienced less pain, defecation, and hard stools compared to those who received a placebo.
May Support Menstrual Health
One recent study looked at the effects of eating dried figs on symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea, or period pains, which are experienced one or two days per month by more than half of people who menstruate.
Researchers found that participants who ate dried figs had significantly lower scores for pain severity and duration, menstrual distress, and perceived stress over the course of three periods as compared to those who consumed either cinnamon or a placebo.
May Improve Inflammatory Conditions
A 2022 research review concluded that anti-inflammatory compounds in both figs and olives, consumed separately or together, can decrease or inhibit the effects o compounds that cause inflammation, called cytokines. Cytokines are known to accelerate damage to cells of the lungs, kidneys, brain, and other tissues in patients with COVID-19.
The ability of figs to counter cytokines may help support people with a wide range of inflammatory conditions, from allergies to rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), sinusitis, and tuberculosis.
May Help Support Weight Management
While the research is limited, studies show that eating dried fruits, including figs, is associated with having a lower body weight. In addition, Consuming figs regularly has been shown to support healthy weight management by improving post-meal satiety and blood sugar regulation.
May Help Reduce Cancer Risk
A 2022 research review looked at the potential effects of figs on the ability to inhibit the formation of tumors and the development of cancer cells. Researchers conclude that natural compounds in figs may help prevent cancer cells from growing and spreading in the body. However, the majority of the studies reviewed were conducted on cancer cells in labs rather than in humans, and two were carried out in animals, so more research is needed to study the potential connection between figs and reducing cancer risks.
Nutritional Facts of Figs
Figs provide energy-supporting carbohydrates, fiber, and smaller amounts of a range of key minerals. One medium fresh fig provides:
Fat: 0 grams
Sodium: 0.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 9.6 grams
Fiber: 1.45 grams
Naturally occurring sugar: 8.15 grams
Protein: 0 grams
One quarter cup of dried figs provides:
Fat: 0 grams
Sodium: 3.75 grams
Carbohydrates: 23 grams
Fiber: 3.65 grams
Naturally occurring sugar: 17.85 grams
Protein: 1.23 grams
While the amount of minerals per serving is small, figs provide the highest mineral content compared to other common fruits. They offer a small percentage of the daily requirement for potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, and zinc.
Risks of Eating Figs
While rare, it is possible to be allergic to figs. People who are allergic to latex or birch pollen may also experience an allergic reaction to figs.
Figs are also a high FODMAP food. FODMAPs are sugars that are not completely digested or absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream. When FODMAPs pass into the large intestine they are fermented by bacteria, which triggers the production of gas. This can cause the intestinal wall to stretch and expand, which may lead to discomfort or pain, particularly in people with IBS who have highly sensitive digestive systems.
Tips for Consuming Figs
Figs can be consumed fresh, dried, and they can be enjoyed uncooked or cooked. Healthy ways to enjoy figs include:
Slice fresh or dried figs and slather with nut butter.
Add fresh or dried figs to a garden salad or slaw.
Layer fresh figs with dairy-based or plant-based yogurt and nuts.
Use minced dried figs as a garnish for cooked veggies, like stir-fries and oven roasted vegetables.
Roast fresh figs and drizzle with balsamic glaze.
Incorporate minced dried figs into energy balls made with nut butter and rolled oats.
Scoop up sliced fresh figs with dessert hummus or maple-sweetened tahini.
Dip fresh figs into melted dark chocolate.
A Quick Review
Figs are rich in anti-inflammatory antioxidants and provide fiber and smaller amounts of a variety of minerals. They may also support digestive, gut, and menstrual health, improve inflammatory conditions, aid weight management, and offer cancer protection.
If you have IBS or allergies to latex or birch pollen talk with your healthcare provider before incorporating figs into your diet.
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