Figs, Fabulous Figs

Learn the history behind the delicious fruit, figs. (photo credit:

Learn the history behind the delicious fruit, figs. (photo credit:

The first week in November is National Fig Week which is a great opportunity to try this luscious and sweet fruit that offers some pretty fantastic health benefits.  Whether you chose to eat them fresh or dried, figs are packed with nutrients.  A single, medium sized fig provides fiber, potassium, manganese, and vitamin B6 for less than 40 calories.

History of Figs

Figs have been around for most of recorded history and are mentioned in the Bible and other ancient texts.  Historians believe that figs have been a cultivated crop since as early as the 9th century BC and that they were a common staple in the diets of our ancient ancestors.  In fact, the ancient Greeks so revered this fleshy fruits that they passed laws making it illegal to export them out of the country.  Ancient Romans considered them to be sacred and a fig tree features prominently in the mythological story of Romulus and Remus, the twin brothers believed to be the founders of Rome.

As the ancient civilizations moved and spread out from the Mediterranean, figs followed, moving into Europe, Asia, and all the way to North America with the first Spanish settlers.  Today, California is one of the largest global producers of figs.

Health Benefits of Figs

The common fig provides a good source of potassium which can help to control blood pressure.  Research has shown that substituting foods that increase the potassium levels can have a positive impact on medical conditions like hypertension.   Figs can also act as a good source of fiber.  A single medium size fig provides almost 6% of the recommended amount of fiber for a single day.  Because of their fiber content and calorie count, figs can be helpful in managing weight.  Other research has shown that when women increase the amount of fruit fiber in their diet, they may be able to reduce their risk of breast cancer by more than 30%.

The health benefits of figs extend beyond just the fruits themselves.  Fig leaves, which are seen throughout ancient art and architecture, are also edible and still feature significantly in the diets of other parts of the world.  These leaves are believed to be helpful in managing diabetes and may even decrease the amount of insulin needed to manage diabetes.

Additionally, figs are a good source of both potassium and calcium which may help combat problems with bone density.  The calcium they provide helps increase bone density while the potassium helps decrease the loss of calcium that occurs in those who eat a high-salt diet.  Decreasing this loss of calcium helps prevent bone thinning.

Using Figs

Figs come in several different varieties and range in color from blackish-purple to greenish-yellow.  They can be eaten raw or dried and make a great addition to many dishes.  You can add some to your morning oatmeal or yogurt or use them to sweet any salad.  Stuff them with goat cheese or cream cheese and the nut of your choice for a flavorful hors d’oeuvre.


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