Figs are amongst the oldest fruits consumed by humans. Some scholars even believe that the forbidden fruit plucked by Eve was a fig and not an apple. Intriguing, right? Did you know that the fig was Cleopatra’s favorite fruit? Wondering what’s so special about it, aren’t you? Where shall I begin? The story of figs and its endless benefits. We have managed to put together most of the benefits of figs here. Have a look.
What Are Figs (अन्जिर) ?
Figs are fruits that grow on the Ficus tree, a member of the Mulberry family or Moraceae. They belong to the genus Ficus, and their scientific name is Ficus carica.
Figs are known by various names in local languages. They are called ‘Anjeer‘ in Hindi, ‘Athi Pallu‘ in Telugu, ‘Atti Pazham‘ in Tamil and Malayalam, ‘Anjura‘ in Kannada, and ‘Dumoor‘ in Bengali.
The fig tree is deciduous and can grow to a height of 7-10 meters. It has a smooth white bark. The fig trees grow wild in dry and sunny areas that have fresh and deep soil. They also tend to grow in rocky areas and can sustain even in less fertile soil.
The fig trees can live up to 100 years and have long and twisty branches that can surpass the height of the tree.
Figs are native to the Middle East and Western Asia and are now cultivated throughout the world. Fig trees have been naturalized in various locations of Asia and North America.
The figs are a culmination of many single seeded fruits and grow to a size of 3-5 centimeters. They are green while growing and turn either purple or brown once they ripen.
Botanically, the fig cannot be called a fruit. It is a syconium, which means a part of the stem extends into a sac, with the flowers growing internally.
Figs have a unique taste and texture. They are sweet and chewy. The smoothness of the fruit and the crunchiness of its seeds make a beautiful combination to eat. Dried figs are available throughout the year whereas fresh figs are available from June to September.
Figs are oval or pear-shaped and come in white, green, red, yellow, purple, and black colors. You can eat them raw and fresh, dried, or incorporate them in various recipes (a few of which are mentioned in this article).
Figs are considered exotic in many parts of the world. They are sweet and juicy after ripening, and their flavor depends on their color.
A simple fruit but so much to know and learn about it. Isn’t it? Let’s make it more interesting by going back in time and finding out the origin and history of figs.
History Of Figs
The name ‘fig’ originates from a Latin word called ‘ficus’ and an older Hebrew name called ‘feg.’ Figs are known to be the first fruits to be harvested and cultivated. They were native to India and Turkey and came to America in the 1500s.
Neolithic excavations of fig remnants were discovered that dated back to 5000 B.C. They are even mentioned in the Bible as a sign of peace and prosperity.
Figs were widely cultivated in the Middle East and Europe and reached China in the mid-1500s. The world renowned fig orchards in California were planted by Spanish missionaries in the late 19th century.
Figs were used as sweeteners by the Assyrians in 3000 B.C. The fig plant is known to be the first plant to be cultivated by humans.
Aristotle described fig cultivation in Greece in his works. Figs were also a common source of food for the Romans. The Greeks and Romans spread the fruit in the Mediterranean region.
Those were some interesting tidbits of fig history, my friend. Now, let’s get to learn about the wide variety of figs.
Types Of Figs
There are five common varieties of figs. Each type differs subtly in flavor and sweetness. They are:
1.Black Mission – Black Mission figs are blackish-purple outside and pink inside. They are incredibly sweet and even ooze out the syrup. They are perfect to eat as a dessert or mix in cake or cookie recipes to increase the flavor.
2.Kadota – Kadotas are green with purple flesh. They are the least sweet among all the varieties of figs. They are excellent to eat raw and also taste good if heated with a pinch of salt.
3.Calimyrna – Calimyrna figs are greenish-yellow on the outside and amber on the inside. They are larger when compared to another type of figs and have a unique and strong nut flavor.
4.Brown Turkey – The Brown Turkey figs have purple skin and red flesh. Their flavor is mild and less sweet than the other type of figs. They work well in salads.
5. Adriatic – Adriatic figs have light green skin and are pink on the inside. These figs are often used to make fig bars. They are also called white figs as they are very light colored. They are extremely sweet and can be enjoyed as a simple fruit dessert.
We have learned quite a bit about figs. It’s time to find out why they are good for us. Gear up! Here we go.
Are Figs Good For You?
Figs are perfect for you. They are rich in fiber and many essential minerals such as magnesium, manganese, calcium, copper, potassium, and vitamins K and B6. So much good in one fruit!
Let me tell you something more amazing. The nutritional value of dried figs is more than that of fresh figs. A single dried fig is as good as eating an egg. Figs, whether fresh or dried, are rich in powerful antioxidants.
Figs form a major component of traditional medicine, and they are used dried, in the paste form, or grounded to counter various diseases and problems.
Let’s figure out the nutritional content of figs now. Okay?
The Nutrition Facts Of Figs
Figs are a powerhouse of various essential nutrients. They are rich in phytonutrients, antioxidants, and vitamins. Dried figs are highly concentrated in minerals and vitamins.
Figs are a rich source of natural sugars and soluble fiber. The nutrition chart below tells you all you need to know about figs.
The Health Benefits Of Figs
1. Enhance Digestive Health
Figs relieve constipation and improve the overall digestive health. Soak 2-3 figs in water overnight and consume them with honey the next morning, and you can bid goodbye to your constipation woes.
Fiber is great for digestion, and figs are loaded with dietary fiber, which aids healthy bowel movement and relieves constipation .It adds bulk to the stools and promotes their smooth passage through the body. The fiber in figs also treats diarrhea and soothes the entire digestive system.
A high fiber diet is what you need to set your digestive system right, and figs are a must-have as they make you feel full and stop you from overeating .
2. Improve Heart Health
Figs reduce the triglyceride levels in your blood and contribute to improving your heart health .
Triglycerides are fat particles in the blood that are a leading cause of heart diseases. Also, the antioxidants in figs get rid of the free radicals in the body, which block the coronary arteries and cause coronary heart disease .
Figs also contain phenols and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that decrease the risk of heart disease.
3. Lower Cholesterol
Figs contain pectin, a soluble fiber that is known to reduce cholesterol levels .
The fiber in figs clears the excess cholesterol in your digestive system and carries it to the bowels to eliminate it.
Figs also contain vitamin B6 that is responsible for producing serotonin. This serotonin boosts your mood and lowers cholesterol.
Dry figs reduce the overall cholesterol as they contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and phytosterols that decrease the natural cholesterol synthesis in the body.
4. Prevent Colon Cancer
Regular consumption of figs can lower the risk of colon cancer . The fiber in figs helps to eliminate the waste in the body quickly, which works well for the prevention of colon cancer.
The numerous seeds in figs contain high levels of mucin that collects wastes and mucus in the colon and flushes them out.
5. Cure Anemia
Lack of iron in the body can cause iron-deficiency anemia. Dried figs contain iron, which is a key component of hemoglobin. Consuming dried figs was found to improve the hemoglobin levels in the blood .
Growing children, adolescents, and menstruating and pregnant women specifically should monitor their iron levels to avoid complications. Also, if you are ill or have undergone surgery, include figs in your diet to increase the iron levels in your body and deal with the problem efficiently .
6. Lower Sugar Levels In Diabetic Patients
Not just the fruit, but the leaves also have benefits for your health. Fig leaves have amazing properties that help regulate your blood glucose levels. According to a study, including fig leaves in the diet helped control the rise in blood sugar post a meal in insulin-dependent diabetics .
You can consume fig leaves in the form of tea. You can boil 4-5 fig leaves in filtered water and drink this as tea. You can also dry fig leaves and grind them to obtain a powder. Add two tablespoons of this powder to a liter of water and boil it. Voila! Your tea is ready!
7. Prevent Breast Cancer
Figs are amongst those fruits that contain the highest amount of fiber. And it was found that women who consumed more dietary fiber during adolescence and early adulthood were at a lesser risk of falling prey to breast cancer .
High intake of fiber was associated with 16% lower risk of overall breast cancer and 24% lower risk of breast cancer before the onset of menopause .
Fig extracts and dried figs are known to contain elements that help in preventing postmenopausal breast cancer.
8. Strengthen Bones
Figs contain calcium, potassium, and magnesium, all of which aid bone health . Figs improve bone density and decrease the breakdown of bones, which begins as you age. Calcium is crucial to maintaining healthy bones and figs are one of the best sources of it .
Figs contain potassium that counteracts the increased urinary calcium loss caused by high-salt diets . This prevents your bones from thinning out.
9. Rich In Antioxidants
Figs are a powerhouse of antioxidants, and they neutralize the free radicals in your body and fight diseases. The riper a fig is, the more antioxidants it contains.
Figs are a rich source of phenolic antioxidants. The antioxidants in figs enrich the lipoproteins in plasma and shield them from further oxidation .
10. Regulate High Blood Pressure
Studies show that including figs in your daily diet helps to lower blood pressure . The fiber in figs lowers the risk of high blood pressure whereas the potassium content of figs helps maintain it .
Apart from potassium, the omega-3s and omega-6s in figs also help in maintaining blood pressure .
11. Prevent Hypertension
When you consume less of potassium and more of sodium, it disturbs the sodium-potassium balance in your body, paving the way for hypertension . Figs help restore this balance as they are rich in potassium.
12. Increase Sexual Stamina
Figs are considered to be a great fertility and sexual supplement. They are rich in calcium, iron, potassium, and zinc. They are also rich in magnesium, the mineral that is required to produce the sex hormones androgen and estrogen .
Figs help with various types of sexual dysfunction like sterility, erectile dysfunction, and sexual appetite. There is no strong science backup, but in many cultures, figs are considered as symbols of fertility. They also produce an amino acid that is responsible for increasing the production of nitric oxide, which expands the blood vessels and increases blood flow to all parts of the body, including the sexual organs.
Soak figs in milk overnight and eat them the next day to enhance your sexual abilities.
13. Treat Asthma
An efficient method to deal with bronchial asthma is to consume a mixture of powdered fenugreek seeds, honey, and figs. You can also consume fig juice to obtain relief from asthma.
Figs moisturize the mucous membrane and drain the phlegm, thereby relieving asthma symptoms. They also contain phytochemical compounds that fight the free radicals, which otherwise trigger asthma.
14. Prevent Venereal Disease
The consumption or application of fig extracts is known to provide relief from sexually transmitted diseases in many cultures. Figs are known to have been used as a calming balm for venereal diseases.
15. Reduce Throat Pain
Figs contain high mucilage that heals and protects against sore throat. These fruits are soothing to the throat, and their natural juices relieve pain and stress in the vocal chords.
Also, figs are a natural cure for tonsillitis. They help in reducing the swelling and irritation caused due to the condition. Make a paste of the figs with warm water and apply it on your throat. It will reduce pain and soothe your throat.
16. Prevent Macular Degeneration
Figs can help prevent macular degeneration, which is a leading cause of vision loss in older people.
Figs enhance your vision and prevent macular degeneration as they contain a high amount of vitamin A . Vitamin A is an antioxidant that improves eye health. It protects the eyes from free radicals and prevents retinal damage .
17. Improve Liver Health
Figs clear obstructions in the liver, thereby enhancing its health. A study showed that an extract prepared from fig leaves exhibited hepatoprotective activity in mice, paving the way for its use in preventing hepatic damage in humans .
18. Effective Natural Laxative
Figs, due to their high fiber content, act as a natural laxative. They make your stool softer, enabling easy digestion . Figs make for great ingredients in laxative syrups.
19. Treat Piles
Dry figs are the best to treat piles. They soften the stools, reducing the pressure on the rectum. Consume them twice a day by soaking three to four figs in water. You can also drink the water in which they are soaked. The seeds in the figs are the active agents that fight the piles .
Soak the figs in a glass of water for about 12 hours before consuming them. Eat them once in the morning and then in the night. It works best when you begin your day by eating figs and end it with the same.
20. Prevent Coronary Heart Disease
The antioxidants in figs, as well as their blood pressure lowering properties, eliminate the free radicals in the body, which otherwise block the coronary arteries, leading to coronary heart disease .
Also, the presence of potassium, omega-3s, and omega-6s in figs help in preventing heart attacks .
21. A Good Source Of Energy
Adding figs to your diet is a sure shot way to increase your energy levels. The carbohydrates and sugar present in figs increase the percentage of energy in your body .
22. Keep Insomnia At Bay
A balanced diet is essential for good sleep. Including figs in your diet enhances the quality of your sleep. They contain the amino acid tryptophan that helps your body create melatonin, which induces sleep .
Figs also contain omega-3 fatty acids that help you to sleep better. The tryptophan present in figs helps in synthesizing vitamin B3 in your body, which keeps insomnia at bay . Lack of vitamin B3 in your body makes you unstable and restless, which can spoil your sleep.
Figs are a rich source of magnesium. Lack of magnesium in the body causes stress and irritability, which lead to insomnia .
23. Boost The Immune System
Figs kill bacteria, viruses, and roundworms in your body, which can otherwise cause health issues. They contain nutrients like potassium and manganese that, along with the antioxidants, boost your immune system.
Benefits of Figs For Skin
24. Prevent Wrinkles
A study found that fig extract had an antioxidative and anti collagenase effect on wrinkled skin and reduced the percentage of wrinkle depth .
In another study, it was found that a formulation containing fig fruit extract decreased skin melanin, trans-epidermal water loss, and skin sebum significantly. It also increased skin hydration. Hence, figs could be used as a remedy for hyper pigmentation, acne, freckles, and wrinkles .
25. Rejuvenate Your Skin
Figs are great for your skin. Whether you eat them or apply them as a mask, they make your skin beautiful. Here’s a recipe for a mask.
Take one large fig or two small figs. Cut the fig in half and scoop out its flesh and mash it thoroughly. Add a teaspoon of honey or yogurt to it if you want to enhance the texture of your skin.
Apply the mask on your face and keep it on for 5 minutes. Wash it off with water and say hello to refreshed skin.
26. Cure Boils And Warts
You can apply a fig directly on the skin to bring down various forms of skin inflammation like boils and abscess. A study found that the latex of the fig tree exhibited antiwart activity. This could be due to the proteolytic activity of the latex enzymes .
27. Make Your Skin Soft And Supple
Figs contain a high amount of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that helps to lighten and even out the skin tone. Blend five figs to get a smooth paste. Add a teaspoon each of powdered oatmeal and milk and half a teaspoon of dried ginger powder to it. Mix well to form a smooth paste. Use this face pack twice a week to get soft and smooth skin.
Benefits of Figs For Hair
28. Condition Hair
Figs are very popular in the hair care industry as their extracts are used to create amazing hair conditioners. These extracts provide moisture to the scalp and help in the detangling of hair. They moisturize the hair without making it heavy or weighed down.
29. Promote Hair Growth
Hair loss usually occurs due to lack of proper nourishment. Figs contain hair-friendly nutrients like magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin E which promote hair growth. The essential nutrients present in this fruit stimulate blood circulation in the scalp to accelerate hair growth.
So, those were the benefits of figs.
Inputs from online health journals