Figs are fruits known for their tantalizing taste and unique aftertaste. A powerhouse of nutrients, this miracle fruit is associated with a diverse range of health benefits.
Figs are a fruit that belong to the species of flowering plants associated with the mulberry family. The fig tree is known to be amongst the oldest cultivated plant. Figs are relished for their unique sweet and tangy taste. Aside from being a truly delicious fruit, figs are also consumed for their diverse range of health benefits. Figs are an excellent source of minerals, vitamins and dietary fiber. They are used in various home remedies and treatments.
The best variety of figs is found in Mediterranean and Middle East region. The rock fig also referred to as ‘mountain fig’ which is a wild variety of fig adapts to extremely cold climates. Figs can be eaten fresh or dried. The Turkish variety of dried figs come with an expensive price tag, however, the mesmerizing sweetness and succulent aftertaste of Turkish figs makes it totally worth the price.
The Importance of Figs in Religion and Mythology
Edible fig consumption dates back to the Neolithic period in 9400-9200 BC. In ancient Greece the cultivation of figs was widespread. Figs are of significant importance in religion and mythology. The Book of Deuteronomy in the Bible mentions fig being one of the Seven Species explaining the fertility associated with the region of Canaan. Furthermore the quote from 1 Kings 4:25 in the Bible that reads “each man under his own vine and fig tree” is in significance with peace and prosperity.
According to Buddhist beliefs, Buddha is known to have attained the state of enlightenment beneath the bodhi tree, a large sacred fig tree. The fig has several references of fig fruit in the Qur’an. Sahih al-Bukhari mentions Muhammad stating “If I had to mention a fruit that descended from paradise, I would say this is it because the paradisiacal fruits do not have pits...eat from these fruits for they prevent hemorrhoids, prevent piles and help gout." In Ancient Greek mythology, Greek goddesses were believed to wear necklaces made with dried figs, depicting the transformation of girl to woman. In Ancient Rome figs were associated with sexual pleasure, sexual desire and femininity, thereby making it an aphrodisiac food in later periods.
Figs have a combination of complex nutrients such as potassium, phosphorous, sodium, manganese, iron, calcium, vitamin A vitamin B1 and Vitamin B2. Figs have been used since ancient times as a remedy to evoke sexual desire, treat piles, hemorrhoids, constipation, asthma, bronchitis, cough and indigestion. The lines below present a detailed account of health benefits associated with Figs.
Figs for Nutrition and Good Health
Figs are a nutritional powerhouse. Polyphenols that include syringic acid, gallic acid and chlorogenic acid are present in figs. The diverse phytochemicals present in figs play a vital role in protective health benefits. Research reveals the mechanism and action of phytochemicals plays a key role in prevention of diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases. Also, consumption of phytochemical rich foods minimizes the risk of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. A 100 gram serving of raw figs (fresh) provides 74 calories whereas a 100 gram serving of dried figs has 229 calories. Figs are an excellent source of dietary fiber that promotes proper movement of material (Bowel movements) in the digestive system thereby increasing stool bulk.
Health Benefits of Figs
1. Aids in Weight Loss
Figs are an excellent source of soluble fiber. This means when you eat a 100 g serving of figs you remain full for a longer time which in turn helps with your weight loss diet. However, figs have a high calorie count, and so if they are had with dairy products, milk in particular, the diet plan leans towards weight gain diets.
2. Provides Relief from Constipation
Including figs in your diet regularly provides relief from constipation. Figs are a healthy source of fiber which promotes good bowel movement. Eating figs regularly ensure your bowels operate in the correct manner. A large fresh fig (2.5 inch diameter) provides approximately 1.9 grams of fiber, whereas a small fresh fig (1.5 inch diameter) gives 1.2 grams fiber. Eating 2-3 figs on a regular basis lessens symptoms of constipation.
3. Prevents Cancer
Figs have been used in various from of treatments since ancient times. Research reveals regular consumption of figs minimizes the risk of cancer. The presence of bioactive compounds present in fig leaves prevents the spread of harmful free radicals that can cause different types of cancer. Figs are an excellent source of antioxidants. Polyphenols found in figs boost health and immunity naturally.
4. Helps Individuals Diabetic conditions
Individuals with diabetes should include figs in consultation with their doctor or dietician. Figs are loaded with fiber that is essential for healthy functioning of body thereby minimizing the development of diabetes. Furthermore, consuming fig leaves helps lower amount of insulin required naturally, this ensures diabetics have to administer small doses of insulin, thereby saving on money insulin doses which are rather costly. Also, the presence of potassium in figs helps regulate sugar amounts absorbed by body after food.
5. Used In Treating Sexual Dysfunction
Since ancient times figs have been used as a natural supplement for sexual desire. In many cultures, individuals suffering from sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction, lack of sexual desire, or fertility are treated with a fig diet that includes leaves of fig. While fig being a natural aphrodisiac is debated, it’s the complex mix of minerals and vitamins present in figs that are known to give energy and boost stamina during sexual intercourse. Figs can be eaten fresh or dried. You can soak 2-3 figs in a glass of milk and have the soaked figs in the morning when you wake up to give sexual activity a boost.
6. Slows down the process of Aging
Regular consumption of figs gives skin a youthful look. Fig extracts and fig leaf extracts are used in several anti-wrinkle creams and skin creams because of their anti-collagenase and antioxidant activity. Regular consumption of figs also reduces the risk of acne conditions. When you include figs in your diet skin gradually gets firmer and prevents sagging and loose skin that leads to visible signs of wrinkles.
7. Promotes Good Cardiovascular Health
Eating figs regularly ensures good cardiovascular health. Figs provide an excellent amount of carotenoids, beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene in particular that provide a diverse range of benefits for the heart. The presence of fatty acids such as Omega-6, Omega 3 and phenol in dried figs minimize the risk of heart disease. Consuming 2-3 figs daily improves your heart defense system by immunizing Bad cholesterol (LDL) against harmful free radicals. Furthermore, figs are a rich source of potassium that contributes towards healthy blood pressure levels. Fig consumption also enhances functioning of the inner layer of the artery wall protecting against endothelial dysfunction.
8. Excellent for People suffering from Hypertension
Figs are the perfect food for individuals suffering from hypertension. Individuals suffering from hypertension show high levels of sodium, attributed through the intake of excess salt in food. Figs have low content of sodium and are a high source of potassium making them a perfect snack for hypertension patients. Furthermore, fig consumption boosts energy and revitalizes the body and mind thereby helping calming nerves.
9. Used to Treat Asthma and Bronchitis Conditions
The chemicals present in fig leaves help relieve bronchitis conditions. Decoction made with fig leaves and jaggery is given to persons suffering from respiratory illnesses such asthma and bronchitis. Fig leaf herbal teas are popular globally for their benefits associated with the respiratory tract. The chemical compounds present in fig leaves provide relief to the respiratory tract for persons suffering from asthma or bronchitis.
10. Minimizes the Risk of Obesity
Regular consumption of figs along with jamun and black raisins are known to lower levels of triglyceride in the body. Although a specific amount of triglycerides are essential for proper functioning of body and overall health, an excess of triglycerides increases the risk of obesity significantly. A diet that includes fig leaves helps minimize health risks associated with obesity.
11. Excellent for Bones
Regular consumption of figs improves bone health. Figs are an excellent source of calcium that plays a vital role in bone and teeth health. Furthermore the presence of phosphorous in figs helps with proper contraction of muscles and proper nerve function aside from promoting bone formation and healing bone tissue. Regular consumption of figs minimizes the risk of osteoporosis greatly.
12. Provides Relief from Sore Throat
Figs are used as a home remedy for sore throat. Figs have properties that soothe the throat. The high levels of alkaline in figs help maintain healthy pH balance. Also, individuals suffering from whooping cough can drink fig leaf tea for relief.
13. Promotes Good Eye Health
Regular consumption of figs ensures healthy eyes and vision. The presence of carotenoids in figs plays an important role in minimizing the risk of AMRD (Age related Macular Degeneration). The composition of minerals and vitamins in figs promote healthy eye health and vision.
Nutritional Value of Figs Raw (Per 100 grams)
Energy- 310 kJ (74 kcal)
Protein- 0.75 g
Carbohydrates- 19.18 g
(Nutritional Value source: USDA Nutrition Database)
Culinary Uses of Figs
Fresh figs and dried figs are popular globally.
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