Updated: Jan 28
The common fig as we know it is the name of the fruit (technically it is actually a flower) obtained from the ficus carica tree commonly found growing in the Middle East and Mediterranean. While most of us had our first encounter with a fig as a child in the form of a fig roll - also known as a Fig Newton across the pond - the biscuit version provides us with substantially less nutritional qualities than a simple fig by itself. In fact, the fig is a great source of fibre and antioxidants.
Want to stay up to date with out latest articles and recipes?
The edible fig is believed to be one of the first cultivated crops, predating wheat, barley and rye. Fossils of a type of fig were found in an early Neolithic village and have been dated to around 9400-9200BCE (1) and their cultivation was widespread through Ancient Greece and Rome (2). Figs are frequently mentioned in The Bible and many scholars believe the “forbidden fruit” in the story of Adam and Eve was actually a fig and not an apple. Don’t worry though, eating figs will not get you kicked out of the garden of Eden!
Antioxidants play a vital role in the body by neutralising free radicals before they cause oxidative damage to our cells. While free radicals are produced naturally by the body, chronic stress increases the amount of free radicals circulating and many modern, chronic diseases have been attributed to free radical damage (3). Figs contain a good amount of antioxidants in the form of polyphenols, and dried figs have been shown to contain a higher phenolic content (4).
Soothing irritated tissue
Demulcents lubricate and protect irritated and inflamed mucous membranes. During a cold or chesty cough this is useful to sooth irritated bronchial passages (5).
A study published in 2015 concludes that pomegranate, figs and date palms grown in the Oman province show promising therapeutic potential to protect against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. This is mainly due to their high content of antioxidants, though further investigation is required (6).
Antibacterial and Anti-fungal
Figs may contain natural antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. A methanol extract from figs were shown to provide strong antibacterial activity against oral bacteria (7). In fact, figs have been used for their illness fighting benefits for a long time and have been used in traditional medicine to fight anemia, cancer, diabetes, leprosy, liver diseases, paralysis, skin diseases, and ulcers (8).
Dried figs contain a higher concentration of phenols, minerals and vitamins, though they have a much higher sugar and calorie content.
Vitamin K - 19% RDV
Vitamin K plays an important role in blood clotting and protein synthesis. It may contribute to dental, heart, kidney and brain health (9).
Figs also contain small amounts of B vitamins, vitamin C and E.
Manganese - 26% RDV
Manganese is essential to life. It is vital for the normal growth, development and function of our bodies (10). It also forms part of the principal antioxidant enzyme in the body - manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) - though high levels of manganese may lead to toxicity (11) (12).
Potassium - 19% RDV
Potassium is a key electrolyte responsible for maintaining fluid balance inside and outside cells (13). Often, if you experience muscle cramps it could be due to an imbalance of sodium, calcium and potassium so figs may be helpful post-workout to replenish fluids and reduce the risk of muscle cramps (14).
Magnesium - 17% RDV
Magnesium is an important mineral required for energy synthesis, glycolysis, bone structure and is also a cofactor in more than 300 enzymes (15).
Calcium - 16% RDV
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and while it is mainly obtained through the diet, those following a non-dairy diet may be deficient in this important mineral. Calcium is required for vascular contraction and vasodilation, muscle function, nerve transmission, intracellular signaling and hormonal secretion so those following a dairy free diet should eat a diet high in other sources of calcium (16).
Nutritional Content (per 100g Dried figs) (source)
Calories - 249Kcal
Total Carbohydrates - 63.9g
Dietary Fibre - 9.8g
Sugars - 47.9g
Total Fat - 0.9g
Saturated Fat - 0.1g
Monounsaturated Fat - 0.2g
Polyunsaturated Fat - 0.3g
Protein - 3.3g
Vitamin K - 19%
Vitamin B1 - 6%
Vitamin B2 - 5%
Vitamin B5 - 4%
Vitamin B3 - 3%
Vitamin C - 2%
Vitamin E - 2%
Manganese - 26%
Potassium - 19%
Magnesium - 17%
Calcium - 16%
Copper - 14%
Iron - 11%
Figs contain many vitamins and minerals and are a potent source of antioxidants. Dried figs reduce oxidative stress and have a strong mineral profile but the high sugar content may only significantly improve health benefits if they are consumed before or after intense workouts. Fresh figs should be consumed seasonally which is problematic if you do not live somewhere where they are locally grown. If you are lucky enough to live in a Mediterranean country or in the Middle East then enjoy freshly picked figs when the opportunity arises. If not, stick to dried figs post-workout!
Related Post: What Should We Be Eating?
Related Post: Food Awareness: Think Before You Eat
Related Post: Evolved Food: Pumpkin
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
John Maitland is the co-founder of 'The Evolved Way.’ A personal trainer with over 10 years’ experience, he has worked alongside a wide range of leading CEOs, entrepreneurs and medical professionals. John is a keen athlete and holds a black belt in Shaolin Kung fu. A fan of the great outdoors, he can often be found exploring the British countryside and mountains...or breaking pine boards with his fingers.
Co-founder of 'The Evolved Way', and experienced personal trainer, Samson practices what he preaches. His own healthy lifestyle, which informs this site, is based on understanding the right way to eat and exercise, not excluding of course going out and enjoying life knowing you can still feel and look good.