Dried Figs and their Health Benefits

Dried figs, scientifically known as Ficus carica, belong to the mulberry family and possess a distinctive drop-like appearance. Among the oldest fruits cultivated by humans, figs are a staple in daily diets due to their rich calcium, iron, fiber, and mineral content. These unique fruits thrive in dry, sunny climates and are native to Asia Minor and the Mediterranean region. Available in fresh and dried forms, this article delves into the advantages of incorporating this ancient fruit into one’s diet.

Table of Contents

Dried Figs and their Health Benefits. 1

What Defines a Fig?. 1

Health Benefits of Dried Figs. 1

  1. Strengthening the Digestive System: 1
  2. Improving Cardiovascular Health: 2
  3. Blood Sugar Control: 2
  4. Anti-Cancer Properties: 2
  5. Improving Skin Health: 2

The Nutritional Value of Dried Figs. 2

How to Incorporate Dried Figs into Your Diet 2

  1. Grilled Figs: 3
  2. High-Heat Cooking: 3
  3. Breakfast Delights: 3
  4. Salad Booster: 3
  5. Baking Enhancer: 3
  6. Fig Puree: 3

What Defines a Fig?


Renowned for their honey-like flavor and delicate texture, figs are not classified as a fruit in botany. Instead, they are considered flowers, with some species relying on fig bees for pollination while others are self-pollinating. Over 750 distinct fig species exist, and the fruit itself is small, comparable in size to a thumb, filled with numerous tiny seeds, and features an edible green or purple skin enclosing pink, sweet-tasting flesh.

Figs ripen and become ready for consumption in late spring and early fall. The fall harvest yields more abundant and sweeter fruits with thicker skin than the first-turn crop. Figs are filled with calcium, contribute significantly to bone strength and contain potassium, which helps balance sodium levels, thereby aiding in the prevention of high blood pressure. Furthermore, the high fiber content in figs promotes the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria, playing a vital role in gastrointestinal health and providing a prolonged feeling of satiety.

Historically, figs have been employed as a laxative due to their fiber-rich composition. While their aroma is as delightful as their taste, the flavor of dried figs may vary depending on the specific type, yet all share a sweet and moist essence. The flesh of figs is jelly-like but not juicy, and the tiny seeds impart a pleasant crispness when consumed. Fresh figs offer a taste akin to honey or berries. However, the sweetness may range from honey-like to relatively mild depending on the variety, with some possessing a caramel undertone. To prevent spoilage and extend shelf life, fresh figs are often dried. It’s worth noting that while fresh figs are low in calories, Iranian dried figs are high in sugar and calories.

Health Benefits of Dried Figs

Figs offer numerous health benefits, particularly gastrointestinal health, cardiovascular well-being, and blood sugar control. Figs are packed with natural sugars, soluble fiber, essential minerals, and vitamins, making them valuable to any diet. Figs contain substantial amounts of potassium, iron, calcium, copper, and magnesium, as well as vitamins K and A, making them an abundant source of antioxidants.

1. Strengthening the Digestive System:

Thanks to their high fiber content, figs effectively treat constipation while acting as a plant probiotic, fostering beneficial intestinal bacteria. A study involving 150 individuals with irritable bowel syndrome demonstrated that those consuming four dried figs (approximately 45 grams) daily experienced significant reductions in symptoms such as pain, flatulence, and constipation compared to those who did not consume dried figs.

2. Improving Cardiovascular Health:

Figs have been shown to improve blood pressure and lipid levels, promoting vascular health and reducing the risk of heart disease. Studies conducted on mice have exhibited that fig extract consumption reduced blood pressure in mice with both standard and high blood pressure. However, more research is necessary to establish the relationship between fig consumption and human heart health.

3. Blood Sugar Control:

Research has revealed that beverages containing fig fruit extract possess a lower glycemic index than those without, suggesting that fig extract may have favorable effects on reducing or maintaining blood sugar levels. Caution is advised with dried figs, as their high sugar content may raise blood sugar levels when consumed excessively.

4. Anti-Cancer Properties:

Laboratory studies on natural fig leaves and latex have demonstrated anti-tumor activity against colon, breast, cervical, and liver cancer cells. However, it should be noted that consuming fig leaf tea will not yield these effects. Further research is necessary to evaluate the impact of fig leaf and fruit consumption on cancer cells in humans.

5. Improving Skin Health:

A study involving 45 children with dermatitis revealed that daily consumption of cream containing fig fruit extract had a more beneficial effect than hydrocortisone in treating the symptoms of this skin condition. Other laboratory studies have also indicated that a compound containing fig fruit extract possesses antioxidant effects on skin cells, reducing collagen breakdown and improving skin wrinkles. Additional research is required to establish the beneficial impact of figs on the skin.

The Nutritional Value of Dried Figs

Dried figs have lower water content than fresh figs, resulting in higher calorie, glycemic index, and nutrient levels. The table below illustrates a comparison of the nutritional value of one cup of dried figs with one cup of fresh figs (149 grams):

It’s essential to recognize that dried figs contain more vitamins and minerals than their fresh counterparts.

How to Incorporate Dried Figs into Your Diet

Dried figs present versatile options for enhancing the flavor of various dishes, including sweets, desserts, breakfast cereals, salads, and main courses. While figs possess a sweet taste on their own, there are many ways to boost their flavor to suit individual preferences:

1. Grilled Figs:

For a caramelized touch, grill figs, stuff them inside the chicken, and bake them in the oven. Adding nuts or cocktails alongside the figs creates a delightful appetizer.

2. High-Heat Cooking:

Cooking figs with intense heat enhances their juiciness and flavor, mainly when using raw figs.

3. Breakfast Delights:

Chop dried figs into small pieces and combine them with oats and yogurt or milk for a nutritious and flavorful breakfast. Moreover, dried figs pair excellently with cream cheese, and sprinkling chopped dried figs onto bread slathered with cheese creates a delectable breakfast or snack.

4. Salad Booster:

Create a scrumptious salad by mixing chopped figs with vegetables or arugula, blue cheese, chopped bacon, and nuts and dressing it with vinegar.

5. Baking Enhancer:

Add chopped dried figs to improve the taste and aroma of cakes and cookies. For a unique flavor, incorporate dried figs into a carrot cake.

6. Fig Puree:

Soak dried figs in warm water for 10-15 minutes, drain the excess water using a strainer, and blend the softened figs to create a puree. Adding a small amount of water may be necessary for a smoother consistency. Alternatively, soaking dried figs overnight makes them softer, juicier, and more flavorful.