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The Health Benefits of Figs

Overview

Figs have been popular around the world for centuries. They are both tasty and nutritious. In fact, recent studies have shown that they may be helpful in treating a range of medical concerns, from diabetes to eczema.

Consider adding figs to your shopping list. Here are some of the benefits that this fruit might provide you.

Nutritional benefits of figs

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Well-loved for their sweet, mild flavor and multiple uses, figs are low in calories and have no fat. One large, raw fig has just 47 calories. If you’re looking to shed pounds, figs are a great replacement for unhealthy snacks (in moderation).

Both raw and dried figs are good for you.

One ounce of dried figs has 3 grams of fiber. Fiber may help alleviate constipation and keep you feeling full longer. It may also help lower cholesterol and control blood sugar levels.

Figs are a good source of calcium, which can ward off osteoporosis as well as other health issues. You won't find a better plant source of calcium than figs.

If you’re hoping to add more antioxidants to your diet, you can’t go wrong with figs. According to a 2005 study, dried figs “have superior quality antioxidants.” Antioxidants are thought to reduce cell-damaging free radicals in the body. Nutrition experts recommend upping your antioxidant intake by eating more fruits and vegetables like figs.

Figs are one of the richest plant sources of a variety of vitamins and minerals, including:

  • vitamin A
  • vitamin C
  • vitamin K
  • B vitamins
  • potassium
  • magnesium
  • zinc
  • copper
  • manganese
  • iron

That alone is a great reason to consider slicing up a few as part of a salad or adding them to a savory chutney with dinner.

Figs and diabetes

It’s not just the fruits of this shrub that are healthy. Some evidence also suggests that the leaves of the fig shrub can help regulate diabetes symptoms. A 2016 study in rats showed that ficusin, an extract from fig leaves, improves insulin sensitivity and has other antidiabetic properties. And a 2003 animal study showed that fig extract can contribute to diabetes treatment by normalizing blood fatty acid and vitamin E levels. Speak with your doctor to see if figs might be a good addition to your overall diabetes management program. Keep in mind that they aren’t a substitute for healthy eating, medications, or blood testing.

Figs benefits for skin

In some folk medicine traditions, figs are used to treat a variety of skin issues, such as eczema, vitiligo, and psoriasis. There haven't been any conclusive, scientific studies, but anecdotal evidence and preliminary research show promise.

Fig tree latex may remove warts, according to a 2007 comparative study. For the study, 25 people applied fig tree latex to common warts on one side of their body. Warts on the opposite side were frozen (cryotherapy). Fig tree latex was just marginally less effective than cryotherapy and caused no side effects.

Raw figs may be used to create a nourishing, antioxidant-rich face mask. Simply mash the figs and apply to your face in a circular motion. Add 1 tablespoon of yogurt for additional moisturizing benefits. Leave the mask on for 10 to 15 minutes, and rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water. Don’t use figs on your skin if you’re allergic to latex! Mashed figs are also a popular home remedy for acne, but there’s no scientific evidence that they work.

Figs are a good source of many enriching vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals. Improving your overall health often balances your skin and helps with your circulation. If you feel like your skin is better when you eat more figs, enjoy! Your body will thank you, and your skin might, too.

Figs benefits for hair

Figs are a popular ingredient in many shampoos, conditioners, and hair masques. The fruit is believed to strengthen and moisturize hair, and promote hair growth. Scientific research on the benefits of figs for hair is lacking, but there’s some evidence that some of the vitamins and minerals may help keep your hair healthy.

One study looked at the role of zinc and copper in hair loss. A deficiency in either mineral is believed to contribute to hair loss. Zinc is thought to speed up hair follicle recovery. Study results confirmed that hair loss may be linked to zinc deficiency, but not copper. 

A later study reviewed the nutrition of women with hair loss during menopause. The study indicates that several nutrients found in figs help keep hair healthy. They include:

  • zinc
  • copper
  • selenium
  • magnesium
  • calcium
  • B vitamins
  • vitamin C

Side effects of figs

Fig allergies and negative drug interactions are uncommon, so most people can add a moderate number of them to their diet without worry. Even so, there are a few potential side effects you should be aware of.

According to a 2010 study, people allergic to rubber latex or birch pollen may also be allergic to figs. Figs are part of the mulberry (Moraceae) family. If you’re allergic to other fruits in the mulberry family such as jackfruit, Osage orange, and sugar apple, you may also be allergic to figs.

Vitamin K is a natural blood thickener. Dried and raw figs are high in vitamin K. If you take blood-thinning medications such as warfarin (Coumadin), it’s important to keep your vitamin K intake consistent from day to day. Plan when you will eat figs so as not go over your usual daily intake of vitamin K.

Figs may have a laxative effect in some people. This can help treat constipation, but eating too many figs may cause loose stools or diarrhea. If you find yourself running to the bathroom after eating figs, cut back on your intake.

Recipes

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Harness the health benefits of figs in these other healthy recipes:

  • Balsamic fig jam: This jam is sweetened with honey. Try it on poultry or your morning toast. Get the recipe.
  • Roasted fig walnut parfait: Parfaits make a great breakfast or afternoon snack. This one is made by layering roasted figs, walnuts, and yogurt. Get the recipe.
  • Fig cranberry sauce: Add nutrition and zest to traditional cranberry sauce with figs, bourbon, apple cider vinegar, and spices. Get the recipe.
  • Fig almond energy bites: This recipe combines figs, Medjool dates, almond butter, flaxseed, and oatmeal to create a healthy, energizing snack. Get the recipe.

Bottom line

By eating figs, you’ll enjoy a number of health benefits. Consider buying some fresh or dried figs this week. Eat them plain or try some of the above recipes. 

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