Figs are the fruit of the ficus tree, which is part of the mulberry family (Moraceae). Figs have a unique, sweet taste, soft and chewy texture and are littered with slightly crunchy, edible seeds. Fresh figs are delicate and perishable, so are often dried to preserve.
One of the world’s oldest trees, the fig tree can be traced back to the earliest historical documents and features prominently in the Bible. Figs are native to the Middle East and Mediterranean and are now grown in many parts of the world including Australia. The season in Australia is a relatively short one – late summer to mid-Autumn – so enjoy them fresh while you can.
Health benefits of Figs
Figs contain a wealth of beneficial nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, calcium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, sodium, potassium and chlorine.
Naturally high in dietary fibre, figs can be a useful food to include in the diet for those watching their weight. High fibre foods provide feelings of fullness and can reduce hunger and cravings. Figs also contain prebiotics, which help support the pre-existing good bacteria in the gut, improving digestive wellness.
The American Diabetes Association recommends figs as a high fibre treat that helps promote functional control of diabetes. Fig leaves reduce the amount of insulin needed by diabetic patients who have to regularly take insulin injections. Figs are rich in Potassium, which helps to regulate the amount of sugar which is absorbed into the body after meals. Large amounts of potassium can ensure that blood sugar spikes and falls are much less frequent, so figs can help diabetics live a much more normal life.
Figs are rich in antioxidants such as polyphenols, flavonoids, and anthocyanins, which neutralize the free radicals which speed up the aging process and slows down aging.
Figs are a good fruit source of calcium, a mineral that is involved in bone density. Their high potassium content may counteract the urinary excretion of calcium caused by high salt diets. This in turn helps to keep calcium in bones and lessens the risk of osteoporosis.
The season in Australia is late summer to mid-Autumn.
When selecting figs, choose clean, dry fruit with unblemished skin. The colour of the skins is of little indication of ripeness, so give them a gentle squeeze – there should be a little “give”. Ripe figs are quite delicate, so handle with care!
Dried figs will keep for much longer. When purchasing dried figs, you want to ensure that they are free from mould and are soft. Dried figs can be kept in a cool, dark place or in the fridge.
It is possible to have too much of a good thing, and eating too many figs can cause diarrhoea. There are those who are allergic to figs, or certain chemical components within them, and the resulting allergic reactions can be mild to severe. As always, before making a major change in your behavioural patterns or lifestyle, speak with your doctor or usual medical professional.