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Fruit of the month: Figs

Fruit of the month: Figs

Figs are a dried fruit powerhouse serving up a unique combination of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that assist in well-being.

 

ORIGIN STORY

Figs are the edible fruits of Ficus Carcia, a small tree native to the Mediterranean region. Figs were first brought into horticulture practices in Southern Arabia, but quickly spread to other countries near the Mediterranean, including Greece, Iran, Egypt, and Morocco. Due to their geographical beginnings, figs are highly adapted to dry weather, droughts, and high temperatures. However, they cannot grow just anywhere; figs are unique in the sense that they require pollinating wasps, also known as Agaonidae, to grow. This is what biologists refer to as “obligate mutualism,” meaning both species cannot survive without each other.

In their countries of origin, figs have been worshipped for centuries. Many associated figs with abundance, fertility, and even saw them as a gift from the Gods. As they spread in popularity, figs became used in traditional medicine as well. In Omani traditional medicine, figs boiled in water was used to create a natural cough syrup. In Greek folk medicine, eating large amounts of figs was said to remove worms and parasites from the intestines. Thanks to their high fiber content, figs have also been widely used as a digestive aid for years. So, there you have it – not only are figs purely indulgent, but they are also a high-fiber, healthy snack that has been consumed for centuries.

 

NUTRIENTS & HEALTH BENEFITS OF FIGS

Figs have gained popularity in recent years as the Mediterranean Diet has become more mainstream. They naturally have no fat and are nutrient-dense, making them a great addition to your snacking routine. In fact, a serving of six dried figs contains 8% of your daily recommended amount of magnesium, 7% of your recommended potassium, and 6% of your recommended iron. Figs are also rich in phytochemical compounds (phenolic acids and flavonoids), and antioxidants that can help minimize damage in the body caused by free radicals, such as air pollution or environmental toxins.

Due to their high fiber content, figs are also a superhero for the GI tract. The indigestible fiber in figs helps to diversify the gut microbiome by feeding the good bacteria in your gut, which benefits the entire GI tract. And, thanks to the gut-brain axis, what is good for you gut is good for your brain! The powerful prebiotic impact figs have on the gut microbiome helps to nourish the body and mind.

 

HOW TO USE FIGS

Figs are an incredibly versatile food and can be used in a variety of recipes. They can be consumed fresh from the tree, but are more commonly found in their dried form. A delicious way to add figs into your diet is to cut them into quarters and add to your favorite trail mix – yum! Figs can also be turned into jams or spreads by cooking them down with sugar and spices, and then adding to a food processor; this is a great addition to toast in the morning.

You can also bake a variety of recipes with figs due to how well they retain moisture. They make a scrumptious addition to cakes, breads, and muffins -- this is a sneaky way to add more nutrients into your diet. Figs are also delicious when grilled with olive oil, another healthy snack that arose from the Mediterranean diet. Impress your friends this summer and grill up some figs for an appetizer – they are a real crowd pleaser.

If you want to try figs but are not sure where to start, try this recipe for a delicious sweet and salty fig snack.

 

RECIPE: ALMOND BUTTER FIGS

Ingredients:

  • 10 Dried Figs
  • ¼ cup nut butter of choice (we prefer almond butter)
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ cup chopped almonds

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
  2. Slice each fig in half and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  3. In a bowl, stir together the nut butter and sea salt.
  4. Spread a small amount of the nut butter mixture onto each halved fig.
  5. Chop your almonds and sprinkle them on top of the figs. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes.
  6. Let cool and enjoy! These are best served warm, or at room temperature.

 

REFERENCES:

  • medicalmedium.com, Medical Medium at. “Figs: Brain & Gut Food.” Medical Medium - Home, https://www.medicalmedium.com/blog/figs-brain-and-gut-food.
  • Snyder, Robin R. “Brain Healthy Foods: How Dried Figs Are Good for Your Brain.” Valley Fig Growers, 6 Mar. 2023, https://valleyfig.com/blog/dried-fig-benefits/brain-healthy-foods-figs/.
  • Stover, Ed, et al. “The Fig: Overview of an Ancient Fruit.” Hortsci, American Society for Horticultural Science, 1 Aug. 2007, https://journals.ashs.org/hortsci/view/journals/hortsci/42/5/article-p1083.xml.
  • “The Fig: Overview of an Ancient Fruit.” Fig - American Botanical Council, https://www.herbalgram.org/resources/herbalgram/issues/127/table-of-contents/hg127-herbprofile-fig/.
  • Somphanith, Souri. “Trapped in a Fig: The Perils and Payoffs of Pollination.” EveryONE, 18 May 2020, https://everyone.plos.org/2013/10/17/trapped-in-a-fig-the-perils-and-payoffs-of-pollination/.