By: Pallavi Vathiar. Practicing Clinical Nutritionist, Mumbai.
This Modak-like looking little fruit which is also popularly known as ‘FIG’ is packed with immense nutrients to keep our overall health strong and robust inside out.
People have used figs to help treat health conditions related to the endocrine, reproductive, and respiratory systems, as well as the digestive tract. Fresh figs contain some calories from natural sugar, but having a few figs is a reasonable, low-calorie snack or addition to a meal. On the other hand, dried figs are high in sugar and rich in calories, as the sugar becomes concentrated when the fruits are dried (1). They’re particularly rich in copper and vitamin B6 (2).
Due to the fruit’s laxative properties, people commonly use fig syrup to help treat constipation. Figs have long been used as a home remedy or an alternative treatment for digestive problems like constipation (3).
A study in 150 people with irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) found that those who consumed about 4 dried figs (45 grams) twice daily experienced a significant reduction in symptoms — including pain, bloating, and constipation — compared with a control group (4). Another study in 80 people found that supplementing with about 10 ounces (300 grams) of fig fruit paste daily for 8 weeks significantly decreased constipation, compared with a control group (5).
A study compared the effects of figs and fiber supplements in people with functional constipation. Figs improved the majority of constipation symptoms, including (6):
- Bowel movement time
- Number of bowel movements
- Stomach pain and discomfort
Figs also decreased the effort necessary to pass a stool and improved the sense of incomplete evacuation.
Figs may improve blood pressure and blood fat levels, which can help improve your vascular health and decrease your risk of heart disease. A 5-week study in 83 people with high LDL (bad) cholesterol, researchers noted that those who added about 14 dried figs (120 grams) to their diet daily had no changes in blood fat levels, compared with a control group (7).
The World Health Organization (WHO) have suggested that people can use traditional plants to help treat diabetes. Researchers have noted the fig’s liver-protecting and glucose-lowering effects (8).
One small study from 1998 found that in ten participants with type 1 diabetes, there was a decrease in after-meal glucose levels and insulin doses by 12% when they took fig leaf extracts (9).
One more study found that drinks containing high doses of fig fruit extract had a lower glycaemic index (GI) than beverages with no fig fruit extract. Hence,figs would have a more favorable effect on blood sugar levels (10).
A study in the International Journal of Dermatology compared the effects of fig tree latex with those of cryotherapy on common warts in 25 participants with common warts on both sides of their body applied fig tree latex on one side. On the other side, doctors used cryotherapy. The researchers found that in 44% of the participants, the fig tree latex completely resolved the warts. Cryotherapy was more effective, however, resulting in a complete reversal in 56% of the participants (11).
Fresh or Dried Figs?
- Dried figs contain more calories, sugar, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals than fresh figs.
- Fresh figs will have more vitamin C, vitamin A, and beta-carotene.
The table given below from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), shows the nutritional content of 100 grams (g) of raw and dried figs (12, 13).
|Raw figs||Dried figs|
|Calories||74 kcal||249 kcal|
|Protein||0.75 g||3.3 g|
|Lipids||0.3 g||0.93 g|
|Dietary fiber||2.9 g||9.8 g|
|Sugar||16.26 g||47.92 g|
|Calcium||35 mg||162 mg|
|Iron||0.37 mg||2.03 mg|
|Magnesium||17 mg||68 mg|
|Phosphorus||14 mg||67 mg|
|Potassium||232 mg||680 mg|
|Vitamin C||2 mg||1.2 mg|
|Folate||6 mcg||9 mcg|
|Choline||4.7 mg||15.8 mg|
|Vitamin A||7 mcg||0 mcg|
|Beta-carotene||85 mcg||6 mcg|
|Lutein and zeaxanthin||9 mcg||32 mcg|
|Vitamin K||4.7 mcg||15.6 mcg|