Figs are an often-overlooked hidden gem, packed with numerous health benefits. These small tear-drop-shaped fruits come in many varieties. They are lightly sweet with a soft center that, botanically speaking, are multiple inward-growing flowers. Not only are figs delicious, but they also offer an array of nutrients that can enhance your overall well-being. Figs are a great source of essential nutrients, such as fiber, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A and K. With a low glycemic index, figs benefit heart health, blood sugar control, and weight loss.
Figs are very high in fiber, which helps prevent common digestive issues such as bloating and indigestion. When the digestive tract functions correctly, fiber helps slow the absorption of carbohydrates while keeping the digestive system moving. The net effect is to limit the overall absorption of fuel, thus regulating calories. By preventing blood sugar from rising too high or too low, fiber maintains healthy blood sugar levels, making figs a good choice for those with diabetes.
Fiber also creates satiety, making you feel fuller for longer, and reducing the chances of overeating. Incorporating figs into your meals or snacks is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth while managing your weight. Figs make for a great dessert paired with herbal tea, and Chef Reyna Venegas’ use of figs this month in her tabouli recipe is magical.
Figs are also a rich source of potassium and antioxidants. Potassium plays an essential role in maintaining heart health by regulating blood pressure. Lower blood pressure is associated with significantly fewer strokes and less cardiovascular disease. The phenolic and flavonoid antioxidants found in figs help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. In addition, polyphenols encourage the growth of heart-healthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.
Even our skin can benefit from the vitamins and antioxidants present in figs. The high vitamin C content in figs promotes collagen production, which research shows can improve skin elasticity and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Additionally, the antioxidants in figs protect the skin against damage from free radicals, which can help prevent premature aging.
How to use figs:
- On their own as a dessert or healthy snack.
- Add to oatmeal, overnight oats, or yogurt parfaits.
- Add to salads: toss in greens or grains like quinoa and black rice.
- Add dried figs to muffins or quick breads.
From promoting digestive health and weight loss to supporting heart and skin health, figs are a nutritious addition to any diet. So, the next time you come across these small but mighty fruits, take advantage of their incredible potential to enhance your overall well-being.
Linda Illingworth, RDN, CSSD, is the Registered Dietitian at Lifewellness Institute, a medical practice specializing in wellness, where she provides clinical care and nutritional guidance for patients and corporate clients. An expert in functional nutrition, Linda is known for her practical advice to find the best nutritional path to achieve specific health goals. As a certified specialist in Sports Nutrition, Linda also has specialized training in food sensitivities, supplementation, wellness, thyroid and cardiovascular nutrition. Linda holds a B.S. in Nutrition from California State University Long Beach and completed her dietetic internship at St. Luke’s Hospital, Wisconsin. Her special interest in nutrition and wellness began in college with her father’s death, the result of cardiovascular disease and thus created a life-long desire to learn. Linda is frequently consulted for her depth and breadth of nutritional knowledge, has developed nutrition curriculum for popular destination health spas, National University, consults for non-profit nutrition programs, and can be found in print and online media.