Dried Figs: Tasty, Versatile, and Loaded with Health Benefits 

Humans have been eating figs for a very long time; in 2006 in fact, archaeologists discovered evidence of the cultivation of figs that dates back over 11,000 years. And though fresh figs are common in many countries and types of cuisine all over the world, it isn’t the most common way to eat them. Because of the short shelf life after harvest, nearly 90% of the world’s figs are sold as a dried fruit. Over the years, the drying process has improved greatly, and that allows the figs to keep their amazing flavor at the same time as preserving the nutrients that provide a wide range of health benefits.

What to Know About Figs    

A fig is the fruit of the Ficus carica plant, a small tree native to the Mediterranean region that has leaves with characteristic rounded lobes. Figs are usually 1-2 inch long tear-shaped fruits that start green and turn purple or brown when ripe. The flesh of the fig is typically a reddish color with dozens to hundreds of small, crunchy seeds. Figs are known for having a mild sweet flavor and can be made into jam or used as an ingredient in a wide variety of savory and sweet foods and snacks. Today, California is the largest producer of figs in the United States, and Turkey is the largest producer in the world.   

What Are the Health Benefits of Dried Figs?    

Fresh figs only last about one to two weeks after harvesting before they go bad, so most figs available to consumers are dried in an industrial process that makes them last much longer while holding on to their nutritional value. With only 30 calories per fruit, figs provide a substantial amount of nutrients for their calorie count; this makes them a great addition to a healthy diet. Figs are also a good source of several vitamins and minerals: magnesium, potassium, copper, riboflavin, thiamine, manganese, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B6, vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E. Below are some of the health benefits associated with the nutrients found in figs:

  • Good for digestive health: A serving size of figs (2-3 fruits) has 3 grams of soluble dietary fiber. When soluble fiber is digested, it turns into a gel that slows down digestion and promotes the growth of healthy gut bacteria. This improves bowel movement regularity and reduces the likelihood of gastrointestinal symptoms like constipation and diarrhea. 
  • Heart health: Figs are a great source of potassium, with about 14% of the recommended daily value in one serving. Potassium draws sodium out of the blood stream, and this relaxes pressure on the walls of blood vessels and improves high blood pressure (hypertension). There is also some evidence that figs can increase HDL cholesterol levels (the “good” kind of cholesterol) and decrease triglycerides; together this effect has been shown to help prevent heart disease.
  • Bone health: In addition to potassium, figs provide 16% of the recommended daily value of calcium. Sufficient calcium and potassium from dietary sources has been linked to improved bone density as well as a reduced risk of developing osteoporosis.
  • Blood glucose levels: Even though figs do contain a fair amount of natural sugars, their high fiber content gives them a relatively low glycemic index. This means that eating them doesn’t cause a spike in blood glucose levels that other types of simple sugar do. As a result, it promotes healthy insulin levels and can reduce the chances of eventually developing type 2 diabetes. 
  • Protection from cancer: Though not as abundant as some other fruits, figs do contain vitamin C and a number of other compounds that have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are helpful because they protect against oxidative stress, a state whereby the body’s cells are exposed to damage from free radicals. Antioxidants are able to render free radicals inert at a molecular level and prevent the kind of damage that can lead to the formation of cancer cells. 
  • Skin health: The antioxidant properties that help defend against cancer are also thought to be beneficial for maintaining healthy skin and repairing damaged skin. Also, the vitamin C contained in figs is known to contribute to the formation of collagen, a key building block of skin cells. 
  • Disease protection: Vitamin C is also linked to improvements in immune function by stimulating the production of white blood cells and building up the barriers that prevent pathogens from spreading around the body. Vitamin A is also connected to immune system health because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Weight management: As noted, fiber is helpful for digestion and regulating blood sugar levels, but it is beneficial in an indirect way for weight loss. Having a high fiber diet generally leads to a feeling of fullness more quickly when eating. Over time, this can help avoid patterns of overeating and food cravings that lead to overweight and obesity.

How to Use Dried Figs

Fresh figs are naturally delicious and good to eat whole or chopped up and incorporated into any dish that uses fresh fruit; they can also be used in smoothies. But to really get the most out of figs, the dried variety tends to have the most versatility. Dried figs are soft and chewy with a little bit of crunch from the seeds, and they provide an earthy sweetness that can fit with an endless assortment of baked goods like cookies, breads, pies, and tarts. Yet dried figs are also a familiar part of savory dishes as seen in different types of Moroccan cuisine.  

High Quality Ingredients from FruitSmart

Fresh fruit has its place in a home fridge or pantry, but commercial food production recipes call for ingredients that are prepared properly and in the right form. At FruitSmart, we start with only the best growers, and our state of the art production facilities process fruits into various juices, purees, concentrates, or powders. Our goal is to provide high quality ingredients to meet any need for any recipe so you can deliver the best product for your customer. If you’d like to learn more about our dried fig products or any of our other offerings, please contact us today.

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