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Although dried figs are available throughout the year, there is nothing like the unique taste and texture of fresh figs. They are lusciously sweet with a texture that combines the chewiness of their flesh, the smoothness of their skin, and the crunchiness of their seeds. California figs are available from June through September; some European varieties are available through autumn.
Figs grow on the Ficus tree (Ficus carica), which is a member of the Mulberry family. They are unique in that they have an opening, called the “ostiole” or “eye,” which is not connected to the tree, but which helps the fruit’s development by increasing its communication with the environment. Figs range dramatically in color and subtly in texture depending upon the variety. The majority of figs are dried, either by exposure to sunlight or through an artificial process, creating a sweet and nutritious dried fruit that can be enjoyed throughout the year.
Here is some nutritional information about figs that will surprise you and maybe motivate you to include figs in your diet.
(1) This might be your first surprise: Figs help build stronger bones. They contain the essential bone building trio of magnesium, calcium, and vitamin K2.
Without magnesium, calcium is inert. And without K2, calcium strays away from bone matter and into the blood, possibly calcifying blood vessel inner linings.
(2) Figs are good for heart health. In addition to minimizing calcium deposits in your blood vessels, the magnesium and potassium in figs are essential for maintaining heart health and keeping blood pressure in line.
(3) Figs are high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps slow digestion and make you feel fuller. It also helps stabilize and lower blood sugar levels.
Insoluble fiber provides the bulk needed to help cleanse the large intestine and eliminate waste easily, reducing constipation incidences. Both types of fiber combine as useful tools for weight management.
(4) Figs help lower serum triglyceride levels. Triglyceride levels are considered more relevant markers for predicting heart health issues and obesity than cholesterol readings.
(5) Dried figs are at the top of the dried fruit list for phenol antioxidant levels. Fruit antioxidants have demonstrated higher eye health benefits than vegetable antioxidants, including carrots, even offering protection against age related macular degeneration (ARMD), the leading cause of blindness.
(6) Figs are alkaline producing, helping the body achieve and maintain that optimum 7.0-7.4 pH reading to lead a disease-free healthy life.
(7) Figs are very high in iron, the mineral that helps create red blood cells and prevent anemia. Pregnant women are encouraged to keep their red blood cell levels high. So shove the pickles and chocolates aside and snack on dried figs if you’re expecting.
Dried figs are higher in natural sugar content than fresh figs. Fresh figs have lower sugar contents, but they’re not as commonly retailed as dried figs, and they don’t keep nearly as long.
But if you’re concerned about the sugar content and you’re pre-diabetic or worse, consider fig leaves, not for concealing private parts, but for eating. Fig leaves have repeatedly demonstrated anti-diabetic properties.