Health Benefits Of Fig

Fresh or dried, the health benefits of figs are numerous. We tell you all about the nutritional value of fig, its role in weight loss and why the fruit is good for your baby.

By Sahana Charan

Health Benefits Of Fig

The fig or anjeer is also called ‘food of the gods’ and finds mention in some of the most ancient scriptures. It is one of the oldest plants ever to be cultivated. Yet, the fig still remains significant in modern times because of its numerous uses, health benefits and high nutritional value.

Ripe fig fruits, just off the tree, have a delectably sweet taste. The skin is blackish-purple or green with a smooth texture on the outside. The flesh is soft and pink, interspersed with many tiny, edible seeds. You can either offer fresh figs to your children or let them eat the delicious fruits in dried form.

Figs, popularly known as anjeer in India, are used in a variety of sweetmeats and baked goodies. But, irrespective of the way you eat them, figs are a rich source of vital nutrients and are especially beneficial for babies and pregnant women.

What is fig (anjeer)?

Figs are fruits borne by the ficus tree and belong to the mulberry family. There are several varieties of figs grown in different parts of the world such as Black Mission, Adriatic and Kadota figs. But, the most popular one available in supermarkets and fruit shops is the common fig (Ficus carica).

If you ever see a fig tree, you would be surprised that it bears no flowers. Wonder why? That’s because the fig is not a fruit but a bunch of many inverted flowers called a syconium.

The fig tree has its origins in the Mediterranean region, Asia and Africa. At present, the largest producer of figs is Turkey followed by Egypt, Morocco and Greece. In the United States, California is the largest producer of this fruit. Figs are cultivated in different regions of India, including Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

Nutritional value of fig

Want to pack something healthy in your child’s snack box? Skip junk food and pack a handful of dried figs instead. These will not only keep your little one full for longer but also give him an energy boost. From ancient times, figs have been consumed for their nutritional and therapeutic properties. Both fresh and dried figs are a healthy snack option as they are rich in vitamins, minerals and natural sugars.

A 100g portion of dried fig contains

  • Energy: 249 kcal
  • Protein: 3.3g
  • Carbohydrate: 63.9g
  • Sugars: 47.92g
  • Vitamin C: 1.2mg
  • Iron: 2.03mg
  • Potassium: 680mg
  • Magnesium: 68mg
  • Calcium: 162mg

Data based on USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) - National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

A 100g portion of raw fig contains

  • Energy: 74 kcal
  • Protein: 0.75g
  • Carbohydrate: 19.18g
  • Sugars: 16.26g
  • Vitamin C: 2mg
  • Iron: 0.37mg
  • Potassium: 232mg
  • Magnesium: 17mg
  • Calcium: 35mg

Data based on USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) - National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Fig benefits and side effects

Figs are a rich source of dietary fibre. So, eating a few of these fruits makes us feel full for a long time. The fibre in figs also prevents constipation, digestion problems, high blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Both fresh and dried figs are packed with antioxidants, which help combat the effect of free radicals in the body.

Health benefits of fig

1. Helps in weight loss: The delicious anjeer serves as a filling snack, in both fresh and dried form. The fruit is low in calories and hardly has any fat, so it is a good idea to include it in your diet if you are planning to lose weight. Because of its high fibre content, snacking on anjeer can keep you feeling full for a long time. This would prevent you from reaching out for calorie-laden foods.

2. Protects the skin: Since figs are rich in antioxidants, they have a moisturising and rejuvenating effect on the skin. So, they are often used in face packs and other beauty formulations. In certain cultures, figs are also used to treat skin ailments such as warts, eczema and psoriasis.

In a scientific analysis titled, ‘Comparative study of fig tree efficacy in the treatment of common warts (Verruca vulgaris) vs. cryotherapy’, researchers found that the latex from the fig tree was effective in treating certain types of warts without any side effects and that the warts did not recur after treatment.

There are other ways in which the fig helps protect the skin. A study, ‘Effects of Cream Containing Ficus carica L. Fruit Extract on Skin Parameters: In vivo Evaluation’, revealed that a formulation made from fig fruit increased skin hydration, reduced sebum content of the skin and could be used effectively against hyperpigmentation, acne and wrinkles.

3. Prevents constipation: Fibre-rich foods help in maintaining a healthy digestive system and figs are a valuable source of fibre. The fibre in the fruit relieves constipation in both children and adults.

In a 2016 study, ‘Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of Ficus carica paste for the management of functional constipation’, researchers found that consuming fig paste had beneficial effects on those suffering from constipation. The study was published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

4. Controls diabetes: Figs are loaded with potassium, an essential mineral that helps reduce insulin in the body. Therefore, regular consumption of figs can help control blood sugar levels. Fig leaves are also effective in keeping blood sugar levels in check. You could either chew the leaves or make a decoction by boiling fig leaves in water.

5. Eases throat pain: The fig fruit contains mucilage, a soluble fibre that is soft and sticky in nature. This substance is helpful in healing a sore throat.

6. Treats piles: Also called haemorrhoids, this condition involves a collection of inflamed tissue and veins in and around the rectum. This condition causes discomfort and sometimes results in bleeding from the rectum. One of the causes of piles is constipation and excessive straining while passing stool. So, by preventing constipation, figs also decrease the chances of developing piles.

In a study, ‘Golden Herbs in Piles Treatment: A Concise Report’, published in the International Journal of Drug Development and Research, researchers examined the effectiveness of various herbs in the treatment of piles or haemorrhoids. The study concluded that consumption of dried figs soaked in water overnight, along with the liquid, can be useful in the treatment of piles.

Side-effects of fig

  1. Consumption of the fruit in moderate quantities is completely safe and may not produce any adverse reactions. But, figs can cause an allergic reaction in those who are sensitive to plants belonging to the mulberry family.
  2. Since figs have laxative properties and are an effective remedy for constipation, eating this fruit in excess is not advisable as it can lead to diarrhoea.
  3. The latex (sap) from the fig tree can cause irritation in the bowels in some individuals.
  4. Applying fig leaves and fig fruit on the skin can cause rashes in individuals with sensitive skin.

Interesting facts about figs

  • There are more than 800 species of figs found in different parts of the world and they come in different sizes. Some types of fig plants grow into tall trees while others may remain as shrubs.
  • Figs are an important part of the forest ecosystem as many types of birds, bats and monkeys eat them for nourishment.
  • While the common fig does not require pollination to bear fruits, few other varieties are pollinated by the fig wasp. Since the flowers are hidden inside the pod, the fig wasp crawls inside and delivers the pollen.
  • The fig has a small opening on the top called the ostiole which plays an important role in the pollination process.
  • Many holy documents, including the Bible, have stories that feature the fig tree, its fruits and leaves.
  • The tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment is a fig tree (Ficus religiosa or peepul).
  • Figs are very popular in the Mediterranean region and almost enjoy a hallowed position in Greece.

Fig benefits during pregnancy

A pregnant woman is advised a healthy and balanced diet which provides her and the baby growing in her womb with adequate nourishment. Figs are a great source of essential nutrients such as iron, phosphorus, potassium and dietary fibre. So, adding them to the daily diet, along with other nutritious foods, ensures a healthy pregnancy.

The high fibre content in figs satiates hunger and makes a pregnant woman feel full for a long time. The fibre also helps prevent constipation, which is a common complaint during pregnancy.

Figs are also packed with calcium, which strengthens the bones of the mother-to-be and her child.

The omega-3 fatty acids present in figs help in the growth and development of the foetus.

Anjeer for babies

The World Health Organization’s guidelines on feeding infants and young children recommend the ‘introduction of nutritionally-adequate and safe complementary (solid) foods at 6 months together with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.’ Solids foods include a variety of vegetables, fruits and grains.

Babies and toddlers love the sweet taste and mild flavour of anjeer and the fruit can be used as one of the first solid foods for your little once she is 6–7 months old. It is a good idea to try more fail-safe fruits such as apple and banana in puréed form before introducing fresh figs. As it is not easy to digest dried figs, offer them only after the baby is 12–14 months old.

You can start by boiling dried figs in water. Feed your little one only the strained and cooled water, as it contains all the essential nutrients. Later, you can give dried fig purée in small amounts. When buying ripe figs, make sure they are fresh and do not have soft spots or bruises. Fresh figs perish quickly, so it is a good idea to refrigerate them and use within 1–2 days of buying. Choose good quality dried figs, which have not been processed with too many chemicals.

Health benefits of anjeer for babies

  1. Provides power-packed nourishment with a sweet taste and pleasant flavour.
  2. Delivers essential nutrients such as carbohydrates, iron, calcium and loads of vitamins.
  3. Improves bowel movement and prevents constipation.
  4. Boosts baby’s immune system.

Ways to give figs to babies and toddlers

  • Offer purée of one or two fresh, ripe figs with a little breast milk or formula.
  • Soak 1–2 dried figs in water overnight or for at least four hours. Strain and give the water to your toddler.
  • Soak dried figs in a little warm water or milk for a few hours. Purée the mixture and offer it to your toddler.
  • Make bland baby food more exciting by mixing in one or two spoonfuls of fig purée. This will add natural sweetness to the food.

The many benefits of fig make it an ideal food for a healthy lifestyle. So, if have not yet included this nutrient-rich fruit in your diet, start today.

About the author:

Written by Sahana Charan on 21 October 2019

Sahana Charan is an independent writer and journalist with an interest in writing about health and wellness, environment, urban living and child rights.

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