Prized throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean for their sweet-as-honey taste, figs might not yet enjoy the same popularity in the U.S., but they do bring a surprising number of health benefits to just about any meal. Dr. Graham Colditz, associate director of prevention and control at Siteman Cancer Center, points out that figs are high in vitamin K, vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese and copper. “Vitamin B6, in particular, contributes to healthy brain function, while vitamin K aids blood-clotting and wound-healing,” he says. “One large fig contains 7 percent of your recommended daily amount of fiber, which means figs are great at regulating your digestive system and decreasing constipation.”
Figs’ fiber content is particularly important this time of year, when many people are eating heavier meals but aren’t moving quite as much — and potentially throwing their digestive tracts for a loop. “There’s a high risk of less exercise because it’s colder, and that can definitely exacerbate constipation,” Dr. Colditz says, “so the value of figs and fiber to help keep regular is a definite benefit, even above and beyond the contribution of the other nutrients.”
Figs are famously sweet, but don’t let their sugar content dissuade you from adding them to your diet. In moderation, figs are fabulous. “When you get your sugar in a fruit like a fig that also has fiber and potassium, you get multiple benefits,” Dr. Colditz says. “But if you’re getting sugar that’s been added, such as in a beverage, it’s really just a pot of water with 20 teaspoons of sugar and without the other features of the fruit.” Keep in mind that a serving size is just a single fig, so make it count: Use a fig to sweeten up an already healthy salad, or pair it with a savory cheese for dessert.
Types of Figs
In Good Taste is brought to you in partnership with Siteman Cancer Center. Watch for more healthy, seasonal cooking ideas each month.