Fig trees date back as far as Neolithic times and were known to exist circa 9400–9200 BC in the Jordan Valley. (1) In fact, figs are one of the oldest domestically farmed plants, thought to have originated in Western Asia and the Middle East.
While figs are enjoyed as a tasty fruit today, in the past figs, which are relatives of the mulberry, often represented such things as prosperity, fertility, and even peace, being mentioned numerous times in the Bible.
Around the 15th century, figs made their way to England and the Americas. Spanish Missionaries began planting the trees in California, creating what is known today as the California Mission Fig. (2)
Even thousands of years ago, figs were known to have both medicinal and nutritional properties. Galen, an 11th century herbalist wrote, “If the dried figs were eaten with walnuts and rue before taking a fatal poison, they would preserve against its noxious effects.” Along with nuts, figs were used in an ancient antidote called “theriac.” (3)
Medieval Arab doctors also used figs for cleansing the stomach and strengthening the body. According to Plato, these treasured fruits were even fed to Greek athletes in Olympia to improve their overall strength and performance. (4)
Today, we know that figs are one of the most alkaline fruits grown, which also makes them valuable for fighting countless diseases, especially cancer.
Fig Nutritional Facts
Figs trees are extraordinary. Under favorable conditions, one tree can provide fruit for up to 200 years! Today, you can find over 1,000 different species of figs around the world. These luscious fruits can be eaten raw or dried, which actually affects their nutritional value. Raw figs contain: (5)
- 74 calories
- 19 grams carbohydrates
- 7 grams protein
- 3 grams fat
- 3 grams fiber
- 232 milligrams potassium (7 percent DV)
- 1 milligram manganese (6 percent DV)
- 7 micrograms vitamin K (6 percent DV)
- 1 milligram vitamin B6 (6 percent DV)
- 17 milligrams magnesium (4 percent DV)
- 35 milligrams calcium (4 percent DV)
- 1 milligram thiamine (4 percent DV)
- 142 IU vitamin A (3 percent DV)
- milligrams vitamin C (3 percent DV)
If you want to increase the nutritional value of figs, try eating 100 grams of dried figs, which contain: (6)
- 249 calories
- 9 grams carbohydrates
- 3 grams protein
- 9 gram fat
- 8 grams fiber
- 5 milligram manganese (26 percent DV)
- 6 micrograms vitamin K (19 percent DV)
- 680 milligrams potassium (19 percent DV)
- 68 milligrams magnesium (17 percent DV)
- 162 milligrams calcium (16 percent DV)
- 3 milligrams copper (14 percent DV)
- 2 milligrams iron (11 percent DV)
- 67 milligrams phosphorus (7 percent DV)
- 1 milligrams vitamin B6 (6 percent DV)
- 1 milligrams thiamine (6 percent DV)
- 1 mg riboflavin (5 percent DV)
- 5 milligram zinc (4 percent DV)
Figs are also a key source of cellulose, pectin and organic acids. The leaves of this bounteous tree are also widely used in culinary dishes as well as for medicinal purposes.
They contain numerous flavonoids and polyphenols, including rutin, gallic acid, chlorogenic acid, syringic acid, catechin and epicatechin.
Fig leaves are also well-known for their healing properties in cases of cancer, heart disease, bronchitis and other lung infections, genital warts, boils and a broad spectrum of fungal infections, cirrhosis of the liver, hemorrhoids, high blood pressure, ringworm, shingles, skin irritations and stomach ulcers. (9)
The tender fig fruit is also highly beneficial when it comes to healing your body. Here are just some of the amazing health benefits of this fruit.
Health Benefits of Figs
- Anticancer: Studies show that every single cancer patient has one thing in common—low pH levels in their blood. What this means is that they all have an acidic body, which is a known breeding ground for all types of bacteria, germs and viruses. In fact, it is also known that disease of any kind is unable to develop, grow or spread in an alkaline body. (10) And figs are one of the most alkalizing fruits known. (11) Figs also contain a phytochemical known as benzaldehyde as well as isorhamnetin glycoside, a flavonoid that has powerful anti-cancer effects. (12,13,14)
- Weight Loss: Figs are a key source of fiber, which is important for weight loss. In fact, studies clearly show dietary fiber has a significant effect on hunger, satiety, energy intake, and body composition and can promote weight loss, especially in obese people. (15) Figs are a good source of fiber and they also contain a key digestive enzyme, ficin, which helps metabolize proteins into amino acids. Ficin also contributes to the laxative properties of figs. (16)
- High Blood Pressure: If you have high blood pressure, figs are the perfect way to help normalize this condition. Figs are full of potassium, which is a key mineral for combating hypertension. (17)
- Anti-Aging: Like many fruits, figs are high in antioxidants including flavonoids, polyphenols and anthocyanins. Antioxidants are known for their powerful neutralizing effects on free radicals, which can significantly accelerate the aging process as well as lead to disease. (18)
- Protect Your Vision: Studies show that you need to eat at least 3 or more servings of fruit per day in order to lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss in older adults. By doing this, you can decrease your risk by 36 percent compared to people who eat less than 1.5 servings of fruit a day. (19,20) A few figs a day can go a long way to keeping your vision intact.
- Treating Illnesses: Studies show that figs are an excellent way to treat various illnesses including anemia, cancer, diabetes, leprosy, liver diseases, paralysis, skin diseases, and ulcers. Studies even show that figs are so powerful they may even be helpful in creating new drugs. (21)
- Boost Your Immune System: Figs are powerful immune stimulants. (22) Eating a few figs a day can keep you healthy and strong.
- Keep Your Skin Young and Beautiful: While there are numerous studies that show fig leaf extract has potent anti-wrinkle capabilities—decreasing the length and depth of facial wrinkles, (23) fig fruit extracts are also shown to help reduce hyper pigmentation, acne and even freckles. (24)
How to Choose Figs
There are benefits to both fresh and dried figs. When choosing figs, however, always avoid ones with mold or discolorations.
Often the rigors of shipping and handling can damage the fruit. Fresh figs are typically available from June through October.
Look for ripe figs as these are shown to have higher antioxidant content. You should also store ripe figs in your refrigerator. They will last up to 3 days. Make sure you wash them thoroughly before eating.