Meet The Ingredient: Figs
Two years ago, figs were introduced to me and my life hasn't been the same ever since. Okay, maybe that's a slight overreaction. What is not a slight overreaction is how delicious figs really are, and bonus they are loaded with tons of nutritional benefits that will help maintain our blood pressure, help manage weight loss and even contain cancer fighting nutrients and vitamins.
Fresh figs are available in season in late June and last until early fall, which means that you still have a few weeks left to run to farmers market or grocery store to grab yourself some organic figs! Dried figs are available all year around, but you always want to make sure you are purchasing organic, preservative-free figs during the winter and spring time.
Figs grow on the Ficus tree (Ficus carica), which is a member of the Mulberry family. Figs range in color and in texture depending upon the variety, of which there are more than one hundred and fifty. Some of the most popular varieties are:
Black Mission: blackish-purple skin and pink colored flesh
Kadota: green skin and purplish flesh
Calimyrna: greenish-yellow skin and amber flesh
Brown Turkey: purple skin and red flesh
Adriatic: the variety most often used to make fig bars, which has a light green skin and pink-tan flesh
Top 5 Health Benefits of Figs
Helps lower high blood pressure. In this day and age, when packaged and processed foods are so readily available to us and marketed as more "convenient" than fruits and vegetables, people begin to suffer from ailments like high blood pressure and high cholesterol due to lack of proper nutrients and vitamins in the diet. Figs are an excellent source of potassium, which is an essential mineral that helps control blood pressure. The Standard American Diet (SAD) consists of low fruit and veggie intake, but a high sodium and fat in take. A study called the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) showed a diet high in fruits and vegetables enriched with potassium helps decrease hypertension in the body.
Figs help manage weight loss. Not only are figs rich in potassium but they are also a good source of dietary fiber. Fiber helps the body stay fuller longer and helps regulate the digestive system, helping to maintain appetite and prevent overeating leading to natural weight loss. When transitioning to a cleaner diet and lifestyle, it is always best to consume foods that naturally contain vitamins and nutrients like fiber, as opposed to packaged or boxed foods that have been added with nutrients to appear healthier.
Figs can protect against postmenopausal breast cancer. Millions of anticancer properties exist naturally in nature, with a strong, healthy immune system provided by a whole foods, plant based diet, disease literally cannot thrive in the body. According to The World's Healthiest Foods, "results of a prospective study involving 51,823 postmenopausal women for an average of 8.3 years showed a 34% reduction in breast cancer risk for those consuming the most fruit fiber compared to those consuming the least." Fruits that a naturally high in fiber are apples, dates, figs, pears and prunes.
Fig leaves can help lower insulin needs in diabetes management. In many cultures, fig leaves are often eaten because the leaves contain many health benefits themselves. In several studies, fig leaves have been found to contain anti-diabetic properties and reduce the amount of insulin needed by people who rely on insulin injections. Diabetes is an epidemic that is sweeping this country, and an increasing amount of studies are linking a whole foods, plant based diet as an excellent way to manage diabetes symptoms, gain control of the disease and in many cases reverse diabetes all together.
Figs help protect the eye sight and prevent macular degeneration. Take a minute to bite into a fig, and then look and the inside of a fig. Ever notice how it looks like the muscular structure of a human eyeball? There are no coincidences in nature. Figs and other fruits contain Vitamins A, C, and E and antioxidants that protect the eye sight, lowering your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, and help naturally maintain a strong immune system, and healthy skin.
As you can see, figs are naturally loaded with disease preventing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and nutrients that make them a deliciously nutritious breakfast, snack or dessert. Dice some up and top them on a morning cereal or salad to help incorporate them into your daily lifestyle!