Whether you’re looking for new ways to get your 5 daily portions of fruit and vegetables or a sugar replacement in recipes, figs are a tasty option.
Fresh or dried figs make a handy, portable snack, or you can chop them up and add them to salads and sandwiches. They also make a good natural sweetener in baked goods, such as breads, cookies or muffins.
But are there any other fresh or dried fig benefits? Read on to learn about fig nutrition, the potential health benefits, and if they’re safe for everyone to eat.
What are figs and what nutrients do they provide?
The common fig plant belongs to the mulberry family and grows naturally in most Mediterranean countries. You might be surprised to learn that the ‘fruit’ isn’t technically a fruit – it’s actually a collection of tiny flowers and seeds inside a bulbous stem.
That doesn't mean figs aren’t good for you, though. As well as being fat-free, they’re packed with nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.
Figs contain calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and iron, as well as the vitamins A, B6, C and K. Like all fruits, they also provide fibre.
The only drawback is that they’re quite high in sugar – particularly dried figs.
Should I eat fresh or dried figs?
Both fresh and dried figs are tasty and contain lots of nutrients. There are some differences, however.
The main difference is that dried figs are much higher in sugar and calories, because the sugar gets condensed when fruit dries. However, they also provide more fibre and minerals than fresh figs.
Fresh figs, on the other hand, are lower in calories and sugar and provide more vitamin C and vitamin A.
What are the health benefits of figs?
Figs are often mentioned as a health food because they provide nutrients, while also satisfying sweet cravings – so you’re less likely to reach for foods with added sugar, such as cakes or biscuits. But they’re also thought to have some particular health benefits.
Figs have long been known as a home remedy for digestive problems. Dried figs in particular are a good source of fibre, which supports your digestion and may help prevent both constipation and diarrhoea.
It’s recommended that we eat about 30g of fibre a day, but a lot of people only get about 18g a day – so a few dried figs could help to boost your daily intake.
Figs are also rich in ‘prebiotics’, which feed the healthy bacteria that live in your gut, so this can also help with your gut health.
What’s more, eating lots of fibre is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and bowel cancer.
Calcium and potassium are minerals we need to look after our bones and keep them healthy, and dried figs are a good source of both.
Other potential benefits
Some small studies have suggested that consuming figs or fig extracts may have other health benefits, including improving blood pressure and heart health. But these claims are unproven and more research is needed.
Are there any risks with eating figs?
As mentioned above, figs are high in sugar, so it's best to eat them in moderation – particularly dried figs. This is especially true if you have problems managing your blood sugar levels.
It's possible to be allergic to figs, especially if you have a birch pollen allergy. They may also interfere with certain blood-thinning medications, due to the vitamin K they contain. If you have any concerns, speak to your doctor.
- figs are versatile fruits that make a tasty snack and can be used in lots of recipes
- they’re fat-free and full of nutrients
- they provide fibre, calcium, potassium, plus other minerals and vitamins
- they’re also high in sugar – particularly dried figs – so should be eaten in moderation
- eating figs may help support your digestive and bone health
- it’s possible to be allergic to figs and they may interfere with certain blood-thinning medications – check with your doctor if you’re concerned
Keen to learn more about eating a healthy and balanced diet? Try out our 28-day in-app eat better plan for tips and hacks on how to boost your nutrition. Currently available on iOS only.