Delicious, sweet fig fruit is one of the prime fruits enjoyed since antiquity in the human history. Fig is naturally rich in much health benefiting phyto-nutrients, anti-oxidants and vitamins. Dried figs, in fact, are concentrated source of minerals and vitamins. The fully ripe fig has bell or pear shape with succulent flesh.
Botanically figs belong to the mulberry family (Moraceae), of the genus: Ficus. Scientific name: Ficus carica.
Fig fruit tree is native to temperate climate of Asia Minor or present day Turkey and today is grown as important fruit of commerce in the eastern Mediterranean region, USA, Spain. However, it is also cultivated as a fruit tree in home gardens. During each season, the tree bears several hundred pear-shaped fruits twice a year, which vary in size and color depending on the variety.
Interiorly, the fig fruit features numerous club shaped ovaries protruding towards central hollow cavity. In their natural habitat, “caprifigs” are pollinated by a tiny gall wasp (Blastophaga grossorum) that enters the flower cluster through a small opening in the apex.
Several cultivars exist; some of the popular varieties commonly grown in the USA are Brown Turkey, Conadria, Kadota, and Black mission. However, since the wasp is not present in North America, most of these fruits do not have true seeds, and they develop by parthenogenesis (without pollination).
Health benefits of figs
- Fig fruit is low in calories. 100 g fresh fruits provide only 74 calories. However, they contain health benefiting soluble dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, and pigment anti-oxidants that contribute immensely for optimum health and wellness.
- Dried figs are an excellent source of minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants. In fact, dried fruits are concentrated sources of energy. 100 g dried figs provide 249 calories.
- Fresh figs, especially black mission, are good in poly-phenolic flavonoid anti-oxidants such as carotenes, lutein, tannins, chlorogenic acid...etc. Their anti-oxidant value is comparable to that of apples at 3200 umol/100 g.
- In addition, fresh fruits contain adequate levels of some of the anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin A, E, and K. Altogether these phyto-chemical compounds in fig fruit help scavenge harmful oxygen derived free radicals from the body and thereby protect us from cancers, diabetes, degenerative diseases and infections.
- Furthermore, research studies suggest that chlorogenic acid in these berries help lower blood sugar levels and control blood-glucose levels in type-II diabetes mellitus (Adult onset) condition.
- Fresh, as well as dried figs contain good levels of B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine, folates, and pantothenic acid. These vitamins function as co-factors for metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
- Dried figs are an excellent sources of minerals like calcium, copper, potassium, manganese, iron, selenium and zinc. 100 g of dried figs contain 640 mg of potassium, 162 mg of calcium, 2.03 mg of iron and 232 mg of potassium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells. Iron is required for red blood cell formation as well for cellular oxidation.