Figs, nature's delectable and nutritious gift, have been cherished for centuries for their delightful sweetness and numerous health benefits. Packed with essential nutrients and natural sweetness, figs are not only a delicious addition to our diet but also a healthier substitute for refined sugar. This article explores the incredible health advantages of figs and how they can be seamlessly incorporated into various dishes, making them a delectable and guilt-free alternative to sugar. Whether a person is seeking a sweet treat or looking to enhance your overall well-being, figs are sure to become their favorite fruit of health and a flavorful replacement for conventional sugar in culinary delights.
Why Are Figs Substituted for Sugar?
Figs are the fruits of the Ficus carica plant. They are naturally sweet and considered one of the nutritious fruits that can substitute sugar or jelly. In addition, they are loaded with good fiber and antioxidant content. Throughout history, cooked figs have been used as sweeteners instead of sugar, and some cuisines still consider this practice as more healthy because of the health benefits of figs. They are commonly used for preparing jams, jellies, desserts, and even toppings or dressings for savory dishes. They are also a good source of magnesium and potassium.
What Is the Nutrition Content of Figs?
The following nutrition information has been enlisted for one small raw fig, approximately 40 g for a measurement of 1-1/2" fig (by the USDA):
Sugars: 6.5 grams.
Protein: 0.3 grams.
Potassium: 93 milligram.
Magnesium: 7 milligram
Fat: 0.1 grams.
Figs are naturally sugary and hence high on the glycemic index scale, scoring 61. Foods with high glycemic scores naturally tend to raise blood sugar sharply and quickly, but compared to sugar, they are way healthier when preparing any sweet food.
Figs also do not yield much protein and are negligible in fat, so they are also low in calories. Unfortunately, a single fig also cannot provide as substantial amounts of any vitamin or mineral in specific. But they give trace amounts of vitamin K, B6, and thiamin.
What Are the Health Benefits of Figs?
1. High Antioxidant value in Preventing Systemic Diseases: Research has identified several important phytochemical compounds and antioxidants like phenolic acids and flavonoids in dried or fresh figs that can prevent the progression of several chronic disease processes.The antioxidant capacity found in figs is directly linked to their number of phenolic compounds. Studies also show that the darker-colored figs have higher amounts of these phenolic compounds than the lighter-colored figs.
2. Health and Nutrition: Experts usually recommend that figs be consumed daily as part of a healthy diet plan. In these diet plans, it would be good to include fruits like figs rather than consume them in a supplement form (which is not recommended by experts because of the difference in nutrition content in supplements).
The phenolic compounds in figs would prevent several chronic diseases. These are useful in preventing:
3. Anti-Cancer Effect: Some preliminary in vitro studies in recent decades have indicated that fig extracts demonstrate a strong antioxidant potential against carcinogenic activity that occurs especially in the breast cells as in breast cancer. However, further research is needed to yield evidence about their role in preventing breast cancer.
4. Useful in Irritable Bowel Syndrome Patients: By randomized controlled trials, researchers have found that fig consumption for more than or upto four months would certainly alleviate the clinical symptoms of patients suffering from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
5. Useful in Treating Constipation: Because of the high fiber content in these fruits and because they usually have a laxative effect, dried figs are very commonly used to treat constipation and digestive issues.
Are Fig Allergies Possible?
If one experiences an allergy to fig post-consumption, immediately let the healthcare provider or nutritionist know about the condition. This would happen in some individuals wherein respiratory symptoms would follow post a fig allergy. These individuals with fig allergies usually are also allergic to weeping fig plants or latex, certain fruits, nuts, and seeds (latex fruit syndrome). People with an allergy to jackfruit would also experience a possible allergic reaction.
How to Avoid "Fig Burns"?
Some people often complain of a burning sensation or soreness on the tongue, especially when they eat too many fresh figs. This is true for some people because the ficin molecule is a proteolytic enzyme (an enzyme that causes protein breakdown) and would possibly cause the tongue to have an itch or burning sensation. To avoid such symptoms, one should always spoon the inside of the fig out. Also, eat the inner content of fig separately and not with the skin that contains more ficin.
How to Purchase, Store, and Use Figs?
There are mainly two seasons for harvesting figs. The first season is in late June, while the second runs from August to October. Black mission figs are the most commonly found at local grocery stores. The Brown Turkey figs are other common figs that are less sweet.
Always remove the fig stem before one consumes a fresh fig. When purchasing a fig, ensure they are not too hard, which means they are probably not ripe enough. One can easily refrigerate or freeze figs for several days, and they should always be stored in cool ideal places away from heat. One can also freeze figs even upto 12 months.
Figs can be consumed as a healthy sweet snack in between meals. They can also be used for salad dressings and adding texture, color, and sweetness to savory dishes. Figs are used worldwide as a super tasty ingredient for desserts and smoothies.
They can be used as sweet toppings for daily yogurt or can be added on over ricotta or cottage cheese. Ideally, one can consider replacing sugar or other jellies or commercially processed candies that are quite unhealthy with figs. Figs add fiber and enrich the meals with nutrient density.
Figs are thus sweet and healthy sources of carbohydrates and good fiber content, low in fat, sodium, and cholesterol, aiding in immunity and systemic health. In addition, these fruits are a better substitute for sugar in sweet recipes.