Only familiar with figs because of their appearance in the chewy cookie? It’s time to branch out and chomp down on this sweet, plump dried fruit.
Biting into a fig—freshly picked or dried—is an experience unlike any other. Their outer skin is soft, and the fruit inside is sweet and moist, speckled with tiny edible seeds that offer a satisfying crunch. But this dried fruit is more than just trailmix fodder; figs contain a hearty helping of fiber, maganese, potassium, vitamin B6, and calcium.
Researchers at the Department of Nutrition at the University of Loma Linda found that when subjects supplemented their diet with 120 grams of dried figs (about 4 full fruits) for five weeks, their calcium and potassium levels increased. Perhaps more interesting for those looking to kick-off a new and improved diet for the new year, eating a few figs on the daily had positive effects on subjects’ daily diets. Scientists were surprised to discover that,“eating figs resulted in the elimination of 4% of desserts, 5% of vegetables, 10% of dairy products, 23% of grain products and 168% of beverages from other sources that participants would otherwise consume.”
While the authors of the study aren’t entirely clear about why the dietary habits of their subjects’ changed, it’s interesting that the act of eating a specific food could encourage some to avoid certain foods like grain and sugary beverages. Perhaps the combination of fiber and natural sugar helps curb a sweet tooth while leaving people fuller and better sated.
Dried figs are valued for the sweetness and moisture they add to dishes, and they’re often used in vegan or Paleo desserts in lieu of sugar or honey. Traditionally, figs are paired with delicate cheeses and cured meats to combine salty-sweetness in one bite. Try throwing them into the blender to give a morning smoothie more fiber, or chop some up and mix into warm cereal instead of boring raisins.
We love figs in this baked brie recipe almost as much as we love eating them on their own!
Photo credit: Alicia Cho