Ingredient of the Month: Figs

(Photo Credit: Figs by Keith McDuffee/Flickr Commons)

(Photo Credit: Figs by Keith McDuffee/Flickr Commons)

Quirky personal story time! As a young woman of Mediterranean descent, I have always felt odd that I don’t like figs. I feel like I should–like I would be healthier or better for it. It is not as though my family has lots of figs or anything like that–I just feel that I should like figs, as silly as that may be.

It may be that some of these feelings have roots in reality. Raw figs are a good source of potassium, dietary fiber, and vitamins (like K and B6).  Dried figs are also better, or just more concentrated, sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, though they lack the water content (raw figs are about 80% water) and are much higher in sugar by weight. Interesting fat factoid: the minimal fats in figs are mainly long-chain saturated fats (oleic, myristic, palmitic , and stearic), and unsaturated fats (linoleic and linolenic) acids [1]. I only point it out because saturated fats are typically not thought of as being part of a plant–but plants need these fats for cellular structure and the like.

Figs are a known source of antioxidants, but did you know that color has an effect on the antioxidant capacity? The darker the fig, the higher the antioxidants. A study tested black, red, green, and yellow figs and found that the darkest variety (Mission) contained the most antioxidants [2]. Since fresh figs tend toward being fragile, most often figs are eaten dried. Look into finding sun-dried figs (as opposed to oven-dried), because the proportion of organic acids and nutrients to sugars is best from this drying method [3]. Therefore, if you can’t get a hold of fresh figs, or you prefer them dried, look especially for sun-dried mission figs to pack the greatest antioxidant punch.

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