Figs come from one of the world’s oldest trees, and before we had access to refined sugars, they were a common sweetener, especially in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, where they originate. In fact, the export of figs used to be outlawed by the Greeks because they were considered such a prized possession.
The long and favorable history of figs is attributed, in part, to the many health benefits that they possess. They’re more than a great sweet treat—they possess tons of benefits you might not even realize. Rich in nutrients and fiber that we need to survive, figs are also relatively low in calories and can replace the artificial sweeteners in your diet with healthy sugars.
Here are 11 more health benefits to figs that you might not know.
Most people eat too much sodium—in part because our diets are high in processed foods. Figs can help counteract the negative effects of high sodium intake, such as low potassium levels and high blood sugar.
Although figs have a relatively high sugar content, they also contain nutrients that help lower blood sugar levels. Studies have shown that products such as fig leaf tea can help lower insulin needs for people with type 1 diabetes. Fig beverages also have a lower glycemic index than drinks without figs, which means they have a positive effect on blood sugar levels.
It’s important to recognize that dried figs—like any dried fruit—contain concentrated amounts of sugar, and they can negatively impact your blood sugar if over-consumed.
Although figs are high in fiber (which can cause constipation if you have too much without enough water), they also act as a natural laxative to help relieve discomfort when going to the bathroom.
Because figs are high in fiber, they help you feel fuller after eating compared to a similar food with the same nutrients and sugars and without the fiber. As a result, they can help you to avoid hunger, cravings, and overeating.
It’s extremely common for people to take probiotic supplements to aid in digestion—but naturally occurring prebiotics can do a lot more for your gut health than manufactured probiotics. Figs contain prebiotics, which support the healthy gut bacteria you need for digestive wellness.
You might expect the benefits of figs to end there, but we’re not even close! Figs also support healthy bone density with their high levels of calcium. In addition, their high potassium levels help counteract the loss of calcium in urine caused by high sodium diets. Instead of reaching for a glass of milk, consider snacking on products that incorporate figs.
People with low levels of B6 in their blood are almost twice as much at risk for developing heart disease. When you eat foods with B6, like figs, your body is better able to manage your cholesterol and avoid clogged arteries.
Figs may be able to help lower your blood pressure, manage your cholesterol, and promote overall heart health.
Figs are especially high in vitamin B6—an essential nutrient involved in breaking down and forming proteins that aids in overall brain health. Since your body needs B6 and cannot produce it on its own, you get all your B6 from your diet.
If you don’t consume enough vitamin B6, you could be at risk for mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. B6 can help you avoid these issues, and it also lowers your risk for other conditions such as anemia and Alzheimer’s.
The high levels of B6 in figs are also known to treat nausea, and it’s a common ingredient in morning sickness medications. Figs can also help with stomach discomfort in people who experience PMS, in addition to relieving other symptoms like anxiety, depression, and irritability.
Figs can also help promote eye health. Adequate levels of vitamin B6 are associated with preventing eye diseases that cause vision loss.
The benefits of figs—and B6—may seem never-ending. This essential nutrient is also thought to relieve pain associated with arthritis. Although more research is needed on how figs can support health, the information is promising.
When you consume the essential nutrients that figs contain, you support your heart, brain, blood, eyes, bones, stomach, bowels, and more. Keep in mind that consuming the dried fruits, while more convenient, is always less beneficial than eating fresh figs or drinking fig beverages.
Figs can promote a healthy body and a healthy mind when consumed in moderation and with thoughtfulness. Whenever you make changes to your diet, you should consult your physician and track any changes to your overall health.
Be mindful when adding figs to your diet, as their high sugar content may not be right for everyone.