Figs have long been a staple in Mediterranean cuisine -- archaeological evidence for the cultivation of figs goes back as far as 5,000 B.C., according to Julia Morton's "Fruits of Warm Climates" -- and they make up a regular part of the average American diet today. You can find dried figs in most grocery and convenience stores, and you might occasionally stumble upon fresh figs in the produce section. Figs have a wealth of nutritional benefits and serve as key sources of essential nutrients.
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Macronutrients and Fiber
A half-cup of dried figs -- or a serving of six small fresh figs -- contains roughly 180 calories, or 9 percent of the daily calorie intake in a 2,000-calorie diet. They're rich in carbohydrates -- dried and fresh figs contain 47.5 and 46 grams of total carbohydrates per serving, respectively -- and roughly 2 grams of protein per serving. Fresh and dried figs are excellent sources of dietary fiber, a specialized carbohydrate that reduces cardiovascular disease risk and prevents constipation. A serving of fresh figs contains 7 grams of fiber, while a serving of dried figs provides 7.3 grams. This contributes a significant amount toward your daily fiber intake goal -- 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men.
Figs provide beneficial copper. Copper activates enzymes that keep your connective tissues strong, support healthy brain cell communication and aid in energy production. It also helps your body absorb iron, which makes it beneficial for preventing and treating iron deficiency. A serving of fresh figs contains 168 micrograms of copper -- 19 percent of the recommended daily intake -- while a serving of dried figs has 214 micrograms, or 24 percent of your daily copper intake recommendation.
Vitamins K and A
Figs are good sources of vitamin K, and fresh figs also provide you with beneficial vitamin A. Vitamin K's primary role in your body involves activating clotting factors -- proteins needed for the formation of blood clots. As a result, the vitamin K from your diet allows your body to control bleeding, especially after an injury. Both fresh and dried figs provide significant amounts of vitamin K, at approximately 11.5 micrograms per serving. This makes up 13 percent of the vitamin K recommended daily for women and 9 percent for men. Fresh figs have 341 international units of vitamin A per serving -- 15 and 11 percent of the recommended daily vitamin A intakes for women and men, respectively. Vitamin A aids in cellular reproduction and supports the health of your eyes.
Eating More Figs
Dried figs travel well, which makes them excellent served on their own as a snack you can eat on-the-go. They also work well in sandwiches -- experiment with adding chopped figs and dried cranberries to chicken salad sandwiches -- or in leafy green salads. Fresh figs are much more delicate with a short shelf life, so you'll want to eat them at home, shortly after purchase. Enjoy sliced fresh figs on their own as a treat, or pair them with an ounce of cheese for a more decadent snack. Puree figs and combine them with balsamic vinegar and olive oil for a healthful and flavorful homemade salad dressing.
- Fruits of Warm Climates: Fig; Julia F. Morton
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Figs, Raw
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Figs, Dried, Uncooked
- Colorado State University Extension: Dietary Fiber
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Copper
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin A (Retinol)
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin K