Figs: Natural sweeteners and great source of fiber

When I was in college I lived in a house with a huge fig tree in the front yard. I left very early in the morning and got back home pretty late, so it was hard to find a good moment to cut the figs. However, on the weekends I enjoyed watching the birds fight over the fresh fruit, and it was a wonderful show. Although they were the first ones to pick the best, ripe figs, from time to time I found a few that were left untouched on the tree and enjoyed them to the fullest.

I don’t live in that house anymore, but I remember that fig tree fondly. Still, my taste in this sweet treat hasn’t diminished. And one great thing about May is that figs are in season!

There are multiple varieties of figs, and the main difference is in color and texture. Also, because of the different varieties there’s more than one fig season each year. The season begins in mid May. It’s usually hard to find figs by mid summer, but they come back in season by late summer and early fall. The ones that you can find during May tend to have a fresher taste, whereas the ones you can find during the fall are sweeter and have a thicker skin. The differences are minimal, though.

There are tons of ways to eat figs, they can be used in salads, turned into jam, in desserts and as snacks or appetizers. They’re eaten both fresh and cooked, and the skin can be eaten too. A quick appetizer can be mixing figs with Serrano ham and melon.  

I love having one or two figs as a snack in the mid afternoon to get something sugary in my system, minus the calories. Since they are a natural sweetener, I sometimes add one or two to my morning smoothie. 

I also love this quick dessert: toast with goat cheese, figs and honey. Delicious! 

Picking figs is key

Figs have a very short shelf life. In the refrigerator they’ll last only a few days, not even a week. And although they might get softer, figs don’t continue to ripen once they are off the tree. Because of that, it’s super important to pick them right. 

Choose those that are soft and plump. Make sure that they don’t have major bruises or tears too. The color must be rich, a deep purplish or brown. And the smell must be sweet, never sour. 

To make them last longer you can always freeze them.

A treat for your body

Figs are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. 

Here’s what they can do for you:

  • Potassium.  This is one of the most important minerals you should consume. One of its benefits is that it helps lower blood pressure. This is important because we tend to have a diet with too much sodium, due to packaged and fast foods, so having something to balance our diet by adding potassium is fundamental. This mineral also helps keep calcium in the bones, making them stronger.     
  • Fiber. Figs are allies for your intestines and your digestion. They have a very high fiber content, so they help you have a healthy bowel movement and prevent constipation. Because of that, eating too many can have a laxative effect, so have them in moderation. High fiber foods also make you feel satisfied, thus reducing hunger and cravings, which is why having figs around as snacks can also help you watch your weight and keep you away from sugary cravings. 
  • Prebiotics. A healthy digestive system requires a good amount of good bacteria to fight infection and help the system digest food. Figs contain prebiotics, which make the good bacteria in the gut better and easier to multiply. 
  • Natural sugar. Because they are very sweet, figs were used as sweeteners in the past. You can use them for this purpose. One fresh fig is about 30 calories. It’s important to know that dried figs provide much more calories, since the sugar becomes concentrated when fruit is dried. 100 grams provides about 200 calories. 
  • Other nutrients. Figs also contain manganese, iron, copper, calcium vitamins A, B, K and C.

Fun fact: figs aren’t technically fruits. They are actually a cluster of inverted flowers!

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