Figs, what a delight! I remember that, as a child, there was no more beautiful awakening than the mornings in which, waiting for us, on the breakfast table, were the figs just picked by my father, who spent a lot of time looking for the most suitable trees. They didn't have to be on the road so as not to be exposed to car pollution, they had to be tall and lush and even better if they looked at the sea. I remember the joy of getting lost admiring that beautiful dark red pulp, it seemed to reveal hidden treasures. And in fact, with the intuition of children, it was already understood that the pulp of figs holds a real treasure chest of properties for health. So let's see what science says about the properties of fresh figs, which abound on the shelves of greengrocers and supermarkets during this period.
Figs are the fruits of the fig tree, scientific name Ficus Carica, and have always been considered a symbol of longevity. In fact, figs provide carbohydrates, and therefore energy, fiber, useful for proper intestinal functioning, vitamins, such as B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin A, and mineral salts, such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. But above all, figs contain antioxidants, such as phenolic acids and flavonoids, such as gallic acid, chlorogenic acid, rutin, quercetin and epicatechin (Paolucci et al, Foods, 2020).
Figs are antioxidants and protect the brain
Figs, as anticipated, are fruits rich in antioxidants, especially phenols and flavonoids. Well, red wine and tea, which are drinks considered rich in antioxidants, contain fewer antioxidant compounds than figs! However, not all figs are the same (Mawa et al, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med., 2013). In fact, darker colored figs bring greater amounts of phenolic compounds than lighter varieties. Not only that, these compounds are present in higher quantities in the skin of figs than in the pulp, as well as they are more abundant when the fruit is ripe (Arvaniti et al, Food Res Int, 2019). Studies have shown that it is precisely the abundance of antioxidant compounds that make figs anti-inflammatory foods and also capable of helping to counteract neurodegeneration such as Alzheimer's. In fact, Alzheimer's is triggered by two conditions that must be present at the same time. The first is the presence of accumulations of beta amyloid proteins, the second is inflammation. Well, the antioxidants in figs have been shown to reduce neuroinflammation (Essa et al, PLoS One, 2015).
Figs and good mood
Fresh figs also bring tryptophan (Russo et al, J Food Sci, 2014). Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that acts as a precursor to substances such as serotonin and melatonin, in turn involved in the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle and mood. The intake of tryptophan has therefore been shown to improve sleep quality, memory and mood (Friedman et al, Int J Tryptophan Res., 2018).
Figs against constipation
Thanks to their fiber content, figs are considered excellent natural laxatives, without causing diarrhea. Indeed, these fruits support intestinal motility by bringing balance in the digestive tract (Rtibi et al, J Ethnopharmacol, 2018).
Figs and blood pressure
Figs, thanks to the presence of antioxidants, have been shown to lower and control blood pressure, with benefits for the cardiovascular system (Alamgeer et al, Pharm Biol, 2017).
Figs, how to consume them and warnings
You can consume fresh figs alone, but you can also add them to salads or, why not, to morning yogurt, preferably vegetable-based yogurt in order to preserve the antioxidants of figs to the maximum. In any case, never overdo it with figs, which must be included in a healthy and balanced diet. In addition, remember that fresh figs should be consumed as soon as possible as they quickly deteriorate. Otherwise, if you want to consume the figs in the following months, you can dry them (Paolucci et al, Foods, 2020). Or, alternatively, buy them already dried. But in case of dried figs it is clearly to be considered that the sugar content increases.