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Fresh figs are divine -- especially when they are stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped with a thin slice of prosciutto. But dried figs are also quite delicious and available year-round.

  1. Fig-Bran Muffins
  2. Fresh Figs With Vanilla Yogurt
Figs: Fresh and Fabulous

 

Fresh figs are available only for a short time after they are harvested in late summer or early fall. Examine the figs carefully before buying them; the fruit should be soft but not mushy, with no bruises or signs of mold.


 

Both fresh and dried figs are high in pectin, a soluble fiber that helps lower blood cholesterol. Figs may also have a laxative effect, so they are especially beneficial to people who suffer from chronic constipation; in others, however, overindulging can provoke diarrhea.

 

Fig bars are more nutritious and lower in fat and sugar than most cookies; two bars contain less than 100 calories. Because their fruity centers tend to stick to teeth—like plain dried figs—it’s important to brush after eating.

 

Because fresh figs typically bruise easily and spoil rapidly, most are dried or canned. Although high in calories—180 in five pieces—dried figs are a highly nutritious snack food, contributing about 15 percent or more of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calcium and iron, as well as 6 g of fiber, more than 590 mg of potassium, and reasonable amounts of vitamin B6. Consuming figs with a citrus fruit or another source of vitamin C will increase the absorption of their iron.

Figs have provided sugar in the Mediterranean diet for at least 6,000 years. Introduced to North America in about 1600, figs were planted throughout California by Spanish missionaries in the 1700s but were not cultivated commercially until the 20th century.

 

Not fruit but flower receptacles, figs bud like other fruit blossoms on the bare branches. The true fruits are the seedlike achenes that develop, along with the inconspicuous flowers, inside the fleshy bulb.

 

The Health Benefits And Drawbacks of Figs

BENEFITS DRAWBACKS

 

A rich source of potassium, calcium, and iron.

 

High in fiber.

             

Fresh figs spoil quickly.

 

Dried figs are high in calories; their high sugar content and stickiness contribute to tooth decay.

 

Can cause diarrhea.

 

May be contaminated by molds and their toxins.

Neither bees nor wind contribute to the pollination of figs. Instead, a unique species of wasp, only about 1⁄8 in. (3 mm) long, pollinates the flowers as it enters and exits through the small pore on the rounded end of the fig. Commercial fig growers depend on this symbiotic relationship and foster it by tying wild figs containing wasp eggs to the branches of their cultivated trees. This method of ensuring fertilization has been used at least since it was recorded in ancient times by a pupil of Aristotle.

 

Traditionally, figs were ripened by rubbing their skins with oil, which stimulated production of the maturing agent, ethylene. North American fig growers no longer follow this practice, as it detracts from the taste of the fruit.

 

From: Foods that Harm, Foods that Heal, Reader's Digest Canada

 

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