Resembling a teardrop, a fig is an edible fruit. It belongs to a small tree species called Ficus Carica. This tree falls in the mulberry family. Figs in Hindi are called anjeer. They are a sweet fruit that contains tiny crunchy edible seeds along with reddish-purple flesh inside. The outside skin is either purple or green.
Figs were considered natural and powerful aphrodisiacs by ancient Greeks. Therefore, they stood for love and fertility. Figs also help with treating erectile dysfunction.
Nutritional benefits of figs
One can enjoy figs fresh or dried. Figs that have not matured contain about 70% water and 18% carbohydrates. It has a trifling amount of fat and protein but is a good source of fibre. The fruit’s natural laxative properties are well known. Many suffering from constipation consumes figs to be relieved from their condition. For best effects, have figs on an empty stomach especially if you are suffering from constipation. This helps digest them quickly. Hence, consuming too many figs is not desirable as it could lead to diarrhoea.
However, this fruit is a good source of essential minerals such as potassium and calcium. Both these minerals work to potentially boost bone density and bone health, thus preventing old-age conditions such as osteoporosis. Both fresh and dry figs are rich in vitamin K.
Dried figs have more sugar, dietary fibre, vitamins, and minerals than fresh figs. But fresh figs have increased amounts of vitamin A, C, and beta-carotene than those which are dry. Figs provide potent antioxidants including photochemical compounds, mainly flavonoids, and phenolic acid. These essential compounds are found in both fresh and dried figs.
Figs also help in managing weight as the high fibre content in figs gives one a feeling of fullness for a longer time. As a good source of fibre, this fruit is not just good for our digestive system but is also known for reducing the risk of cancer and Type 2 diabetes. A word of advice, as dried figs are rich in calories, it is better to consume a lesser quantity on a regular basis. In ancient times dried figs were considered a good source for gaining weight in a healthy way.
Figs taken with milk improve reproductive health and are packed with minerals like zinc, magnesium, and iron. Menstruating women are advised to eat figs to control PMS.
Benefits of soaking figs overnight
Dried figs are best when soaked in water overnight because the process breaks down soluble fibre and slows the absorption of sugar after consumption. Another benefit of soaking figs overnight is that they can be used to prepare delicacies, desserts, and jams. One can also soak figs in honey before relishing them for an extra burst of flavour.
The versatility of figs in cooking
Be they fresh or dried, figs can be used in making many tasty dishes. Right from breakfast to lunches, be it salads, desserts, syrups, or simply a healthy 4 PM snack, figs are very versatile. Fresh figs pair perfectly with cheese. You can poach them in wine or caramelize and roast them.; dunk them in wine or drizzle them with honey, there’s so much you can do with figs.
Figs are fairly easy to cultivate. They grow best in well-drained soil and can be grown in a pot too. But once they are harvested and picked, figs should be eaten within a few days as they have a short shelf life. If the figs are firm, they will soften in a day or two at room temperature. It is for this reason perhaps ripe figs wither away and do not remain fresh during transportation. Hence, extra care must be taken to ensure that they reach the consumer in prime condition. At home, they can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days.
Word of caution: Both fresh and dried figs contain a high level of vitamin K. People taking blood-thinning medications should consume figs after discussing them with their doctor or perhaps avoid it completely.
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