Figs are one of the oldest cultivated fruits around, dating back to at least 5,000 B.C. Revered since ancient times for their aphrodisiac properties, in many cultures figs are considered a symbol of fertility: split apart, they are said to resemble the female genitalia, left whole, the male genitalia. In fact, the Ancients thought the milky-white substance (actually a natural latex) which drips from the cut stem represented the “universal energy” and it was used to treat infertility and promote healthy lactation. However, there seems to be some truth to the lore. Here are ten fascinating facts about these nutritional powerhouses that make them an incredible addition to anyone’s diet, but particularly to the pregnant woman’s.
1. Figs have a higher overall mineral profile than any other common fruit or vegetable. They are particularly high in calcium, iron, potassium, and zinc, key nutrients for a healthy pregnancy.
2. The high potassium content of figs may help to control blood pressure and therefore, the hypertension associated with preeclampsia, a dangerous pregnancy condition.
3. The mineral content of figs closely resembles that of human breast milk!
4. Figs have the highest fiber content of any common fruit. Rich in both insoluble and soluble fiber, figs really help to mitigate the constipation so common during pregnancy.
5. Figs contain a proteolytic enzyme that also aids in digestion, which is naturally slowed during pregnancy.
6. Figs are highly alkaline, and therefore alkalizing, which has been shown to help curb cravings. This may help control those less-than-healthy urges that can sabotage a healthy pregnancy diet.
7. Figs are high in vitamin B6, which has long been thought to be beneficial in alleviating morning sickness.
8. Even the leaves of figs are therapeutic: ingesting them has been shown to reduce and even eliminate the need for insulin in diabetic patients. Therefore, ingesting them may help to control or avoid a case of gestational diabetes. Furthermore, this ability to balance blood sugar levels should help to relieve a whole host of symptoms – from morning sickness to mood swings.
9. Dried figs contain significant amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential to the optimal development of the fetus. Consuming ample Omega-3’s during pregnancy is also associated with a lower incidence of pre-term labor and premature delivery.
10. Psoralens, a chemical found in figs, has been used to treat many skin pigmentation problems and may be beneficial in preventing melasma, the “mask of pregnancy”.
So now that you’re convinced of the amazing nutritional power of figs…what are the best ways to eat them?
Figs are harvested in the U.S. from June to September, but dried figs are available all year long. I think figs are delicious as is, but they are also a wonderful addition to smoothies and salads: blend a handful of figs with a cup of almond milk and a large, ripe banana, for a thick, rich, and creamy “shake”; or throw some chopped figs on a bed of arugula and fennel and lightly drizzle with balsamic vinegar….the possibilities are endless. But, in my opinion, the BEST way to eat a fig is straight from the tree, warmed by the sun. Mmmm.
How do you like your figs?