So sweet and good that one leads to another, but is it true that figs make you fat? Let’s discover properties, benefits, and contraindications. Tasty, nutritious, and very sweet, figs are very popular with young and old alike thanks to the fact that, compared to other summer fruits, they are particularly rich in properties. Listed among the sweetest fruits in circulation, many wonder if figs make you fat or if you can consume them regularly without risking a surge in calorie count. It is mistakenly thought that, due to their sweetness, they are also very caloric, and for this reason, they are often banned from low-calorie diets.
In reality, figs bring few calories and many benefits. Therefore, those who should keep their weight under control (as long as you don’t overdo it). Rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, they are among the natural laxative foods that can be given to children in case of constipation. Furthermore, despite being mainly composed of sugars, they are low glycemic index foods. The fig plant grows mainly in arid territories with a hot and dry climate. Therefore it is typical of the subtropical and Mediterranean areas, even if its cultivation has spread throughout the globe. The regions of most excellent production are Calabria, Campania, Sicily, and Puglia.
There are two varieties of the Ficus plant: Carica Sativa (female) and Carica Caprificus (male). Only the female plants produce edible fruits twice a year, in autumn, which ripen in spring (called prismatic or fioroni), and in spring, with ripening in summer, which represent real figs. So let’s discover all the properties of figs and the benefits generated by their consumption, the characteristics of the different varieties of figs (for example, prickly pears), and the recipes to enjoy them at their best, without underestimating any contraindications that can cause abuse of this food.
All Varieties Of Figs: Characteristics, Properties, And Benefits
Figs are fruits present in different varieties. These are distinguished by the color of the peel, which ranges from yellow to green and from purple to black, and to the plant that produces them. This is the case of prickly pears, which come from a succulent plant called Opuntia Ficus Indica but have organoleptic characteristics similar to those of classic figs. Real figs can be divided into two macro-categories: white figs (Dottato, Gentile, and Verdino with yellow-green skin and pink pulp) and black figs (Date, Brogiotto, and Clara, with brown-purple skin and red pulp).
In any case, it should be specified that those that are usually referred to as fruits are fleshy inflorescences (called cones) that contain natural fruits or small achenes or seeds. The pulp of figs is a concentrate of properties and benefits. Being rich in fiber, the regular consumption of these fruits helps combat constipation and guarantee intestinal regularity, carrying out a laxative function in all respects. Furthermore, the presence of necessary digestive and prebiotic enzymes means that figs are an excellent ally for the well-being of the entire digestive system since they facilitate the absorption of food and other nutrients and act as a natural anti-inflammatory for the mucous membranes.
Rich in calcium and iron, the latter very important against anemia, figs are also an excellent source of potassium. They, therefore, have a special remineralizing and protective effect for the well-being of the whole organism and, in particular, of the immune system, towards which they perform an antioxidant function. When combined with a varied and balanced diet, the consumption of figs can also help prevent some cancers.
On the contrary, they are low in sodium and help maintain normal blood pressure. Instead, they contain various vitamins, especially groups A, B and C. Therefore, they prove to be excellent allies for the skin, eyes, and teeth. Finally, since they are mainly composed of sugars, they represent a highly energetic food that provides immediate energy. Therefore they are suitable for breakfast, before a sporting performance, or in all cases where it is necessary to regain strength.
Calories And Nutritional Values Of Figs
Figs are often demonized by those who pay attention to their figure because they are considered very caloric. In reality, an average fruit brings just 35 calories composed mainly of water, sugar, and very little fat. Taking a look at the nutritional values of figs, 100 grams of this fruit provide:
- About 50 kcal.
- 81 g of water.
- 12 g of carbohydrates (sugars).
- 2 g of fiber.
- 1 g of protein and just 0.2 g of fat.
As mentioned, the glycemic index is also shallow (35) despite the substantial amount of sugars—different speech, however, for dried figs. When dried and deprived of water, they are similar to dried fruit. Therefore, the concentration of sugars is much higher, and the GI and caloric intake can reach 265 kcal per 100 gr. Below we see the table of nutritional values of fresh figs (per 100 gr):
- Calories: 47 kcal;
- Proteins: 0.9 gr;
- Fats: 0.2 gr;
- Water: 81.9 g;
- Carbohydrates: 11.2 gr;
- of which sugars: 11.2 gr;
- Fiber: 2 gr;
- Potassium: 270 mg;
- Vitamin C: 7 mg;
- Calcium: 43 mg;
- Phosphorus and Magnesium : 15 mg;
- Cholesterol: 0 gr.
As mentioned, prickly pears have nutritional characteristics very similar to those of traditional figs. They provide more or less the same calories (55 grams per 100 grams of product) but are richer in fiber. On the other hand, it must be considered that a single fruit can weigh up to 200-300 grams. Therefore it is advisable to pay attention to how many are consumed not to weigh down the calorie count too much.
Contraindications Of Figs: When Is It Better To Avoid Them?
Figs have no particular contraindications, and their consumption is generally suitable for everyone. It is necessary to avoid it in case of allergies or specific intolerances, or the presence of diabetes and obesity. Despite having a low glycemic index and few calories, it should be remembered that figs contain many sugars, which can significantly affect the glycemic load, and the carbohydrate share is expected for some subjects.
Furthermore, those who follow a low-calorie diet to lose weight should consume these fruits in moderation. Finally, it is, in any case, recommended not to exceed the consumption of figs because, as laxatives, they risk causing dysentery and intestinal imbalances.
Fresh Figs And Prickly Pears: How Are They Eaten?
Those who are not lucky enough to live in regions where figs and prickly pears grow spontaneously in the lands along the roads will have to turn to supermarkets, markets, and fruit and vegetable shops to taste these fruits. In this case, it will be necessary to pay close attention to the degree of ripeness to avoid bringing home products that are not entirely edible. Figs only ripen on trees, and once harvested, they deteriorate rapidly.
When buying, it is therefore recommended to choose those with red-orange skin in the case of prickly pears and those with a more vivid color (green or dark purple) in the case of fresh figs. Another age-old issue also concerns the peeling of the fruits, especially in the case of prickly pears, which have long and hard thorns all around. Usually, the fruits arrive on supermarket counters already deprived of the thorns, but those who are lucky enough to pick them by hand from the plant are advised to equip themselves with gardener’s gloves.
After harvesting, the prickly pears are passed under cold running water, softening the thorns and detaching them from the peel. Then it will be sufficient to cut the latter vertically and remove it from the fruit with the aid of a knife. In the kitchen, as in cosmetics, both figs and prickly pears lend themselves to many recipes and preparations. They can be eaten alone, as a snack or after meals, or used as ingredients to create compotes, jams, sauces, and salads.
The fig jam is such an ideal preparation for both sweet recipes. It can be combined with cheeses and cold cuts, spread on bread, or filled cakes and pies. Finally, the juices obtained from figs and prickly pears are often used in cosmetics to create creams and products with soothing and anti-inflammatory properties.