By Therese Leyton
Paying attention to our nutrition has become an important focus on daily snacks and meals. Now that the weather is colder and winter is just around the corner, getting creative with comfort foods while keeping meals healthy and low fat is always a task. This is a great time to play with recipes including figs. They are considered super fruits, healthy and very low in fat. Figs are one of the best sources of nutrition and antioxidants.
Fresh and dried figs can be combined with other dried fruits to many recipes: snacks, spreads, cakes, pies, cookies, casseroles, vegetables, salads and more. Loaded with vitamins, and minerals, figs offer so much nutrition.
So What Exactly is a Fig?
Figs are sweet fruits with multiple seeds and soft skin, which can be eaten ripe or dried. They are also called nature’s candy because they are high in natural sugar. It is the fruit of the fig tree (Ficus), which is a member of the mulberry family, usually found in Asia. In India, the fruit is called anjeer. Different varieties of the fruit can have different colors including purple, red, green and golden yellow. The most popular types of figs include black mission figs, brown turkey, Sierra figs and Calimyrna figs.
Nutritional Benefits of Figs
Figs have been popular around the world for centuries. They are both tasty and nutritious. In fact, recent studies have shown that they may be helpful in treating a range of medical concerns, from diabetes to eczema. They also help with constipation, indigestion, piles, diabetes, cough, bronchitis, iron deficiency and asthma. Figs are also used as a quick and healthy way to gain weight after suffering from an illness.
Figs are rich in fiber, magnesium, manganese, potassium, zinc, copper, iron, phosphorus, and a good source of calcium, as the USDA reports. They promote bone density and lower blood pressure. Figs have twice as much calcium and iron as dates and are lower in fat than dates. They contain many vitamins including vitamins A, B, C and K, making them good for iron deficiency. Dried figs also contains phenol, omega-3, and omega-6 fatty acids that aid in improving health. So, adding figs to your diet makes sense.
A Fig Contains the Following Nutritional Contents:
Energy [kcal] 74
Protein [g] 0.75
Total lipid (fat) [g] 0.3
Carbohydrate, by difference [g] 19.18
Fiber, total dietary [g] 2.9
Sugars, total [g] 16.26
Integrating Figs into your Diet
There are many creative ways to add figs to your daily routine. Add dried figs to your breakfast cereal, granola or yogurt, or mix them with other dried fruits. Granola is healthy and dried figs bump up the nutrition. Add figs to oatmeal, or pancakes instead of raisins. They are delicious alone as a snack or eaten in a health bar. Add figs to your baked chicken for a touch of sweetness. I prefer them in salads. It is all good.
Chefs often use a sauce of dates and dried fruits over baked brisket or roasts. For a side dish or main dish, add chopped figs to brown rice or quinoa. Brown rice or quinoa is high in fiber and very low in fat.
Figs are sweet and soft and easily can be made into a paste to be used in baked goods. The paste of figs is used as a replacement for sugar. Fig spreads are used as a healthier option instead of corn syrup and sucrose. Fig pastes are put in pies, puddings, cakes, spreads and preserves.
Try this nutritious appetizer this Fall and see just how delicious figs can be:
Cranberry Fig Chutney with Brie
Prep: 25 minutes
Yields: 8 servings
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
¾ cup water
½ cup of granulated sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
Dash ground cloves
Dash of allspice
1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped
*½ cup of chopped dried figs
2 8-ounce rounds of Brie cheese
Assorted crackers and pear slices (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Rinse cranberries in cold water and drain.
- In a small saucepan, stir together the water, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Bring to boil and stir to dissolve sugar.
- Boil rapidly for 5 minutes. Stir in cranberries, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and allspice. Return to boiling and reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in apple and figs. Simmer uncovered 5 more minutes or until desired consistency. If desired, cool mixture to room temperature.
- Place Brie cheese in an oven safe baking dish. Bake uncovered until cheese is warm and slightly soften. (10-15 minutes)
- To serve, spoon the cranberry fig chutney over the warmed Brie.
- Serve with crackers, bread, or pear slices…or a variety of all of them!
Enjoy a healthy and happy Fall eating figs!