Figs are popular fruits that date back to ancient times in the Middle East. They thrive in regions with mild winters around the world and are considered a backyard delicacy. There are thousands of varieties, given that figs were one of the first plants that humans cultivated. Since those times, people have used figs to help treat numerous health conditions. Figs may benefit the digestive, reproductive, endocrine, and respiratory systems, and this article aims to explore their other surprising health benefits.
What Are Figs?
The ficus tree, which bears figs, is a member of the mulberry family. Figs offer a uniquely sweet taste with a soft and chewy texture with edible seeds. Fresh figs perish easily, which is why drying them is a popular mode of preservation. They look like bulbous teardrops and are rich in natural sugars. In the days before refined sugars, ancient societies used figs as natural sweeteners. They are rich in antioxidants, potassium, complex carbohydrates, calcium, magnesium, and iron.
Throughout history, figs have been a staple of good health in many cultures. Although some of the health benefits are merely anecdotal, various studies prove that figs help the body in many ways. Continue reading and you may find that figs can take your health to the next level.
May Support Blood Pressure
It’s no secret that the average American consumes too much salt and processed foods, which contributes to a higher risk of high blood pressure. Often times, eating a lot of sodium-rich foods can deplete potassium levels and create an imbalance. When you eat more potassium, you can help manage blood pressure naturally. One animal study found that fig extract was able to reduce blood pressure in animals with hypertensive readings. Figs are great sources of potassium, so consider adding them to your diet if you have high blood pressure.
May Prevent Cell Damage
The antioxidant profile of figs is quite impressive, according to several research studies. These studies were able to identify phytochemical compounds, including phenolic acids and flavonoids, in both fresh and dried figs. Darker figs have a higher antioxidant content than lighter figs, and they may contain more polyphenols than green tea. Researchers claim that antioxidants may prevent or minimize cell damage that free radicals cause. Free radicals are in environmental toxins, cigarette smoke, air pollution, and more. An overabundance of free radicals can damage cells, but consuming foods rich in antioxidants may prevent this from happening.
May Improve Bone Health
Calcium and magnesium are two minerals that keep your bones healthy and strong. Figs happen to be excellent sources of both of these minerals. About a half-cup of dried figs contains as much calcium as a half-cup of milk. Figs also contain strontium, which is a compound that may contribute to healthier bones. A patented form of strontium is often prescribed to postmenopausal women to treat osteoporosis.
May Improve Digestive Health
Some people consume figs to encourage a bowel movement. This is because they help to nourish the intestines and have mild laxative properties, due to the high fiber content. The fiber in figs has prebiotic properties, which feed healthy gut bacteria to promote a healthier microbiome. One study monitored people who had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with predominant constipation (IBS-C). The participants ate figs for four months in a controlled environment, and the study concluded that figs may alleviate IBS-C symptoms.
May Have Anti-Cancer Properties
As we mentioned earlier, figs have an impressive antioxidant profile. An accumulation of free radicals in the body can increase the risk of developing cancer, as they damage cells. One research study identified several antioxidant compounds in figs that may fight cancer. The preliminary in-vitro study found that fig extracts exhibited powerful anti-cancer activity against breast cancer cells. More research is still necessary to determine if they are effective against other types of cancer.
May Improve Sexual Health
There are certain plants that are naturally rich in aphrodisiac properties. There are many anecdotal reports about people consuming figs to increase arousal and sexual function. One animal study tested the aphrodisiac properties of figs, cinnamon, and earth smoke in rats. The rats received a mixture of these plants and experienced an increase in sexual activity. It was, however, difficult to determine exactly which of the three plants was responsible for the boost in sexual activity. More research is necessary to determine if figs improve sexual health in humans. That being said, many doctors recommend that men with erectile dysfunction consume figs to improve the condition.