FIG: ONE FRUIT TO RULE THEM ALL
With health benefits ranging from strengthening bone density to healthy, shiny hair, figs are considered the superstar of autumn and they can help your body prepare for the cold winter ahead
FOR EVERY season of the year there are signature fruits and vegetables that help prepare our bodies for the times ahead. By autumn, our immune system becomes more vulnerable to disease, primarily because we have less sun exposure and do not get enough Vitamin D. However, one fruit that comes into season in the fall is almost a healing deposit.
A NATURAL SWEETENER
The fig is the fruit of the ficus tree, a part of the mulberry family (Moraceae). Figs have a unique, sweet taste and soft texture. Lightly crunchy, the inside of the fruit is filled with edible seeds. However, fresh figs are sensitive and tend to spoil quickly and so they are often dried or canned in the forms of jam and preserves. Dried figs are a sweet and nutritious fruit that you can enjoy year-round and there are many kinds in a wide variety of colors and textures. A small, budlike opening on the top of the fig, known as an “ostiole,” helps the fruit grow. Known for its natural sweetness, the fig is said be have been used as a natural sweetener before the invention of refined sugars.
RICH IN VITAMINS A, E AND K
It is not exactly known when the fig tree appeared. However, as one of the oldest trees in the world and the most important exported fruit in the Middle East and Mediterranean regions, figs are high in minerals and soluble fiber content, thus making the fruit highly preferred by many countries. Figs are also rich in minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, Iron and copper, containing antioxidant Vitamins A, E and K. Here are the numerous benefits of figs.
REGULATE HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
Figs are a good source of potassium, a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure. Many people do not consume as much fruits and vegetables as they should, and when salt consumption is added, they are nourished rich in sodium. However, high sodium levels can cause potassium deficiency in the body, and eating inadequate amounts of potassiumrich foods can lead to hypertension.
Consuming low amounts of potassium-rich foods can cause hypertension, especially when combined with high sodium intake. In a study conducted by Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), a group consumed vegetables, fruit and low-fat dairy products instead of snacks and sweets. After adhering to this diet for some time, the subjects of the group showed higher levels of potassium, magnesium and calcium. As a result, the study strengthened the argument that figs also have a positive effect on blood pressure.
ADD FIGS TO YOUR DIET
Foods that are high in fiber can have a positive effect on weight management and figs are a good source of dietary fiber. In one study, women who increased their fiber intake by taking fiber supplements significantly reduced energy intake, but hunger and satiety scores did not change. Therefore, it can be said that figs have a positive effect on diet programs. Consuming at least three figs per day can prove beneficial for weight loss.
PROTECT YOUR BODY FROM BREAST CANCER
According to a study conducted on menopausal women, the risk of breast cancer is reduced by 34 percent in women who consume fruits that are high in fiber. In addition, the study indicated that women who consume the most grain fiber had a 50 percent reduction in the risk of breast cancer compared to those who consumed the least amount of fiber. The fruits that have the highest level of fiber are apples, figs, pears and plums.
FIG LEAF AGAINST DIABETES
Contrary to popular belief, the leaves of the fig tree are edible and, in some cultural traditions, fig leaves are considered a common part of the daily menu. Studies have shown that fig leaves have antidiabetic properties. In one study, the liquid extract of fig leaves was added to the menu of insulindependent diabetic patients and was shown to lower insulin levels.
FIGS PROTECT THE HEART
Studies conducted on animals have shown that fig leaves lower triglyceride levels and prevent the growth of certain cancer cells. According to a study conducted at Rutgers University in New Jersey, dried figs contain Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids and phytosterol (the oily substance found in plants) and cholesterol-lowering activity. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids cannot be produced in the body and must be taken from food supplements. It is known that fatty acids have many positive benefits on cardiovascular and brain health. Phytosterol, on the other hand, blocks the path of cholesterol and allows it to be removed from the body without interfering with the blood.
EAT FIGS TWICE A WEEK FOR HEALTHY HAIR
Fruits rich in Vitamin C combat hair loss problems and help keep hair healthy. Figs contain nutrients that promote hair health, such as magnesium and Vitamins C and E, which help hair growth. The nutrients in this fruit stimulate blood circulation in the body to speed up hair growth.
Figs contain a high amount of calcium which contributes to the formation of collagen that forms our hair and head skin. Figs are also very popular in the hair care industry, and fig extract is used in some hair creams, providing moisture to the scalp and slowing hair loss, while moistening the hair without aggravating it.
Fig oil is ideal for wavy and curly hair, rehydrates the hair and makes it shinier. Add 10 drops of fig oil to a selected hair mask and apply it to your hair. Wait an hour and then shampoo as usual. Or, you can mix fig oil into your hair creams for silky, smooth hair. After shampooing, rinse your hair thoroughly. You can also promote hair health by consuming figs at least twice a week.
FIGS PROMOTE BONE STRENGTH
Figs have an adequate amount of calcium, which plays an extremely important role in bone development and strength. The amount of calcium in your body needs depends on your age, gender and physical condition. The body requires higher levels of calcium especially during lactation, lactation and puberty. The daily calcium requirement may be specified as 1,000-1,500 milligrams in adolescents and adults and at least 1,500 milligrams in pregnant or lactating women.
Milk and dairy products are among the richest sources of calcium and consuming these foods is extremely important for meeting your daily calcium needs. However, you should not consume foods that reduce their absorption simultaneously. If you consume products such as black tea, chocolate, cocoa, potatoes, pepper, beans, carrots, parsley, oranges, strawberries, dried figs and rice along with calcium-rich nutrients, calcium absorption is reduced.
APPLY FIG PASTE TO YOUR SKIN
Figs are not only a delicious and healthy fruit, but also a wonderful natural ingredient for your personal skin care routine and can help you stay young and beautiful. Applying fig paste to the face allows important nutrients to be transported to the dermal layers of the skin. Mix a tablespoon of yogurt and two figs thoroughly in a bowl, apply this to your face and massage your skin gently for a few minutes. Leave it on for 15 minutes and then wash with warm water. You will notice that your skin has been renewed. Apply the mask once a week.
Halit Yerebakan, M.D.