Figs And Their Influence On Optimal Blood Sugar Levels

  • Aqsa AshrafMaster's degree, Molecular Pathology & Genomics, Forman Christian College (A Chartered University)
  • Dr. Maria WeissenbruchDoctor (Ph.D.), Cell and Developmental Biology, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany
  • Regina LopesSenior Nursing Assistant, Health and Social Care, The Open University

Introduction

Figs belong to the family of mulberry trees and are native to the Middle East Southwest Asia regions. “Ficus caricais the scientific name. Figs are sugary, delicious, and valuable foods which are consumed by humans either in fresh or dried form.

People use figs in numerous food products such as in cakes, bread, jellies, jams, and pies. They are high-quality fruits and are rich in nutrients. Therefore, it is suggested as one of the most nutritional foods in the world because these nutrients are beneficial for health purposes.

Both fresh and dried figs are high in fibre, vitamin K, amino acids, calcium, potassium, iron, carotenoids, polyphenols, sugars, antioxidants, and organic acids.1 Figs are a valuable addition to weight loss because of their large amounts of fibre content. Figs can also be eaten as snacks. These nutrients in figs impart positive impacts on health and maintain optimal blood sugar levels while preventing diabetes and obesity.2

Blood sugar is the prime sugar present in the human blood, and is the major source of energy that comes from what you eat in daily life.3 Our body breaks down the food that we eat into glucose and delivers it into the bloodstream. The optimal blood sugar level of the human body is less than 140 mg/dl.10 

Importance of figs’ nutrients in monitoring blood sugar levels

Figs have the potential to improve individuals’ health and well-being because of their nutritious values. Therefore, there are several nutrients in figs that play a vital role in maintaining the blood sugar level. 

Fibres

They are a rich source of dietary fibre. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), figs contain 9.8 grams of total dietary fibre, including both insoluble and soluble fibres, which help not only in digestion but also assist in slowing down sugar absorption into the bloodstream.2,5 

Potassium

They contain high amounts of potassium and assist in regulating the quantity of sugar absorbed by the body right after meals. According to the US Department of Agriculture, figs contain 680 milligrams of potassium.5 Higher amounts of potassium help in increasing blood sugar levels to help diabetic individuals live stable and normal lives.3 

Importance of abscisic acid

Abscisic acid is a natural hormone present in figs which performs its function by regulating the amount of blood glucose level before or after meals, helping in the release of insulin, and promoting glucose tolerance in the body. A study published by the University of Sydney investigated that figs contain one of the highest concentrations of abscisic acid.4 

Figs’ antioxidant properties and their influence on blood glucose levels

Antioxidant and phenolic compounds are present in larger amounts in figs. Fig antioxidants greatly help in improving the plasma antioxidant capacity, prevent oxidative stress, and control the blood sugar levels in the human body. The most important function of antioxidants is to remove the free radicals, generated in response to smog, exercise, smoke, and sun exposure, that mostly lead to cell damage.

It is important to note that dried figs play an essential role in improving health conditions because of the presence of a large quantity of antioxidant polyphenols. There are many experiments that were conducted in the laboratory that reported that dried figs play a role in antioxidants in the human body. Studies also indicated that antioxidants in figs regulate the body function properly which were often damaged due to diabetes.6 

What is the Glycemic Index (GI)

The glycemic index is defined as the way of rating foods containing carbohydrates content on the basis of how rapidly or slowly a food is digested by the human and increases their blood sugar levels over a period of almost 2 hours.7 

Based on the glycemic index, food products are divided into three categories: 

  • Food products containing high glycemic index (70 to 100),
  • Food products containing a medium glycemic index (55 to 70), and
  • Food products containing low glycemic index (less than 55)

High glycemic index (Gi) foods

Carbohydrates in those foods are broken down rapidly and lead to rapid causes of enhancing blood sugar levels are called high GI foods (70 to 100). For example: soft drinks, white rice, white bread, and potatoes.7

Medium glycemic index foods

Those foods in which carbohydrates are broken down slowly and lead to gradual causes of increase in blood glucose levels are called medium GI foods (55 to 70). For example: basmati rice, honey, and wholemeal breads.7

Low glycemic index foods

Carbohydrates-containing foods are fragmented more slowly which leads to a more gradual surge of increase in blood sugar levels are called low GI foods (less than 55). For example: milk, oats, figs, and grainy breads7

Glycemic index of the figs

The glycemic index of fresh figs is about 35 which indicates the low influence of figs on blood sugar levels. However, the dried figs contain 61 glycemic indexes which lead to moderate blood sugar levels. For individuals who are worried about regulating their blood sugar levels, these low and moderate glycemic index values of figs are beneficial for them. 

It is important to understand that the glycemic index is significant in the regulation of blood sugar levels which determines how rapidly or slowly a specific food increases the blood sugar levels. Figs are beneficial for diabetic people because their lower glycemic index leads to a gradual surge in blood sugar levels.8 

Addition of figs into a balance diet

Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose by the human body, and they mainly contain dietary fibre and natural sugar. Figs contain both dietary fibres and natural sugar. When people eat carbohydrate-containing figs, it affects their blood sugar levels. To regulate their blood sugar level, people should understand the serving size of the figs.8

Fresh figs serving size

A 100-gram portion size of fresh figs contains a total amount of 19 grams of carbohydrates with a total calories of74 per serving. Therefore, the glycemic index of the fresh figs per serving is 6.65, which indicates a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels.9 

Dried figs serving size 

 The 100-gram portion size of the dried figs indicates that the total amount of carbohydrates is 64 grams and the total calories are 249 per serving. Therefore, the glycemic index of the dried figs per serving 39 indicates the gradual rise in blood sugar levels.9

100 grams of fresh figs’ nutritional composition

Carbohydrates19 g
Calories74 kcal
Protein0.8 g
Fat0.3 g
Dietary Fibre2.9 g
Calcium35 mg
Potassium 232 mg

100 Grams of dried figs nutritional composition

Carbohydrates64 g
Calories249 kcal
Protein3.3 g
Dietary Fibre9.8 g
Fat0.9 g
Calcium162 mg
Potassium680 mg

Use of figs by diabetic people 

Diabetes is a disorder in which the level of blood sugar becomes very high and the body is unable to make sufficient amounts of insulin.10 The blood sugar level of diabetic patients is 126 mg/dl or higher. Therefore, figs are the most essential incorporation to the diet of diabetic people because of their low glycemic index and average carbohydrate, which help them to regulate their blood sugar level. There are several studies which demonstrated that the addition of figs into a balanced meal diet will not influence the blood sugar levels of diabetic individuals.8 

Consulting healthcare professionals 

It is important for diabetic people to consult with healthcare professionals or nutritionists to regulate their suitable serving sizes and make sure that figs are suitable within their diet plan. It is also crucial for them to consume figs along with other foods that impact their blood sugar levels to maintain a stable diet.8 

Summary

Figs are sweet in taste, delicious, and have the potential to enhance health. Overall, several studies demonstrated that both fresh and dried figs are the world’s best fruit because they are rich with high amounts of essential nutrients that are beneficial for humans and safeguard them from numerous disorders, especially from blood sugar. Figs are rich in fibres which slow down the process of absorption of carbohydrates into our bloodstream and ultimately prevent the rise of blood sugar. 

The rate of glycemic index is very important to monitor the levels of blood sugar, whether it will rise slowly or quickly. The glycemic index of fresh and dried figs are from low to moderate which leads to a slow rise in the blood sugar levels, therefore, they are most significant for diabetic people. It has been estimated that the total calories of fresh fig is 74 kcal and the total calories of dried fig is 249 kcal in 100 grams per serving. Hence, studies showed that diabetic patients should consult with healthcare professionals before consuming dried figs as they contain high calories. 

Therefore, figs are the most important incorporation to the diet of diabetic people because of their low glycemic index and average carbohydrate, which help them to regulate their blood sugar level. However, a consultation from a medical professional should be the first action. 

References

This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Aqsa Ashraf

Master's degree, Molecular Pathology & Genomics, Forman Christian College (A Chartered University)

Aqsa Ashraf is a dynamic science editor and writer, merging her expertise in molecular pathology and genomics with a dedication to clear communication. With roles as Sub-Editor for Science Vision'23 Magazine and an intern at the Centre for Excellence in Molecular Biology (CEMB), she brings meticulous attention to detail and scientific precision to her work. Aqsa holds a Master's degree in Molecular Pathology & Genomics from Forman Christian College and actively advocates for women in science. She is dedicated to making science accessible to all through her writing.

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