Figs And Their Role In Digestive Wellness

  • Dana Visnitchi MSci, Neuroscience with Psychology, University of Aberdeen, Scotland

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Introduction

Did you know that figs are good for digestion? These fruits have been used since ancient times for recipes, thanks to their sweet flavour and different health benefits, including digestive wellness.   

Figs are rich in several nutritional components and contain high levels of fibre, which promotes bowel movement and reduces constipation. They have an optimal effect when consumed in the morning on an empty stomach.

This article will focus on the nutritional components of figs, their contribution to digestive wellness, and ways to integrate the fruit into your diet.  Keep reading if you want to know more!

What are figs?

Figs (Ficus carica, L.) are from the Middle East and Southwest Asia, and they spread through Mediterranean countries and other places with warm and dry climates. These fruits have been used for centuries for recipes due to their sweet flavour and medical purposes.1

You can eat them either fresh or dried, as they both contain fibre, vitamins and minerals. In addition, you can find dark (usually purple) and light (usually green) varieties of figs.1 

Nutritional benefits of figs

These colourful and sweet fruits have many nutritional components, including:1,2

The quantities of these nutrients will vary depending on the type of fig you eat, and they will also differ in the different parts of the fruit (seeds, skin, leaves). For instance, darker figs are richer in antioxidants. 

Figs for digestive health

As previously mentioned, figs have several health benefits. However, this article will focus on the positive impact of these fruits on digestive health. 

Figs are an old remedy used to treat constipation. Thanks to their high amount of fibre, figs can act as a natural laxative. A study showed that individuals who suffered from irritable bowel syndrome with predominant constipation (IBS-C) and ate dried figs, experienced less pain, defecation, and hard stools, compared to those who were given a placebo.3

Furthermore, research suggests that the fig seeds are rich in mucins. These proteins play an important role in creating lubrication, so food and waste can pass through your body and protects the body against nocive agents.1,2,4 Therefore, if you consume figs with seeds, your bowel movement will be more fluent and regular, and that decrease of waste from your gut is associated with prevention of colon cancer.    

Moreover, figs also contain prebiotics, which promote the presence of healthy and good bacteria in the gut.5 These beneficial microorganisms, also known as gut microbiota, are essential for gut health, aiding in food processing, protecting your system from toxic compounds, and contributing to the immune system to prevent issues like inflammation. 

Hence, you should eat figs not only to improve your bowel movement, or if you are constipated, but also to promote your gut health.

How to incorporate figs into your diet

There are several ways you could integrate figs into your diet:

  • Fresh figs
  • Dried figs 
  • Mix them with other dried fruits
  • Fig juice
  • Cut the figs small and mix them with nuts or muesli
  • Add them to salads
  • Fig jam
  • Roasted figs with honey
  • Incorporate them into baked goods and pastries

While it is up to you to decide how you eat figs, it is recommended that you eat 2 or 3 figs in the morning on an empty stomach, especially if you are feeling constipated. 

Fig allergies and considerations

Normally, figs are a healthy snack with nutritional benefits for the majority. However, you might be allergic to them, in which case you should avoid them. Additionally, if you are allergic to latex or birch pollen, you should not consume figs, especially considering that Ficus (fig trees) can also produce natural latex.6,7

Furthermore, if you are taking medicine - blood thinners- to prevent blood clots you should check with your general practitioner whether you can eat figs, as they contain vitamin K, which may interfere with your medication.  

Other health benefits 

As previously mentioned, figs have several health benefits, apart from digestive wellness, which include:1,2

  • Antioxidant activity
  • Reduce the risk of cardiovascular issues
  • Diabetes regulation
  • Weight control
  • Bone health
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Support cognitive health
  • Reduce cancer risk

While it is clear that figs are beneficial for your health, more research is needed in the mentioned areas to further understand their role as a potential therapy.

Summary

Figs have been used since ancient times due to their health benefits. These fruits, which can be consumed fresh or dried, contain many nutritional elements that are beneficial for your health. Some of the bioactive compounds they have include a high content of fibre, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. Figs play an important role in digestive wellness, thanks to their nutritional value, especially the fibre, which helps with constipation and bowel movements. Furthermore, the fruits also contain prebiotics, which promote a healthy and optimal gut microbiota. For figs to have their optimal effect, you should eat some in the morning before having anything else for breakfast. While normally eating figs is good for your health, be aware that you might be allergic to them, or latex or birch pollen; hence you should avoid them.  Finally, if you like sweet things and want a healthy snack, grab some figs!

FAQ’s

How many figs should you eat a day?

If you want to eat fresh figs, 2 to 3 are recommended. On the other hand, if you are considering dried figs, a suggested amount would be 3. However, you should soak the dried fruits overnight, so your body can absorb the nutritional elements of the figs better.

What are the cons of eating figs?

Since they are very sweet and have a high sugar content, you should eat them in moderation. Moreover, they are a natural laxative, so consuming an elevated amount of figs might result in diarrhoea. 

Should you eat figs at night?

Figs contain several minerals which can help you fall asleep. In addition, thanks to their high level of fibre, you will feel satiated, and with fewer chances of waking up hungry during the night.

Is it better to eat fresh or dried figs?

That will depend on individual preferences. However, take into consideration that the concentration of nutritional components will vary from one to another. 

References

  1. Sandhu AK, Islam M, Edirisinghe I, Burton-Freeman B. Phytochemical composition and health benefits of figs (Fresh and dried): a review of literature from 2000 to 2022. Nutrients [Internet]. 2023 Jun 3 [cited 2024 Jan 11];15(11):2623. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10255635/
  2. Rasool IF ul, Aziz A, Khalid W, Koraqi H, Siddiqui SA, AL-Farga A, et al. Industrial application and health prospective of fig (Ficus carica) by-products. Molecules [Internet]. 2023 Jan 18 [cited 2024 Jan 11];28(3):960. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9919570/
  3. Pourmasoumi M, Ghiasvand R, Darvishi L, Hadi A, Bahreini N, Keshavarzpour Z. Comparison and assessment of flixweed and fig effects on irritable bowel syndrome with predominant constipation: a single-blind randomized clinical trial. Explore (NY). 2019;15(3):198–205.
  4. Grondin JA, Kwon YH, Far PM, Haq S, Khan WI. Mucins in intestinal mucosal defense and inflammation: learning from clinical and experimental studies. Frontiers in Immunology [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2024 Jan 11];11. Available from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2020.02054
  5. Dreher ML. Whole fruits and fruit fiber emerging health effects. Nutrients [Internet]. 2018 Nov 28 [cited 2024 Jan 11];10(12):1833. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6315720/
  6. Hemmer W, Focke M, Marzban G, Swoboda I, Jarisch R, Laimer M. Identification of Bet v 1-related allergens in fig and other Moraceae fruits. Clin Exp Allergy. 2010 Apr;40(4):679–87.
  7. Cruz NV, Bahna SL, Knight AK. Fig allergy: not just oral allergy syndrome(Oas). Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology [Internet]. 2007 Jan [cited 2024 Jan 11];119(1):S110. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0091674906028533

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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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Dana Visnitchi

MSci, Neuroscience with Psychology, University of Aberdeen, Scotland

I’m an early career with a degree in Neuroscience with Psychology, who is passionate about mental health, and aims to promote it to a large audience without a scientific background. I’m also interested in skincare and cardiovascular health, and always keen to expand my knowledge. I have previous experience in literature search, creating content for different audiences, and making contributions to a published research paper about Gender Dysphoria. I’m currently focused on exploring medical communications to have a significant impact on the healthcare community.

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