As far back as 2800 B.C., the Sumerians were touting the nutritive value of figs. The ancients were right!
Figs are mini powerhouses of nutrition with a combination of fiber, minerals and nutrients. While these mighty wonders are fat- and sodiumfree, they’re full of fiber, potassium and calcium, with a little bit of iron thrown in. About four fresh figs, or two to three dried figs, contain 20 percent of the average adult’s daily fiber needs, 7 percent of potassium, and 6 percent of calcium and iron.
Research performed by Rutgers University in New Jersey has also determined that dried figs contain Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids, as well as a number of phytosterols. Phytosterols are credited with decreasing natural cholesterol synthesis in the body, thus lowering overall cholesterol counts.
So, you say, how do I add figs to my daily diet? I like figs, eaten just as nature made them, as fast snacks. To eat a fresh fig, just wash and go — no peeling, just like a grape.
If you buy a bag of dried figs, you can stash them in your knapsack or desk drawer to use when the snack-monster rears its head.
If you’re into baking, puree 1/2 cup of dried figs mixed with 3/4 cup of water. This can be used to replace some or all of the fat in banana bread, carrot cake, zucchini bread and some muffin recipes.
Fresh or dried figs can be chopped and thrown into green salad, pasta salad, rice pilaf, cold cereal, cooked oatmeal or other hot cereals and granola. If you’re baking fresh or canned sweet potatoes or winter squash, hold the brown sugar and add some chopped fresh or canned figs instead.
If you score some large fresh figs, chop them into fruited or plain yogurt. I wasn’t going to mention fresh or poached figs served with heavy cream as a breakfast treat, but I couldn’t resist. Fresh figs can be poached in apple juice spiked with cinnamon or cloves, or in sauterne wine and clove (for adults only).
Fresh or dried figs can be mashed and mixed with cream cheese for a fast sandwich spread. What a way to get your fiber!
Nancy Berkoff is a registered dietitian and chef with more than 20 years of experience in the food industry. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org