Figs are the fruit of the ficus tree, which is part of the mulberry family (Moraceae). Figs have a unique, sweet taste, soft and chewy texture and are littered with slightly crunchy, edible seeds. Fresh figs are delicate and perishable, so are often dried to preserve them. This produces a sweet and nutritious dried fruit that can be enjoyed all year round.
There are multiple varieties of fig, all of which vary widely in color and texture. Their unique feature is a little bud-like opening called an ostiole at the top that helps the fruit develop. Their natural sweetness meant that, before the days of refined sugars, they were often used as a sweetener.
One of the world’s oldest trees, the fig tree can be traced back to the earliest historical documents and features prominently in the Bible. Figs are native to the Middle East and the Mediterranean and were held in such high regard by the Greeks that laws were once created to prevent their export.
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Figs are a good source of potassium. This important mineral helps to control blood pressure by causing blood vessels to relax which results in a drop in pressure. The potassium in figs works particularly well in ‘salt-sensitive hypertension’ as it increases the urinary excretion of sodium chloride.
Studies show that eating figs produces a significant increase in antioxidant capacity that lasts for 4 hours after consumption. This boost in antioxidants allows the body to overcome the oxidative stress of consuming damaging foods like high fructose corn syrup found in carbonated soft drinks. Keep in mind that the darker varieties of figs contain a higher antioxidant capacity and many of these phytonutrients are found in the skin once the fruit is fully ripened.
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