5 Reasons to Love Figs

Figs are about to be your favorite fruit, and not just because they're so yummy.

June 9, 2015
figs on a rustic blue table
Thinkstock

"No offense to Newton, Massachusetts, but I've always found a certain fig-filled cookie does not give figs the attention they deserve," boldly states Patricia Helding, author of Fat Witch Bake Sale. "It's such a shame, because plump, juicy figs are luscious in their own right."

The fig is a native of southern Arabia, and this deliciously sweet fruit is loaded with nutrients, antioxidants, and even natural pain-relieving properties.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Here are 5 fig facts that prove that these nutritious delicacies should become a staple in your own diet (if they aren't already!):

#1: Sweet Brain Food 
Sugar and your brain are not friends, but fig syrup could be a safe replacement. Fig syrup can scavenge for dangerous free radicals in your body that can contribute to neurodegenerative diseases, according to research from the University of Calabria, Italy. In the study, it also showed the ability to prevent the degradation of a critical neurotransmitter connected to Alzheimer's disease. Fig syrup is made by boiling and concentrating figs in water, without any extra ingredients.

#2: Major Fiber Power 
One serving (about a quarter of a cup) supplies the body with 20 percent of its daily fiber needs, according to research from the University of Scranton. Bonus: 28 percent of this fiber is soluble fiber, which has been shown to help lower blood cholesterol and control blood sugar.

#3: Training Food for Olympians
Forget processed athletic "goo." Figs contain calcium, iron, potassium, and phosphorous and are a good source of energy. In fact, according to research published in the Journal of Nutrition, figs were even given to ancient Olympic athletes as training food.

#4: Long-Lasting
Dried figs are one of the most nutrient-rich dried fruits. What makes them truly remarkable is that they can last up to six months when dried and stored properly, according to the Journal of Food Science and Technology.

#5: Antiaging Antioxidants
Figs are rich in antioxidants that can help you stay healthy as you age. Polyphenols help aid in fighting cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and cardiovascular disease. A typical 44-gram serving size of figs contains 444 miligrams of polyphenols, according to research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is higher than the total polyphenol content in the average person's daily vegetable consumption.

 

More: Longevity Secret: Eat Figs, Glorious Figs

Add some figs to your diet with this sweet recipe from Fat Witch Bake Sale by Patricia Helding.


Fig Manhattans

Makes 12 to 16 bars

Ingredients:
Crust:
12 Tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons fig jam

Topping:
1½ cups fig jam
¼ cup apple cider
2 Tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 pints fresh figs, washed and dried
3 Tablespoons sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9" × 9" baking pan with butter or cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Dust with flour and tap out the excess.

2. To make the crust: In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and egg yolk and beat to combine. Beat in the vanilla.

3. Measure the flour and salt and sift directly into the butter mixture. Gently stir in the jam.

4. With a spatula, spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Cool in the pan on a rack. Leave the oven on. While the crust is cooling, prepare the topping.

5. To make the topping: In a large bowl, whisk the jam, apple cider, honey, and cinnamon until well blended. Pour over the crust and bake for 20 minutes, or until the topping is bubbling and the edges are set. Leave the oven on.

6. Cut the figs into quarters and arrange them evenly over the topping. Sprinkle with the sugar.

 

7. Return the pan to the oven for 5 minutes, or until the figs have softened slightly and the sugar is caramelized. Cool in the pan on a rack for at least 1 hour.

8. Cut into squares just before serving. Keep refrigerated.

Storage note: The bars will keep longer uncut. Cover the pan with plastic wrap or foil and store in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 days.