Fig Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

figs

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Figs, the fruit of the Ficus carica plant, are naturally sweet and good for your health. Throughout history, cooked figs have been used as a sweetener in lieu of sugar, and some countries still maintain this practice today. Fresh or dried figs can be used in jams, jellies, desserts, and savory dishes.

In addition to natural sweetness, figs provide fiber and antioxidants. If portion-controlled, they can fit into any nutritious meal plan. 

Fig Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for one small (40g) raw fig measuring 1-1/2" in diameter.

  • Calories: 30
  • Fat: 0.1g
  • Sodium: 0.4mg
  • Carbohydrates: 7.7g
  • Fiber: 1.2g
  • Sugars: 6.5g
  • Protein: 0.3g

Carbs

Depending on the size and type (dried or raw), one fig can contain anywhere from 5 to 12 grams of carbohydrate and 3 to 9 grams of sugar. 

One small, raw fig contains 7.7g of carbohydrate, 1.2g of fiber, and 6.5g of sugars. One dried fig (8.4g) contains 5.4g of carbohydrate, 0.8g of fiber, and 4g of sugar.

Figs are a high glycemic food, with a glycemic index of 61. Foods with a high glycemic score are those that raise blood sugar sharply and quickly.

Fats

Figs are naturally low in fat, containing a negligible amount. 

Protein

Figs do not contain much protein—only 0.3 grams per fig.

Vitamins and Minerals

Figs are usually consumed in small portions. A single fig is not going to provide substantial amounts of any vitamin or mineral, but a fig will provide small amounts of vitamin K, thiamin, vitamin B6, potassium, manganese, and magnesium

Health Benefits

Figs have long been associated with good health and longevity in some cultures. Some purported health benefits of figs have been supported by research.

May Prevent Cell Damage

Although figs are high in sugar, they provide important antioxidants. Researchers have identified phytochemical compounds, particularly phenolic acids and flavonoids, in fresh and dried figs.

The antioxidant capacity of figs is highly correlated with their amount of phenolic compounds. Studies have shown that darker figs have higher amounts than lighter figs and that the skin provides more than the pulp.

Antioxidants may help prevent or minimize cell damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are environmental toxins that we are exposed to, like air pollution or cigarette smoke. Your body also makes free radicals. Antioxidants are believed to help minimize the oxidative stress (damage) caused by these free radicals.

May Reduce Risk for Chronic Diseases

Although researchers don't fully understand the relationship yet, antioxidants are also believed to play a role in the prevention of many chronic diseases including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and eye diseases such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Experts recommend that you consume antioxidants in foods like fruits and vegetables rather than taking them in supplement form.

May Aid in Cancer Prevention

There have been very few studies on the antioxidant benefits of figs, specifically, but one research project identified antioxidant compounds in fig extracts that may provide some benefit in the fight against cancer.

The preliminary in vitro study found that fig extracts showed strong antioxidant and anti-cancer activities when exposed to breast cancer cells. However, much more research needs to be done to fully understand the relationship between figs and breast cancer.

Aids IBS Symptom Management

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a digestive disorder. Sometimes, those with the condition are diagnosed with a variation known as IBS-C or irritable bowel syndrome with predominant constipation. A large randomized, controlled trial found that consumption of flixweed or fig for four months could be a useful therapy for alleviating IBS-C symptoms and can be a beneficial option for first-line treatment.

Aids Constipation Relief

Because of their fiber content and fiber's laxative effects, dried figs are often used in the treatment of constipation. The National Institute on Aging recommends consuming foods such as dried fruits, including apricots, prunes, and figs to increase your fiber intake for constipation relief.

Allergies

There are some limited reports of fig allergy. One report published in 2003 noted that an allergy to fig followed by respiratory symptoms can be present in people with allergies to weeping fig plants or who have the latex-fruit syndrome (a condition where you are allergic to latex and certain fruit and nuts).

Also, if you have an allergy to jackfruit, you may also experience a reaction if you consume fig.

Adverse Effects

People often complain of a burning sensation or sore tongue after eating too many figs, particularly fresh ones. This reaction is due to a molecule in the fig called ficin. Ficin is a proteolytic enzyme that breaks down proteins causing your skin and tongue may itch or burn from exposure.

To avoid "fig burn," spoon the inside of the fig out and eat it separately from the skin where most of the ficin is contained. The less ripe a fig is, the more ficin that is present.

Varieties

There are several main varieties of fig. Black Mission figs are sweet and dark purple, not black. Black mission figs are commonly found in grocery stores along with Brown Turkey figs that are less sweet and have a mild taste. Calimyrna figs, Kadota, and Adriatic figs are bright green. Sierra figs and King figs are also found in some areas.

When It’s Best

Growers state that there are two seasons for figs. The first is in late June and the second runs from August through October.

Ripe figs are easy to spot. They hold their shape and are not soft, but they do give slightly to pressure. If the figs are too hard and don't respond to your touch, they are not ripe. Unfortunately, figs do not ripen well once they've already been picked, but you can try leaving them by a sunny window for a day and see if they soften a bit more.

Storage and Food Safety

Fresh ripe figs should be kept cold. Carefully place your figs in a bowl in the refrigerator to protect them from bruising. Most figs will last for several days when kept cold. Figs can also be frozen for up to 12 months.

Dried figs should be stored in an airtight container away from heat and light. They can also be stored in the refrigerator to make them last a little longer (up to 6 months).

How to Prepare

Figs can be eaten raw, grilled, roasted, or dried. They make a great on-the-go snack and can be used to dress up a meal, adding texture, color, and sweetness. Figs are a natural, healthy ingredient to use in desserts, smoothies, or when sweetening yogurt and cottage cheese.

Replacing sugar, jelly, or other processed carbohydrates with figs is a great way to add fiber and nutrients to your meal.

Most people cook with and consume dried figs, but you can also eat them fresh, freeze them, or purchase them frozen. When using fresh figs, make sure to remove the stem (split the stem in half and peel it off the fruit).

Recipes

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Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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