Nutrition and Healthy Tips for Figs

Health Benefits and Calories Found in Figs

Bunch of fresh figs
Michel Gunther/Biosphoto/Getty Images.

Figs are a naturally sweet type of fruit. In historical times, cooked figs were used as a sweetener in lieu of sugar and some countries still keep to this practice today. Because of this sweetness, figs (particularly dried figs) probably fall into the category of fruits that people with diabetes would benefit from avoiding.

Dried Fig Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 fig (8.4 g)
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 21 
Calories from Fat 2 
Total Fat 0.1g0%
Saturated Fat 0g0%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g 
Monounsaturated Fat 0g 
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 1mg0%
Potassium 57mg4%
Carbohydrates 5.4g2%
Dietary Fiber .8g3%
Sugars 4.03g 
Protein 0.3g 
Vitamin A 0% · Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 1% · Iron 1%
*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Dry vs. Fresh Figs: Portion Control

Fruits that are dried go through a dehydration process and lose their water content. This shrinks the fruit, ultimately yielding a smaller volume than fresh fruit. This usually means that you can eat less dried fruit and expect the same amount of calories and sugar found in a fresh fruit.

For example, one large dried fig is much smaller in weight than the fresh version. Yet, it has the same amount of calories, carbohydrate, and sugar as one serving of a large, fresh fig. Therefore, you'll likely feel fuller after eating a fresh piece of fruit than you would with the dried fruit. 

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

Figs also have a high glycemic index. Foods high on the glycemic index chart are thought to raise blood sugars faster than those with lower numbers.

If you are eating figs, read labels and be aware of portions, especially when it comes to dried figs.

The Health Benefits of Figs 

Although figs maybe high in sugar, they are nutritious and if portion controlled, they can fit into any meal plan. Figs contain polyphenols which have antioxidant power and help to combat oxidative stress.

Figs are also rich in fiber, which can help to regulate bowels, contribute to satiety, reduce cholesterol, and regulate hunger. Figs are often be used in the treatment of constipation, as the fiber in the fruit can have laxative effects.

In addition, figs are a good source of Vitamin K, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Studies have shown that potassium-rich diets can help to regulate blood pressure. Figs are naturally low in sodium and saturated fat.

A 2016 study suggests that the leaves of the Ficus cicarica plant can be made into a tea which may be helpful in the treatment of diabetes. Researchers discovered that the insulin levels and body weight of obese rats with type 2 diabetes lowered after ingesting ficusin extracted from the leaves. This is interesting considering the fruit from the same fig plant is high in sugar, though more research is needed.

Why Do Figs Cause Sore Tongues?

People often complain of a burning sensation or sore tongue after eating too many figs, particularly fresh ones. This is due to the latex of the fig called phison. The less ripe a fig is, the more phison is present.

The phison is a proteolytic enzyme that breaks down proteins, thus 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 phison is contained.

Picking the Best Figs 

Figs originated in Asia and there are hundreds of fig varieties. These varieties are the most popular that you'll find in the United States.

  • Mission Figs (generally found dried)
  • Kadota Figs
  • Calimyrna Figs
  • Conadria Figs
  • Brown Turkey Figs
  • Sierra Figs
  • Sequoia Figs

Select figs that are soft to touch, clean and dry, with smooth, unbroken skin. They should not be mushy.

For optimal selection, smell the fruit. Figs that smell sour are beyond their prime and will begin to ferment.

If this is the case, they will appear to lose their round shape and collapse inward.

Properly Store Figs

Fresh figs can spoil quickly, therefore it's important to keep them cold. Once purchased, use them immediately or store in a plastic bag in the coldest part of your refrigerator. Discard unused figs after about two days.

Figs that are frozen, can be stored in a sealed container for ten to twelve months. You can opt to store these figs whole, sliced, or peeled.

Canned figs are usually good for one year in the pantry. Once opened, they can be used for up to one week if stored in the refrigerator.

Dried figs can be stored for one month at room temperature if they are unopened. For longer storage, place them in the refrigerator for six months to a year. Once opened, transfer them to a sealable, plastic bag and place them in the refrigerator.

Healthy Ways to Prepare Figs

Figs can be used to dress up a meal, adding texture, color, and sweetness. They are also a natural, healthy ingredient to use in desserts, smoothies, or when sweetening yogurt and cottage cheese.

Most people cook with and consume dried figs, but you can also eat them fresh, freeze them yourself 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.

Delicious Fig Recipes 

Replacing figs for sugar, jelly, or other processed carbohydrates is a great way to add fiber and nutrients to your meal. Here are a few recipes to get you started.

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Article Sources
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  • Irudayaraj SS, et al. Antioxidant, antilipidemic and antidiabetic effects of ficusin with their effects on glut4 translocation and pparγ expression in type 2 diabetic rats . Chemico-Bilogical Interactions. 2016;256(25):85-93.
  • Whelton SP, Blumenthal RS. Beyond the headlines: insights on potassium supplementation for the treatment of hypertension from the canadian hypertension education program guidelines (CHEP). Circulation. 2017;135:3-4.