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Dates vs Figs — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Jack  Yacoubian by Jack Yacoubian | Last updated on July 18, 2023
Medically reviewed by Astghik Baghinyan Article author photo Astghik Baghinyan
Figs
vs
Dates

Summary

Dates are 4 times higher in calories, carbohydrates, and sugar, while figs are 3 times higher in dietary fiber.

However, dates have a lower glycemic index value and are richer in most vitamins and minerals. Compared to figs, dates contain higher levels of B-complex vitamins. They also contain approximately 3 times more potassium, magnesium, copper, and iron, as well as 4 times more phosphorus and 2 times more manganese.

Introduction

Dates come from date palm trees that grow up to 23 meters high. They are native to North Africa, the Middle East, and southern Asia but are currently also cultivated in subtropical regions. The cultivation and consumption of dates date back to 6000 BC in the Arabian regions.

Dates are a staple in the diets and cuisines of nearly all Middle Eastern and North African regions. Arab communities rely on dates as a dietary component because consuming dates helps alleviate thirst and provides an energy boost. Dates are easily available in the area as they grow in arid regions.

When it comes to their appearance, figs come in a variety of colors and sizes. They have a sack-shaped form and a soft interior filled with tiny seeds. The sizes of figs can range from small to large sacks, and the common colors include green and dark purple. Figs are native to the Middle East and Western Asia.

Fig consumption dates back to around 9000 BC, as fossils containing remnants of figs have been discovered. Figs were highly regarded fruits in ancient Greece and Rome.

The fig tree is a dioecious tree, meaning that there are separate pollen-carrying trees and seed-carrying trees. A specific wasp is necessary for carrying the pollen from one tree to another. However, with agricultural advancements, the presence of the wasp is no longer necessary for pollinating seed-bearing trees. Consequently, the fig tree has been able to spread and grow worldwide due to these agricultural advancements.

This article will discuss the differences between dates and figs by referring to their nutritional content, health impact, and usage.

Use

Dates are considered one of the essential foods consumed in Middle Eastern and North African cuisines due to their high carbohydrate content, primarily sugar, and potassium. The potassium in dates acts as a water retainer in the body, enabling individuals living in arid environments to withstand thirst for longer durations.

Dates are also highly regarded in the sports industry as an efficient pre-workout sugar booster, providing the body with a significant energy boost. They can be incorporated into shakes by mixing them with milk, bananas, and cocoa powder, resulting in a highly nutritious beverage. However, if a workout is not planned following the consumption of this shake, one must be cautious of the high caloric intake.

Dates are commonly consumed fresh or dried, while figs are typically enjoyed in their raw form, although dried versions and jams are also popular.

When consuming fig jam, it is important to consider its sugar and caloric content. Dried figs have a variety of uses. They can be eaten as a snack or used as a garnish or topping in European fusion salads.

Figs have a shorter shelf life compared to dates as they ripen relatively faster.

Nutritional Content Comparison

In this section, we will be comparing the nutritional values of raw figs and Deglet Noor dates.

The common serving size for figs is 50 grams, which is equivalent to one medium-sized fig. The serving size for fresh dates is slightly smaller and equals around 2-6 figs. One date weighs only 7.1 grams; hence, 2-6 dates will make up a 40-gram serving. 

To make the comparison easier, we will be comparing 100-gram servings of each. 

Macronutrients and Calories

As can be observed from the macronutrient comparison charts below, dates and figs are very different in their compositions. Whereas figs consist of 79% of water and 19% carbs, dates consist of 75% carbs and 21% water

Macronutrient Comparison

Macronutrient breakdown side-by-side comparison
Figs
1
:
Contains more Water +285.3%
Contains more Protein +226.7%
Contains more Fats +30%
Contains more Carbs +291.2%
Contains more Other +142.4%
19% 79%
Protein: 0.75 g
Fats: 0.3 g
Carbs: 19.18 g
Water: 79.11 g
Other: 0.66 g
2% 75% 21%
Protein: 2.45 g
Fats: 0.39 g
Carbs: 75.03 g
Water: 20.53 g
Other: 1.6 g
Contains more Water +285.3%
Contains more Protein +226.7%
Contains more Fats +30%
Contains more Carbs +291.2%
Contains more Other +142.4%

Calories

Figs are about 4 times lower in calories compared to dates.

Dates contain approximately 282 calories per 100 grams, while figs contain about 74 calories. However, keep in mind that a single serving of dates is usually lower than that of figs. 

Carbohydrates

Figs contain approximately 4 times lower amounts of carbs compared to dates.     

Per 100-gram serving, gigs contain around 19.18 grams of carbs, whereas dates contain about 75 grams of carbs.

Dietary fibers

Dates are 3 times richer in dietary fibers compared to figs. 

Per 100-gram serving, dates contain 8 grams of dietary fiber, while figs contain only 2.9 grams.

Sugars

The sugar content of dates is around 4 times higher than that of figs. 

Per 100-gram serving, dates contain 63.35 grams of sugar, whereas figs contain around 16.26 grams.

Protein and Fats

The protein and fat content of both dates and figs are negligible.

Vitamin Content Comparison

Generally, dates are richer in most vitamins compared to figs. Dates contain more B-complex vitamins, such are vitamin B3, vitamin B5, and vitamin B6

They both also have small amounts of other vitamins, although a single serving won't be enough to fill the daily recommended needs for most of these vitamins. 

The graphs below demonstrate visual comparisons for the vitamin contents but keep in mind that they are given for 300-gram servings, not serving sizes. 

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Figs
5
:
Contains more Vitamin A +1320%
Contains more Vitamin E +120%
Contains more Vitamin C +400%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +15.4%
Contains more Vitamin K +74.1%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +32%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +218.5%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +96.3%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +46%
Contains more Folate +216.7%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 9% 3% 0% 7% 15% 12% 8% 18% 27% 5% 0% 12%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 1% 1% 0% 2% 14% 16% 24% 36% 39% 15% 0% 7%
Contains more Vitamin A +1320%
Contains more Vitamin E +120%
Contains more Vitamin C +400%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +15.4%
Contains more Vitamin K +74.1%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +32%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +218.5%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +96.3%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +46%
Contains more Folate +216.7%

Mineral Content Comparison

Dates generally contain more minerals than figs, as well. Per the same serving amount, dates contain more copper, manganese, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. However, again, keep in mind that the single serving of dates is usually lower than that of figs. 

Compared to figs, dates are around 3 times richer in potassium, magnesium, copper, and iron, as well as 4 times richer in phosphorus and 2 times richer in manganese.

They both also contain various amounts of other minerals. 

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Figs
1
:
Contains less Sodium -50%
Contains more Calcium +11.4%
Contains more Iron +175.7%
Contains more Magnesium +152.9%
Contains more Phosphorus +342.9%
Contains more Potassium +182.8%
Contains more Zinc +93.3%
Contains more Copper +194.3%
Contains more Manganese +104.7%
Contains more Selenium +1400%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 11% 14% 13% 6% 21% 1% 5% 24% 17% 2%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 12% 39% 31% 27% 58% 1% 8% 69% 35% 17%
Contains less Sodium -50%
Contains more Calcium +11.4%
Contains more Iron +175.7%
Contains more Magnesium +152.9%
Contains more Phosphorus +342.9%
Contains more Potassium +182.8%
Contains more Zinc +93.3%
Contains more Copper +194.3%
Contains more Manganese +104.7%
Contains more Selenium +1400%

Glycemic Index

Figs have a glycemic index of 61, which is considered a medium glycemic index value. In contrast, dates have a lower glycemic index of 36, classifying them as low glycemic index foods.

Acidity

One way to understand the acidity of foods is through their potential renal acid load (PRAL) value, which shows how much acid or base the given food produces inside the organism. 

Based on our calculations, the PRAL values of dates and figs are -11.9 and -4.9, respectively, which means that dates have a greater potential to alkalize the body.

Health Impact

Diabetes

Dates have anti-diabetic properties attributed to the flavonoids present in them. These flavonoids are known to decrease the uptake of glucose from the intestinal tract (1).

Figs also provide anti-diabetic properties due to Abscisic acid, a phytohormone found in figs. Researchers have found that individuals who consumed Abscisic acid had a better regulation of glucose balance in the blood than those who did not. Additionally, this phytohormone has been found to reduce the insulin index, thus decreasing the risks associated with developing insulin-resistant diabetes (2).    

Cancer

Anti-tumor properties have also been observed in dates, which research attributes to the presence of beta D-glucan (3). 

Though, as of now, the fig itself has not been found to provide anti-tumor properties, evidence suggests that components found in fig latex and fig leaves (including sitosterols, palmitoyl, and linoleyl) have been linked with anti-tumor properties. These components have shown activity in inhibiting the proliferation of cancer cells (4). 

Inflammation

Anti-inflammatory properties associated with dates have been observed in patients with arthritis (5). 

Figs contain Luteolin, which is a compound known for its anti-inflammatory properties that also acts as a neuroprotective agent (6).

Nephroprotection – Kidney Protection

Dates exhibit nephroprotective characteristics, also known as kidney protection, attributed to their antioxidant components. Studies have shown that after kidney impairment, the antioxidants present in dates effectively reduce the levels of creatinine and urea in the blood, leading to improved filtration (7).

No similar properties have been observed in figs regarding kidney protection.    

Article author photo Jack  Yacoubian
Education: Haigazian Medical University
Last updated: July 18, 2023
Medically reviewed by Astghik Baghinyan

Infographic

Figs vs Dates  infographic
Infographic link

Fat Type Comparison

Fat type breakdown side-by-side comparison
Figs
2
:
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +83.3%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +657.9%
Contains less Saturated Fat -46.7%
22% 24% 53%
Saturated Fat: 0.06 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0.066 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.144 g
37% 41% 22%
Saturated Fat: 0.032 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0.036 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.019 g
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +83.3%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +657.9%
Contains less Saturated Fat -46.7%

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the rightmost column. It displays the amounts side by side, giving a clearer understanding of the difference.
Figs Dates
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in price ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in Glycemic Index ok
Rich in minerals ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal
Rich in vitamins Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Figs Dates Opinion
Net carbs 16.28g 67.03g Dates
Protein 0.75g 2.45g Dates
Fats 0.3g 0.39g Dates
Carbs 19.18g 75.03g Dates
Calories 74kcal 282kcal Dates
Fructose 19.56g Dates
Sugar 16.26g 63.35g Figs
Fiber 2.9g 8g Dates
Calcium 35mg 39mg Dates
Iron 0.37mg 1.02mg Dates
Magnesium 17mg 43mg Dates
Phosphorus 14mg 62mg Dates
Potassium 232mg 656mg Dates
Sodium 1mg 2mg Figs
Zinc 0.15mg 0.29mg Dates
Copper 0.07mg 0.206mg Dates
Manganese 0.128mg 0.262mg Dates
Selenium 0.2µg 3µg Dates
Vitamin A 142IU 10IU Figs
Vitamin A RAE 7µg 0µg Figs
Vitamin E 0.11mg 0.05mg Figs
Vitamin C 2mg 0.4mg Figs
Vitamin B1 0.06mg 0.052mg Figs
Vitamin B2 0.05mg 0.066mg Dates
Vitamin B3 0.4mg 1.274mg Dates
Vitamin B5 0.3mg 0.589mg Dates
Vitamin B6 0.113mg 0.165mg Dates
Folate 6µg 19µg Dates
Vitamin K 4.7µg 2.7µg Figs
Tryptophan 0.006mg 0.012mg Dates
Threonine 0.024mg 0.043mg Dates
Isoleucine 0.023mg 0.049mg Dates
Leucine 0.033mg 0.084mg Dates
Lysine 0.03mg 0.066mg Dates
Methionine 0.006mg 0.022mg Dates
Phenylalanine 0.018mg 0.05mg Dates
Valine 0.028mg 0.071mg Dates
Histidine 0.011mg 0.032mg Dates
Saturated Fat 0.06g 0.032g Dates
Monounsaturated Fat 0.066g 0.036g Figs
Polyunsaturated fat 0.144g 0.019g Figs

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Figs Dates
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low Glycemic Index diet ok

People also compare

Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score

The summary scores indicate the extent to which this food can fulfill your daily vitamin and mineral requirements if you consume 3 servings, consisting of 100 grams of each (an approximation of 3 serving sizes).
Vitamins Daily Need Coverage Score
9%
Figs
12%
Dates
Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
11%
Figs
29%
Dates

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Sugar?
Figs
Figs is lower in Sugar (difference - 47.09g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Figs
Figs contains less Sodium (difference - 1mg)
Which food is cheaper?
Figs
Figs is cheaper (difference - $1.4)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Dates
Dates is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.028g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Dates
Dates is lower in glycemic index (difference - 19)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Dates
Dates is relatively richer in minerals
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

References

All the values for which the sources are not specified explicitly are taken from FDA’s Food Central. The exact link to the food presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Figs - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173021/nutrients
  2. Dates - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171726/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000-calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.