Common fig nutrition: glycemic index, calories and diets
Complete nutrition and health benefits analysis for Common fig
The common fig (Ficus carica), or just fig, is the flowering plant of the eponymous tree. It is closely related to mulberries, being from the same Moraceae family. Fig trees have a rich history, accompanying humans with their travels for centuries, being one of the earliest cultivated fruit trees. Today they are also commonly used as ornaments.
The Greek philosopher Theophrastus, the founder of modern botany, described how insects enter and leave the figs (1). That is because each fig species has its own wasp pollinator, so wild fig fruits often have dead wasps in them. However, if the wasp doesn’t manage to leave the fruit in time, the enzymes will break it down, as the fig ripens (2). Having said that, modern agriculture has found ways to grow figs without the help of wasps as pollinators.
Figs come in a variety of colors and sizes, however they are almost always in a sack-shape, with a soft inside, that consists of hundreds of tiny seeds, with a mellow sweet taste. The most common figs we see are the ones with black and green peels and pink pulps. Namely, the 4 most well studied horticultural varieties are the Caprifig, the Smyrna, the San Pedro and, of course, the Common or the Adriatic, each having their own sub-varieties (3). The edible fig is a multiple and accessory fruit, botanically referred to as syconium.
Figs are a year round fruit, which is part of the reason, as well as the high calcium concentration, that ecologists consider it to be a “keystone resource”. It is included in the diets of hundreds of species of insects, birds, mammals, reptiles and even fish, dispersing the seeds wherever they go (4).
We are going to talk about the nutritional value contained in 100g of a fig, that is the equivalent of 2 serving sizes, with a serving size being one medium fig, weighing 50g.
Macronutrients and Calories
Figs consist of almost 80% water. The primary macronutrient in figs is the carbohydrates, with about 19g in a serving. Of this, the dietary fiber makes up for the 3g and the other 16g are sugars.
A fig has only 1% protein and almost no fats at all, meaning it is very low in saturated fats, and has no trans fats and no cholesterol.
Of the little protein that it has, among the essential amino acids, tryptophan, threonine, isoleucine, valine and histidine each make up 2% of the protein. The other essential amino acids, leucine, lysine, methionine and phenylalanine are equal in amounts, making up 1% each.
Figs are a great source of vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin K. They are also rich with vitamins B6, B1, B2, B3 and B5, listed in order of the amounts within, from high to low. Figs also contain some amounts of vitamin E, but they absolutely lack in vitamin B12, vitamin B9 and vitamin D.
Figs contain copious amounts of calcium and potassium. They are also high in manganese, magnesium, copper and iron. Zinc, phosphorus, choline and selenium can be found in low to moderate amounts. Figs are low in sodium.
Figs can be eaten fresh or dried. The nutritional value of a fresh fig is sometimes higher, however figs are highly sensitive to physical damage and dried figs are a way to spread the use of figs beyond the areas that produce it. Dried fruits have been proven to have greater nutrient density, an increased shelf life and greater phenol antioxidant content when compared to fresh fruits. Dried figs have the ability to significantly increase the antioxidant capacity of blood plasma for 4 hours after consumption (5).
Fig allergies are not that common with only a few cases reported to date. The main manifestations are usually either an anaphylactic reaction or an oral allergy syndrome. People with a fig allergy can often feel a tingling, itching or swelling sensation in the mouth right after consuming the fruit. The most common allergen in figs are the proteins related to the skin (6).
Fig trees can also cause skin rashes called phytophotodermatitis, due to compounds within fig leaves called furocoumarins, consisting of psoralen, bergaptene and others. Phytophotodermatitis is a toxic reaction due to exposure of the skin to certain plants, followed by an exposure to sunlight. It is not a photoallergic reaction, but rather a phototoxic one, meaning prior sensitisation is not necessary and anyone can be affected by it (7).
Scientists have discovered a cross-reactivity between fig fruit, the weeping fig and other fruits, such as kiwi, papaya, avocado, pineapple and banana. Dependent sensitization to rubber latex allergens was not found (8).
Studies have found that fig fruit extract supplementation, due to the presence of a phytohormone called abscisic acid, can be a promising nutritional change for the management of acute postprandial glucose and insulin homeostasis and a possible adjunctive treatment for glycemic management in prediabetes and diabetes mellitus type 2 (9, 10).
Another research has treated experimental diabetes in rats with fig fruit extracts, confirming that figs’ antioxidant properties ameliorate diabetic conditions (11).
The glycemic index of dried figs is 61, which puts it in the moderate category. Compared to dried figs, dates and raisins have a higher glycemic index, however prunes, dried apples, peaches and apricots have a lower index (12).
Incorporating a decoction of fig leaves, as a supplement for breakfast has been proven to help patients with type 1 diabetes lower their daily required insulin dose by 12% (13).
The aqueous extract of Ficus carica leaves has been proven to have significant hypoglycemic effects in streptozotocin-diabetic rats after an oral or intraperitoneal administration (14).
Compounds within fig latex, like sitosterols and acyl moieties, primarily palmitoyl and linoleyl, have been established to be potent cytotoxic agents, showing inhibitory effects on proliferation of various cancer cell lines, during in vitro experiments (15).
Fig tree latex and leaves can be used as a potential therapeutic treatment on colorectal cancer cells, due to their antiproliferative and apoptosis inducing qualities (16).
Another study has found the active compounds, bergapten and psoralen to play an important role in the anticancer effects of the fig tree leaves. Ficus carica leaves can be a good source to use in the development of drugs for suppressing cancer cell growth and migration, against breast cancer (17), as well as cervical (18) and liver cancer (19).
Research has shown that the aqueous methanol extract of the fig fruit decreases the blood pressure of glucose induced hepertensive rats, presenting with strong negative inotropic and chronotropic effects (20). This makes the fig fruit a potential substance for the development of natural hypotensive drugs.
Ficus carica leaf extracts can also play a role as a food supplementation for poultry, due to the fact that adding the extract significantly reduced the levels of triglycerides and total cholesterol production in poultry liver (21).
Other studies have also shown fig leaf extracts to have hypolipidemic effects in lab animals. One study showed the extract to improve the lipid profile and decrease adipogenic risk factors in high fat diet rats (22). Another research found the leaves to have a significant effect on carbohydrate metabolism enzymes, promising hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic activities in type 2 diabetic rats (23).
Nevertheless, when it comes to the direct effects of the fig leaf extract on humans, it has not been proven yet. A study concluded that consumption of dried figs does not decrease serum low density lipoprotein or total cholesterol concentrations. On the contrary total cholesterol levels increased in the subjects (24).
The fruit has also been studied to repress adenosine-5-diphosphate and adrenaline-induced human platelet aggregation, expressing antiplatelet activity. The ripe dried fruit also exhibited spasmolytic activity, most probably mediated through the activation of potassium ion ATP channels (25).
Figs are often used in traditional medicine as a treatment for constipation and various digestive issues. Scientists have researched some of those effects.
A study has shown the aqueous extract of fig leaves to have a natural laxative effect without causing diarrhea and to ameliorate functional gastrointestinal and motility disorders (26).
Figs can also be used as an effective treatment for constipation in dogs, further proving that fig paste may be useful as a complementary medicine for people suffering from chronic constipation (27).
Consumption of figs can be helpful for patients with irritable bowel syndrome, improving symptoms such as frequency of pain, frequency of defecation, distention and stool consistency (28).
In different researches over the years figs have also been studied to have many more properties, such as hepatoprotective, antibacterial, antipyretic, antituberculosis, anthelmintic, antimutagenic, anti-HSV, antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and others (25, 29).
Fig in Diets
During a keto diet it is best to limit your carbohydrate intake to less than 50g of it a day. Since 2 figs contain about 20g of carbohydrates, it is advised to avoid this fruit or use it only in moderation (30)
Figs are a good source of dietary fiber and potassium. They are also low in sodium, so they fit in both types of the DASH diet.
Fruits are not allowed in Atkins Phase 1 and only a limited number of fruits, of which figs are not a part of, are allowed in the Phase 2. However you can have figs in moderate amounts during the Atkins 20, Phase 3 and 4, as well as the Atkins 40 and the Atkins 100 diets (31, 32).
Fresh fruit is essential to the Mediterranean diet, so figs fit perfectly in this one.
A paleo diet includes plenty of fruits and since fig trees are one of the oldest cultivated fruit trees, figs are a part of the paleo diet (33).
Vegan/ Vegetarian/ Pescetarian
Figs definitely suit vegetarian and pescetarian diets. However it is debatable for a vegan diet, since for many fig trees, wasp pollinators are necessary to produce the fruit (34). Still, today there are methods of cultivating fig trees that do not require wasp pollinators.
Fruits are not allowed during the first two, Attack and Cruise Phases of the diet and you can only have one piece of fruit a day during the Consolidation Phase. Even though you can eat anything throughout the Stabilization phase, figs are one of the fruits that is advised to be avoided (35).
You can eat figs during the eating periods, but not during the fasting periods.
Low Fat & Low Calorie
Figs have almost no fats and only 74 calories in a 100g serving. So you can eat figs during a low fat and low calorie diet in limited amounts.
Two figs have almost 20g of carbohydrates, so you have to moderate the intake of these fruits during a low carb diet.
Figs have strong antioxidant activities, as well as some anti inflammatory qualities (25, 36). Figs suit this diet.
Figs are to be avoided during a BRAT diet (37).
Important nutritional characteristics for Common fig
Common fig Glycemic index (GI)
Check out similar food or compare with current
NEW NUTRITION FACTS LABEL
Serving Size ______________
Common fig nutrition infographic
Mineral coverage chart
Mineral chart - relative view
Vitamin coverage chart
Vitamin chart - relative view
Protein quality breakdown
Fat type information
Fiber content ratio for Common fig
All nutrients for Common fig per 100g
|Nutrient||DV%||In TOP % of foods||Value||Comparison|
|Protein||2%||88%||0.75g||3.8 times less than Broccoli|
|Fats||0%||85%||0.3g||111 times less than Cheese|
|Carbs||6%||36%||19.18g||1.5 times less than Rice|
|Calories||4%||79%||74kcal||1.6 times more than Orange|
|Sugar||0%||34%||16.26g||1.8 times more than Coca-Cola|
|Fiber||12%||27%||2.9g||1.2 times more than Orange|
|Calcium||4%||41%||35mg||3.6 times less than Milk|
|Iron||5%||81%||0.37mg||7 times less than Beef|
|Magnesium||4%||69%||17mg||8.2 times less than Almond|
|Phosphorus||2%||91%||14mg||13 times less than Chicken meat|
|Potassium||7%||52%||232mg||1.6 times more than Cucumber|
|Sodium||0%||98%||1mg||490 times less than White Bread|
|Zinc||1%||88%||0.15mg||42.1 times less than Beef|
|Copper||8%||70%||0.07mg||2 times less than Shiitake|
|Vitamin E||1%||85%||0.11mg||13.3 times less than Kiwifruit|
|Vitamin C||2%||36%||2mg||26.5 times less than Lemon|
|Vitamin B1||5%||67%||0.06mg||4.4 times less than Pea|
|Vitamin B2||4%||81%||0.05mg||2.6 times less than Avocado|
|Vitamin B3||3%||82%||0.4mg||23.9 times less than Turkey meat|
|Vitamin B5||6%||74%||0.3mg||3.8 times less than Sunflower seed|
|Vitamin B6||9%||61%||0.11mg||1.1 times less than Oat|
|Folate||2%||76%||6µg||10.2 times less than Brussels sprout|
|Vitamin K||4%||56%||4.7µg||21.6 times less than Broccoli|
|Tryptophan||0%||97%||0.01mg||50.8 times less than Chicken meat|
|Threonine||0%||96%||0.02mg||30 times less than Beef|
|Isoleucine||0%||97%||0.02mg||39.7 times less than Salmon|
|Leucine||0%||97%||0.03mg||73.7 times less than Tuna|
|Lysine||0%||97%||0.03mg||15.1 times less than Tofu|
|Methionine||0%||97%||0.01mg||16 times less than Quinoa|
|Phenylalanine||0%||97%||0.02mg||37.1 times less than Egg|
|Valine||0%||96%||0.03mg||72.5 times less than Soybean|
|Histidine||0%||97%||0.01mg||68.1 times less than Turkey meat|
|Saturated Fat||0%||85%||0.06g||98.3 times less than Beef|
|Monounsaturated Fat||0%||83%||0.07g||148.5 times less than Avocado|
|Polyunsaturated fat||0%||82%||0.14g||327.6 times less than Walnut|
The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article and glycemic index text the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact link to the food presented on this page can be found below.