Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fig

Fig is a soft, sweet fruit. Its skin is very thin and has many small seeds inside of it.


Just about every babies mom has shoved a Fig Newton in their face to shut them up. That's how most of us were first exposed to figs. Soft and sweet perfect for babies and adults too. Well Figs are the fruit of the Ficus tree, which are related to Mulberry trees. Many figs are dried either by spending time in the sun or by an artificial process, but they can be enjoyed through out the year.

The fig fruit is called a synconium. Many figs are grown for their fruit, though only Ficus carica, the Common Fig, is cultivated to any extent for human consumption. The fig is a false fruit or multiple fruit, in which the flowers and seeds grow together to form a single mass. Depending on the species, each fruit can contain up to several hundred to several thousand seeds. A fig "fruit" is derived from a specially adapted type of inflorescence (an arrangement of multiple flowers). In this case, it is a turned inwards, nearly closed receptacle, with many small flowers arranged on the inner surface. Thus the actual flowers of the fig are unseen unless the fig is cut open. It is a fruit without a visible flower.

Figs can trace their history back to the earliest of times with mentions in the Bible and other ancient writings. They are thought to have been first cultivated in Egypt. They spread to ancient Crete and then subsequently, around the 9th century BC, to ancient Greece, where they became a staple foodstuff in the traditional diet. Figs were held in such esteem by the Greeks that they created laws forbidding the export of the best quality figs.
Figs were deemed so important in Classic Greece that sportsmen ate them before entering a competition. Figs were also revered in ancient Rome where they were thought of as a sacred fruit. According to Roman myth, the wolf that nurtured the twin founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, rested under a fig tree. During this period of history, at least 29 varieties of figs were already known. Jump ahead to the late 19th century, when Spanish missionaries established the mission in San Diego, California, they also planted fig trees. Today, California remains one of the largest producers of figs in addition to Turkey, Greece, Portugal and Spain.

Figs have no fat and no cholesterol, but they do have a lot of soluble fibre, the kind that helps lower LDL cholesterol, the bad one. How can figs do that? Because they have a high amount of soluble fibre.
Soluble fibre means that the fibre dissolves in water and forms a jelly-like paste with other foods in the intestine. This feature is very important because it reduces the amount of cholesterol circulating in the blood. Soluble fibre not only lowers LDL cholesterol, the "bad" guy, but it also raises HDL cholesterol, the "good" guy. Insoluble fibre does not have any effect on cholesterol but it is very beneficial for our whole body because it acts as a natural laxative. When our meal includes soluble fibre, bacteria in the colon ferment it. This fermentation produces certain compounds that prevent the formation of cholesterol. This results in lower levels of cholesterol circulating in your blood vessels. Figs contribute high amounts of minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium, three essential minerals for the health of our heart. On the other hand, they are very low in sodium, a major contributor to hypertension. Figs per 100 grams or 3.5 ounces of Fresh figs, contribute 53 calories, 1.6 grams of fibre, 44 milligrams of calcium, and 1.1 milligrams of sodium. Dried figs contribute with 272 calories, 12.9 grams of fibre, 193 milligrams of calcium and 40 milligrams of sodium. Dried figs contain an impressive 250mg of calcium per 100g, compared to whole milk with only 118mg. Figs are amongst the most highly alkaline foods, making them useful in balancing the pH of the body. They are a good source of potassium, important in helping to regulate blood pressure. I'v also found articles reporting figs are good for various respiratory disorders including whooping cough and asthma. Since they are also good for digestion, they help in treating constipation, indigestion, stomach ache, etc. Figs are also good for fever, ear-ache, boils, abscesses, venereal diseases and is excellent for the liver.
You probably do not think about the leaves of the fig tree as one of fig's edible parts. But in some cultures, fig leaves are a common part of the menu, and for good reason. The leaves of the fig have repeatedly been shown to have anti-diabetic properties and can actually reduce the amount of insulin needed by persons with diabetes who require insulin injections. In one study, a liquid extract made from fig leaves was simply added to the breakfast of insulin-dependent diabetic subjects in order to produce this insulin-lowering effect. Figs a fruit source of calcium will promote bone density. Additionally, fig's potassium may also counteract the increased urinary calcium loss caused by the high-salt diets typical of most Americans, thus helping to further prevent bones from thinning out at a fast rate. Results of a prospective study involving 51,823 postmenopausal women for an average of 8.3 years showed a 34% reduction in breast cancer risk for those consuming the most fruit fiber compared to those consuming the least.



Fig's are lusciously sweet with a texture that combines the chewiness of their flesh, the smoothness of their skin, and the crunchiness of their seeds. California figs are available from June through September. So don't even think about passing them up this year, in the mean time try some dried from your nearest market and remember buy organic. Good Luck...









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Sources:
eyeonspain.com
whfoods.com
simple.wikipedia.org

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