Dr. Muhammad Saeed, Iqra Yasmin and Talha Anjum
National Institute of Food Science & Technology, University of Agriculture Faisalabad
The biological name of fig is Ficus carica & it belongs to Mulberry family. It is also known as Higo in Spanish, Dumoor in Bengali, Figue in French, Anjir in Hindi, Fík in Czech, Anjeer in Urdu & Punjabi. Fig is small in size & has pear like shaped and it was one of the most favorite fruit of Queen Cleopatra. Fig is considered as one of the healthiest foods due to its nutritious value. It has uniqueness against other fruits due to its specific chewy taste, aroma of honey & voluptuousness in its shape. With about 30 to 1,600 small, golden seeds per fruit, figs are regarded as a symbol of fertility in many cultures. Fig has wide range of color & texture as it may be brown, purple or green but the fleshy portion of the fruit has usually shade of pink, amber or red. The fruit contains large number of seeds in it almost 30-1600. The people of different cultures regards fig as sign of fertility. Fresh fig fruit is firstly dried then sold in market due to its high perishability. Apart from its fragile nature, it is very beneficial for health.
Although the native of figs is Turkey, Asia from the beginning but it was very firstly cultivated in Egypt. The history of fig traces back to ancient writings and the Bible. This fruit became famous when Adam and Eve covered their nakedness with fig leaves; some scholars believed that the forbidden fruit picked up by Eve was a fig and not an apple. Sumerian stone tablets dating back to 2500 BC also indicate the usage of figs. Indigenous to Western Asia, the fig-growing territory stretched from Afghanistan to southern Germany and the Canary Islands. Gradually spreading to ancient Crete and then to Greece around the 9th century, figs became a staple food. As per the Roman myth, the wolf that took care of the twin founders of Rome, namely Romulus and Remus, rested under a fig tree. During that period, over 29 varieties of figs were already discovered. With time, ancient conquerors introduced figs to other regions of the Mediterranean and in the early 16th century, they were taken to the Western Hemisphere by the Spaniards. The missionaries, who worked in San Diego in California, planted several fig trees. From here, the fruits spread to Virginia, Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. Today, Turkey, Greece, Portugal, Spain and California are the largest cultivators of figs.
Figs contain dietary fiber, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, copper, phyto-nutrients, potassium & manganese yet they are considered as rich source of nutrients. In detailed view, figs have 74 Kcal energy, 19.18 g carbohydrates, 0.75 g protein, 0.30 g total fat, 2.9 g dietary fiber, 6 µg folates, 0.400 mg niacin, 0.300 mg pantothenic acid, 0.113 mg pyridoxine, 0.050 mg riboflavin, 0.060 thiamin, 142 IU vitamin A, 2 mg vitamin C, 0.11 mg vitamin E, 4.7 µg vitamin K, 35 mg calcium, 0.070 mg copper, 0.37 mg iron, 17 mg magnesium, 0.128 mg manganese, 0.2 µg, Zinc 0.15 mg selenium, 85 µg carotene-ß, 9 µg lutein-zeaxanthin.
Nutritional value based on Health Benefits
Fig is also contemplated as functional food because of its medicinal & nutritional facts. Dry fig is more nutritious than the fresh ones. The main components of fig are dietary fibers, riboflavin, carbohydrates, calcium, protein, thiamin, potassium & iron. It contains second highest amount of calcium after Oranges. 51 to 70% part of fruit is made up of sugar but low in calories i.e. just 74 calories are present in 100 g fresh fig. On the other hand, dried figs are rich source of minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants that gives exceptionally to optimum health and wellness. Dried figs are higher in calories yet they provide more energy than the fresh ones i.e. 249 calories per 100 g dried fruit. Black mission is type of fresh fig which contains poly-phenolic flavonoid anti-oxidants due to which their anti-oxidant value is comparatively higher than other fruits & is closer to A.V of apples i.e. 3200 umol/100 g.
Daily Uses of Figs
Figs are recommended by the beauticians for the purpose of beautification and personal care. Cracking of premature wrinkles & lips can be prevented by using of figs. It puts off bad breath. Thickening of skin of toe can be softened by the application of the milky juice of green fig & it is due to its unique necrotic property. They are free from sodium, cholesterol, fat and high fiber that’s why their intake is considered beneficial for dieters. Use of figs also helps in quitting the bad habit of smoking. Warts, moles, skin pigmentation and blisters have been treated by them for many years. Sugary pulp of figs is used to make sweetener that is healthful for dieters. Figs have softening and soothing effects which is helpful for the treatment of inflammation, cough, colds and aching throats. In ancient times, people were used figs as a demulcent for the irritation of soft skin tissues. Bacterial growth can be inhibited by its use & it was due to its anti-bacterial properties. There is big contribution of figs in baking industries especially as main ingredient for making of deserts, jams, jelly, cakes, and pies. Dietetic values and taste are enhanced by their addition to food products. They are also act as humectants. Figs contain a large amount of soluble and insoluble dietary fibers while the soluble fibers lower the blood cholesterol level and insoluble fibers helps in prevention of breast and colon cancer and heart attack. The fleshy part of ripe fruit and leaves are highly mucilaginous, sticky and rich in amino acids.
As the safety is concern, Nutritionists strongly recommended that care should be taken before buying dried Anjeer as they are easily contaminated by a type of toxin fungus which may cause cancer.