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4 Health Benefits of Figs

Packed with fiber and nutrients, this flower — yep, flower! — is great for your blood sugar, heart and gut

Hands cupping bowl of greens, chickpeas, whole figs, halved and tofu

Get figgy with it.

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People think of figs as fruits, but they’re actually clusters of flowers that grow inside a pod. Technically called a syconium (rather than fruit), figs are bulb-shaped and a bit squishy. The inner flesh has a seedy texture with a sweet and sometimes floral flavor.

“You can enjoy figs in several ways — fresh, dried, in baked goods and made into jams,” says registered dietitian Maxine Smith, RD, LD. “They have a unique honey-like sweetness.”

Black mission figs are the most common types you find in stores. Other varieties include the bright green Calimyrna fig and the deep brown Turkish fig.

Are figs healthy?

“Figs are quite healthy in moderation,” says Smith. “They’re an excellent source of fiber, antioxidants and other important nutrients.”

But they’re sweet for a reason — sugar — so if you’re watching sugar intake, it’s best not to go too wild with figs. For example, six dried figs give you about 24 grams of sugar. (But the high-fiber content of figs helps slow down the impact on your blood sugar level.)

What are the health benefits of figs?

Figs are packed with all the good things:

  • Fiber to support healthy digestion, relieve constipation and improve heart health by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Essential nutrients like copper, potassium, manganese, magnesium and vitamin K.
  • Other nutrients that may combat cancer, help with blood sugar management and aid weight loss efforts.

“Figs are a great snack or salad topper, and they pack a lot of nutrients into a compact package,” notes Smith.

What health benefits can you get from a fig? Here are four highlights:

1. Offers fiber, minerals and vitamins

A big benefit of figs is their nutrition profile. Two raw medium-sized figs — about 17 grams — provide 2 grams of fiber.

In that serving size, you also get several essential minerals. “Minerals are important for forming strong bones, maintaining healthy blood pressure and absorbing nutrients from your food,” explains Smith.

While two figs alone won’t hit your daily targets for any mineral or vitamin, they do provide modest amounts of copper, manganese, iron, vitamin K, magnesium and calcium.

2. Promotes heart health

Nonhuman studies show that fig extract may help your heart health by lowering blood pressure. Other nonhuman studies in the lab suggest the extract may also improve your cholesterol profile by raising HDL (good) cholesterol and lowering total cholesterol and triglycerides.

“Bear in mind that these aren’t human studies, and the researchers used extracts rather than the whole fig fruit,” clarifies Smith. “But the positive effects are encouraging, and we hope to have more research in this area.”

Again figs also have a lot of fiber, which is good for your heart (and overall health). Fiber is known to lower your risk of diseases such as:

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3. Improves digestion

Most fiber-filled fruits are great for digestion, and figs are no exception. Figs provide prebiotic nutrients that feed the good bacteria in your gut. A healthy microbiome can lead to lower inflammation and better immune function.

Figs are also a terrific natural remedy when your bowels get sluggish. They’re especially good for people with irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C).

In a study of 150 people with IBS-C, participants ate 45 grams of dried figs twice a day. Compared to the control group, the fig group experienced less:

  • Bloating.
  • Bowel pain.
  • Straining during bowel movements.

4. Balances blood sugar

Figs also may help keep blood sugar steady, and you don’t even have to eat them to get this benefit. In a small study, people with Type 1 diabetes who drank fig leaf tea daily experienced reduced blood sugar levels. During the month they drank the tea, they needed about 12% less insulin, a diabetes medication that helps keep blood sugar in a healthy range.

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The whole fig fruit also benefits people with Type 2 diabetes, who often experience health complications. “Many people with diabetes get inflammation that’s linked to metabolic disorders,” says Smith. “This can lead to weight gain and cardiovascular disease.”

Figs contain powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory chemicals, like carotenoids and polyphenols. Figs aren’t a cure-all, but these nutrients can help lessen some of the inflammatory effects of diabetes on your body.

Is it OK to eat figs every day?

The benefits of figs are clear, but should you eat them every day? “The short answer is that it’s OK to eat figs daily as part of a balanced healthy diet,” confirms Smith. “But if you overindulge, you’ll regret it. Figs have a laxative effect, so eating too many will give you a gut ache and diarrhea.”

So, how many figs should you eat in a day? That may depend on whether you tend to get constipated. “If you’re often backed up, you can probably eat up to four figs in a day. If you’re pretty regular, it’s best to limit yourself to two or three fresh or dried figs daily,” she recommends.

Figs are a super snack on their own or you can try adding them to a recipe, like our fig, prune and balsamic vinegar dressing.

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