The noble scholar Ibn al-Qayyim talked about the fig in his excellent work "The Prophetic Medicine". He said that there is no mention of figs in Prophetic Sunnah because there were no figs in the land of Hijaz and Medina. This is because the soil that is required for figs to grow on is incompatible with that which is suitable for date palms.
However, he did say that they are mentioned in the Qur'an to identify their distinct health benefits among other fruits: "By the fig, and the olive." [95:1]
Ibn al-Qayyim also said that figs are more nourishing than all other fruit, that they should be ripe and peeled before eating, and that the best type of fig is the white variety. He said that eating fresh figs can prevent the development of urotoxicity (toxic quality of urine), and can cleanse the kidney and bladder. Fresh figs are healthier and more wholesome than dried figs and can benefit the throat, chest and trachea.
He mentioned that dried figs are beneficial for the nerves and that eating dried figs combined with almonds and walnuts on an empty stomach in the morning can be exceedingly beneficial in opening up the alimentary canal (a tube that runs through the body, from the mouth to the end of the large intestine).
What Are Figs?
Figs are inverted flowers and the seeds of the fig are actually the fruit.
Figs are higher in fiber than any other fresh or dried fruit per serving. They are rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron, and are an excellent source of polyphenols (plant-based chemicals thought to play a role in fighting disease).
Research has shown that figs have "superior quality" antioxidants and are one of the healthiest dried foods. They contain a substance called Psoralens that, when combined with exposure to ultraviolet light, is successful in treating several skin disorders and lymphoma.
Other health benefits of figs are:
- The type of fiber found in figs could reduce the risk of developing adult-onset (type 2) diabetes by slowing down digestion and absorption of sugars in foods.
- Figs could also play a role in weight loss, as fiber helps make people feel full faster and slows the absorption of calories.
- Figs contain digestive enzymes that promote regularity and can aid in digestion.
- Figs are amongst the most highly alkaline foods, making them useful in balancing the pH of the body.
Tips for Enjoying Figs
- Fresh figs: choose figs that are slightly soft and bent at the neck. Fresh figs tend to deteriorate quickly and when they are ripe they will only keep for about 2-3 days in a refrigerator.
- Dried figs: the white "frost" that occurs on figs is called "sugaring" and is a natural occurrence when sugars from the fig rise to the surface. To reduce "frost", keep the figs refrigerated.
References for further reading
- Emenaker NJ. Short-chain fatty acids derived from dietary fiber may protect against invasive human colon cancer. On-line. 1999; 7(1):1, 4-9.
- Ferguson LR, Chavan RR, Harris PJ. Changing concepts of dietary fiber: implications for carcinogenesis. Nutr 6- cancer. 2001;39(2):155-169.
- Hosein S. Immunomodulators: psoralens. CATIE. 1994;48. Accessed Online May 2006 at http:/www.aegis.com/pub/catie/1994/CAT14807.html