The phenolic composition, antioxidant capacity and other functional properties of fresh and dried figs

In a recent study published in the Nutrients Journal, researchers explored the phytochemical contents and health benefits of consuming figs.

Study: Phytochemical composition and health benefits of figs (fresh and dried): A literature review from 2000 to 2022. Image credit: NewAfrica/Shutterstock.comStudy: Phytochemical composition and health benefits of figs (fresh and dried): A literature review from 2000 to 2022. Image Credit: NewAfrica/


Figs, scientifically known as Ficus carica, are deciduous trees or shrubs that belong to the Moraceae family. They are native to Southwest Asia and the Middle East. For centuries, people have recognized the value of these fruits for their positive impact on a variety of health issues, such as gastrointestinal, inflammatory, respiratory, cardiovascular, and metabolic disorders.

Figs contain various beneficial components such as vitamins, organic acids, minerals, amino acids, carotenoids, dietary fiber and polyphenolic compounds. Figs are often overlooked for their health benefits compared to other fruits.

The health benefits of figs in the human diet can be determined by analyzing their phytochemical composition.

Nutrients present in figs

Figs contain a variety of micro and macro nutrients such as carbohydrates, organic acids, vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Figs are rich in fiber and protein, while the fat content in edible wild fig fruit ranges between 1.02 and 2.71 g/100 g DW.

Linolenic is the most abundant fatty acid found in various varieties of figs, along with linoleic, oleic and palmitic acids. Figs are rich in carbohydrates and amino acids, including leucine, valine, lysine and arginine.

High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) has been used in several studies to analyze the sugars and organic acids present in different types of figs. Dried figs contain higher levels of sugars and organic acids than fresh figs.

Specifically, the Portuguese fig variety contains four free sugars, namely glucose, trehalose, fructose, and sucrose, along with five organic acids, including quinic, oxalic, citric, malic, and succinic acids in both the peel and pulp.

Several organic acids have been analyzed in fig fruits and their parts, including malic, oxalic, citric, ascorbic, shikimic, quinic and fumaric acids. The benefits of consuming these organic acids include reducing inflammation, regulating the immune system, promoting calcium absorption, and preventing blood clots from forming.

Figs are the most mineral-rich fruit among commonly consumed fruits. They contain essential minerals such as potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and trace elements, including iron, zinc, manganese, nickel, copper and strontium.

Health benefits of figs

Benefits for cardiovascular risk

Most studies on the connection between figs and cardiovascular disease risk are based on animal research, and there is a paucity of data on this topic. In one study conducted over four weeks, participants consumed three-quarters of a fig-containing nut mix compared to a high-carb snack.

The study found no significant changes in body weight and minimal effects on lipid levels in both groups. In the crossover study, initiation of fig intake first increased cholesterol levels, indicating a sequence effect.

This study also showed an increase in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and fasting glucose levels.


A decoction of fig leaves has been found to effectively control postprandial blood sugar in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM), according to bioefficacy tests in humans. The use of fig leaf decoction was found to be more effective than oral hypoglycemic drugs in reducing two-hour postprandial blood glucose in patients with T2DM.

Another study compared the effects of fig and metformin on individuals with T2DM. It showed that metformin lowered blood sugar concentrations by 27.6% after two months of treatment, while figs lowered blood sugar concentrations by 13.5%.

Research has shown that abscisic acid (ABA) can improve glucose homeostasis. Figs contain a moderate amount of ABA. A study in healthy human adults found that two fig fruit extracts (FFEs) had a significant impact on postprandial blood glucose reduction.

The reduction was observed at higher doses of ABA administered with FFEs. Ficusin, derived from the leaves of F. carica, positively affected blood glucose levels, lipid profile, nephrotic markers, plasma insulin, liver enzymes, liver glycogen and beta cells in a rat study conducted in vivo.

New and developing areas of health benefits related to figs

The development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is thought to be caused by an excess of oxidants, including reactive oxygen species (ROS) and inflammatory substances. Figs are a nutrient-dense fruit that contains fiber, micronutrients such as copper, manganese, iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and vitamin K, as well as polyphenolic compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

One study also found that supplementing the diet of mice with 4% figs can prevent memory decline and anxiety-related behavior, reduce location discrimination learning ability, and impair spatial and motor coordination.

Consuming figs or flixweed resulted in a significant reduction in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms such as defecation frequency, pain and hard stools compared to the control group. Taken orally, Ficus carica L. watery extracts (FCAE) can improve gastrointestinal transit and gastric emptying by reducing the time. It can also relieve the severity of constipation caused by colitis.


Regular consumption of figs, alone or in combination with other nuts, has been linked to increased intake of some micronutrients and improved diet quality. Animal and human studies suggest that figs and their extracts have health benefits.

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