Figs – What is the Secret?

The time has to come to announce a new rubric – food of the week! Every week I will choose one type of food and I will highlight all the beauty and benefits that it holds. It will help all of us keep on track on our challenging journey to stay healthy and happy, yet ensure that we adhere to the one and only universally correct principle known to this day – the food you eat must be varied.

Figs

Fresh and dried figs are rich in fibre and high in iron, boosting energy and promoting healthy blood.

fresh-figs

Figs are usually available dried, as fresh figs are easily damaged and have a very short shelf life. This delicious fruit contains a good amount of fibre, most of it soluble, which helps protect against heart disease and helps with maintaing a healthy weight, as I kept saying here.

Figs have got a very long list of minerals in it – Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium, Zinc, Copper, Manganese and Selenium. For the full percentage breakdown have a look at this table.

Figs also have a long list of vitamins, as any well-behaved and nicely-balanced food must have, such as  Vitamin A, C, D, E, K, Thiamin (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Niacin (Vitamin B3), Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Choline. In case you have one very curious nature and you want to know more what exactly every single vitamin does to you, you can have a look here. But it is suffice to say that the more variety of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients your food has, as in this case, the better it is for you. Simple because your body is one very complicated machine and it needs lots and lots of different fuels to function properly.

One book which I was reading mentioned that figs are high in calories, so should be eaten in moderation. Raw figs have got 74 calories per 100g, so I don’t know under what influence the author of the book was but it is nonsense. When it comes to fruit and vegetables, you should forget about the concept of calories. Just forget it. Counting calories is damaging and pointless as I already said here, but I will just give one more example why this common obsession with calories is nonsense.

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In a study of 154 countries that looked at the correlation of calories, sugar, and diabetes, scientists found that adding 150 calories a day to the diet barely raised the risk of diabetes in the population, but if those 150 calories came from soda, the risk of diabetes went up by 700 percent. ((You can read more about it here))

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So once we learned again that “not all calories are the same”, we should look at the overall picture why figs are indeed very good for you.

Figs not only have a variety of vitamin and minerals, it also contains sterols, which help to lower blood cholesterol, they are a good source of natural energy and sugars, but due to high fibre content you will enjoy those sugars at a very slow pace!
Since it is a good source of potassium is will help prevent fluid retention and dried fruit is an excellent source of iron, for healthy blood and calcium, for bone density.

Fresh figs deteriorate quickly and so should be eaten the day they are bought or picked. They are best eaten as they are but are also tasty with ham, served as a starter or as part of a dessert. Some varieties of fig have edible skin while others need to be skinned. You should be brave and try to experiment with your food and eat them as they are!

Dried figs

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As you might have guessed, when you dry fruit it can have slightly different nutrient composition. You are right! Raw and dried figs do have different percentages of certain nutrients. However you will be surprised how clever these little purple things are.

Let’s have a look at the major nutrients per 100g of fresh figs:

[blockquote]Kcalories 74, Total fat: trace, Protein 1g, Carbs 19g, Fibre 3g, Vitamin C 2.0mg, Potassium 232 mg, Omega-6 144mg, Calcium 35mg, Iron 0.4g.[/blockquote]

Now we will compare it with dried figs 100g:

[blockquote]Kcalories 249, Total fat: 8, Protein 3g, Carbs 64g, Fibre 10g, Vitamin C 1.2mg, Potassium 680 mg, Omega-6 345mg, Calcium 162mg, Iron 2g.[/blockquote]

The difference is simply phenomenal. When you dry the fruit, then it basically becomes a nutritional bomb! Yes, it has almost 4 times more calories and three times the sugar, but it is also 3 times the Fibre, 3 times more Potassium, 5 times more Iron, 5 times more Calcium and 2.5 times Omega-6!

It just proved my point that nature has already balanced everything for us. There is no need to reinvent the wheel! Everything is there, you just need to make a mental note that you must love your body and embrace all the beautiful gifts of nature. Figs will be a perfect guilt-free snack.

I think figs are a very acquired taste for people in Western and Eastern Europe. It’s a well-known food in hot countries, but poor sun-deprived creatures like most of us are, do not particularly appreciate the fruit. I remember when I first tried it as a kid in the dried version, I thought that I can do better than that and ate some fudge instead. A lot has obviously changed since then.

I am still learning about figs and experimenting with different flavours. I have tried them fresh with some honey and American style pancakes… Perfection is the word I am looking for. I know you are all dying to know what I managed to create one cloudy morning in the kitchen, and I will tell you right now!

American style pancakes with Orange, Honey and Figs

I usually do thin pancakes as I like filling them in with something incredibly delicious (fruit compote and condensed milk, for example), or incredibly controversial (minced meat with mushrooms, anyone?), but this time I decided I need to be brave and embrace these fat, alluring pancakes.

The recipe is very simple, as it should be for such a quick dish!

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 3 table spoon of Xylitol/Coconut sugar
  • 500ml of whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 2 tablespoon of oil (coconut, olive, sunflower, etc)
  • 300g of any wholemeal flour (I used 150g of wholemeal rye and 150g wholemeal spelt flour)
  • Pinch of salt

As always, it’s really important to use the good flour. Organic wholemeal flour always does the trick. Never, never use the bleached all purpose flour that everyone is so actively recommending. That flour will make you one little ill fat person. Avoid!

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It’s all rather simple. You mix eggs with Xylitol or any other sugar substitute you are using and add a pinch of salt. You always add a little bit of salt into any food you are making as it enhances the flavour. 

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Then add all the milk, baking powder and oil. Mix it well.

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Then start adding flour while mixing, till all the flour is added. As the batter will be rather thick, it won’t be hard to mix it all well and have a perfect consistency.

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Once you mixed it all well, you should have this consistency and now it’s time to do your magic!

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If you have a special pan for cakes, use it! If you don’t, do yourself a favour and buy one. It’s super cheap and it is really worth it. Just pour one full middle-sized ladle onto a pan and admire the little bubbles’ dance. In case you always wanted to know what these small bubbles mean, I will tell you this secret. When you put the batter on the pipping hot pan, the air in the batter gets really hot, under the pressure it tears the batter trying to escape and leaves small pores in the pancake! These pores make the pancake being fried quickly and evenly. Now you know!

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In the end you end up with a stack of beautiful, full, warm, very alluring pancakes. Now you just need to add some figs on top, add some honey, some orange zest and enjoy that perfect memento!

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You can eat these pancakes with some frozen raspberries and a little bit of condensed milk, it is a little bit of a strange combination, but I loved it when I was a kid and I still love it.

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Did you know?

The leaves of the fig tree are edible. Fig leaf liquid extract has anti-diabetic properties, reducing the amount of insulin needed by some people with diabetes.

Finally, if you are still not sure about figs and they are still a little bit too exotic for you, don’t despair! Regardless of where you are and who you are, just make sure you are enjoying a healthy, balanced diet and limit your consumption of sugar and processed food.

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