Nowadays as more and more people are aware of the benefits of a healthy nutrition, maintaining a balanced diet is not only an option but a way of life. While there is a plethora of main courses which are savory yet nutritious, the challenge arises when it comes to conscious dessert choices. With a wide variety of calorific dense sweet snacks which are readily available, it is often difficult to opt for a healthier alternative.
However, if you are looking for a filling, easy-to-pack snack which is nutritive and available all-year-round, then dried figs are the choice to make. From the first Olympic Games in Greece when the athletes consumed them before competing, to the Occupation Era when young children consumed them to satisfy their hunger, dried figs have been a significant source of energy for years.
While fresh figs are, themselves, highly nutritious, dried figs were created because of the need to store them for longer periods of time. The first dried figs were found in a Minoan villa excavation in the village of Sternes, Chania dating back to 1340-1190 BC. In ancient times and during the Byzantine Era, dried figs were a winter treat for guests; they were put on a metal tray above fire to soften up and then served with nuts.
Today, there are about 5,500 tons of dried figs produced in Greece in fields spanning an area of 21,000 acres. The main production takes place in the prefectures of Messinia, Arcadia, Laconia and Euboea which boasts the distinguished quality of Kymi dried figs.
BENEFITS AND HEALING PROPERTIES
As dried figs are sundried without any chemical additives, they are an appetizing yet healthy snack. Rich in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and vitamin A, they are of high nutritional value and a considerable source of energy due to the dietary fiber content.
Dried figs are such a potent source of calcium that they cover 17% of the recommended daily intake. Regular consumption aids in maintaining bone and tooth density, protecting against osteoporosis. Moreover, calcium and magnesium aid in proper cardiovascular function and regulate muscle contraction and relaxation.
A good source of potassium, dried figs help keep blood pressure on stable and normal levels while they enhance joint health and promote brain function.
Due to their high content of soluble dietary fiber, dried fig consumption promotes colon health, helps relieve constipation and hemorrhoid discomfort. Fiber also creates an instant feeling of satiety, which helps maintain a healthy weight.
USE AND DOSAGE
Dried figs are known to be the dried fruit with the lowest calorific value (60 calories per portion), so stocking up on them may make for a stepping stone towards a healthier snacking set of options.
Dried figs may be consumed plain or incorporated into a daily diet in home-made cookies, cereal bar recipes, salads or even sweet-and-sour sauces to accompany roasted meat. As dried figs have a sweet taste they can be used as a natural sweetener and replace a certain amount of sugar in pancakes, puddings or even refreshing beverages.
To enjoy dried figs to the fullest, you can even make a quick dessert with only a few ingredients. Make a mixture of walnuts, sesame and brown sugar, use a tablespoon to open the fig and add it in. Τhey are ideal to enjoy with some smoked cheese and warm wine.
RESEARCH AND INTERNATIONAL INTEREST
As more and more people seem to put into action the saying “you are what you eat”, there is an increased awareness of alimentary goods which are nutritious and beneficial for our healthy.
Dried fruit and figs in particular, which are low in sugars, have grown in popularity among consumers who look for quick, healthy and filling desserts and among researchers who analyze their nutritional value.
In a study published in the US National Library of Medicine the antioxidant action of dried figs was evaluated, concluding that “Dried figs, are a convenient and superior source of some nutrients… dried fruits should be a greater part of the diet as they are dense in phenol antioxidants and nutrients, most notably fiber.”