Figs

Fabulously Fiberous

Figs ~ Super Fruits

A Fabulous Fiber Find

Lower high blood pressure.

Relieve constipation.

Control cholesterol.

Prevent colon cancer.

Best known in North America for its role in the ever-popular Newton, this super fruit is perhaps the most significant fruit in history.

The Assyrians used them as sweeteners as far back as 3000 B.C.

They were also Cleopatra's favorite fruit.

And some historians believe that this super fruit, not an apple, was the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden, a debate that may not be resolved any time soon, although certainly fig leaves were a convenient fashion accessory of the time.

Today, we know that it's a fabulous source of fiber and a significant source of potassium.

Plus, figs can add some hard-to-come-by vitamin B-6.

The average North American gets only about 11 to 12 g. of dietary fiber a day, far short of the 25 to 30 g. recommended by the American Dietetic Association.

The Daily Value (DV) is 25 g.

Fiber is so good for so many things.

Because fiber builds heavier stools, it helps you eliminate waste more quickly and efficiently, which studies show helps prevent constipation and colon cancer.

Getting more fiber in your diet also helps lower cholesterol and thus the risk of heart disease.

And, you guessed it, these super fruits are an excellent source of fiber.

Three, dried or fresh, provide about 5 g. of fiber, 20% of the DV.

That 5 g. can go a long way.

A Harvard University study of 43,757 men ages 40 to 75 found that those who got the most fiber had about half the risk of having heart attacks as those who got the least.

Plus, men who added just 10 g. of fiber a day to their diets dropped their risks of heart disease by almost 30%.

The're particularly good for people who are overweight, which is another risk for heart disease.

Because they're so high in fiber, they stay in the stomach longer, helping people eat less.

And they're very sweet, so they satisfy those sweet cravings.

Help for High Blood Pressure

This super fruit is a good source of potassium, a mineral that's crucial for controlling blood pressure.

Studies have shown that people who eat plenty of potassium­-rich foods not only tend to have lower blood pressures but also have less risk of related conditions like stroke.

Potassium helps pull down high blood pressure in a number of ways.

For one thing, it helps prevent dangerous low-density lipo-protein cholesterol from building up on artery walls.

Plus, it helps remove excess sodium from inside cells, keeping the body's fluid levels in balance and blood pressure in check.

Three fresh figs contain 348 ml. of potassium, 10% of the DY.

And the dried variety are even better, with just three providing 399 ml., 11% of the DV.

A Boost of B-6

Finally, they can add some vitamin-B6 to your diet.

While most of us get plenty of vitamin-B6, us older people don't absorb it as efficiently as we once did.

And since taking certain medications can also interfere with getting enough, getting extra amounts can be essential.

Three fresh fruits contain 0.18 ml. of vitamin-B6, 9% of the DV.

Getting the Most

Explore the sweetness.

One reason that people over here don't eat a lot of these super fruits, is that they're not sure what to do with them.

We've found that an easy way to get more of this fiber-rich food in your diet is to add it to foods that need a touch of sweetness, like cereals, cakes, or my favorite, oatmeal.

You can also mash them up and add them to foods such as mashed potatoes.

In the Kitchen

If your only experience with these super fruits comes from eating the Newtons, dealing with the whole fruit, which is squat, bulbous, and thoroughly wrinkled, can be a tad confusing.

But in reality, both fresh and dried, are very easy to work with.

Here's how

Shop for texture.

Whether fresh or dried, they should be firm but still yield slightly to your touch.

And if dried ones are rock hard, don't buy them.

If fresh seem too mushy, they're probably old, and you should pass on them as well.

Conversely, hard aren't ripe enough and won't deliver full flavor.

So, Eat 'em up.

Fresh ones go bad very quickly, usually within a week after leaving the tree.

So don't buy more than you plan to eat within a few days.

They'll stay fresh for about three days when stored in the refrigerator.

Dried by contrast, will keep for months when stored in the refrigerator in an airtight bag.

Control the stickiness.

Because these super fruits are extremely sticky, they can be tough to cut.

Here's a tip.

Chilling them for an hour before cutting will help prevent them from sticking to the knife.

Or run the blade under hot water when it starts getting sticky.

Now, here's a recipe you'll want to try.

Grilled Chicken and Fig Kabobs with Fig-Balsamic

Chef Laura Frankel - Jun 23, 2011 

These gorgeous kabobs make a beautiful summer supper.

Easy to assemble and cook, this recipe allowed me, the cook, to enjoy dinner as well.

Total Time 35min

Cooking Time    20min
    
Prep Time    15min
    
4-6 Servings

Ingredients;

1/2 c. white wine

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

Pinch of crushed red chilies

1 large shallot, minced

Zest and juice of medium orange

1/4 c. chopped basil

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, each cut into 6 strips

12 ripe figs, cut in half, lengthwise + 6 ripe figs, chopped

1/2 c. balsamic vinegar

3 Tbs. brown sugar

Salt and pepper

Preparation:

Equipment: Wooden or metal skewers

1. Whisk the white wine, garlic cloves, olive oil, shallot, orange juice and zest and basil in a medium bowl.

Add the cut up chicken strips and halved super fruits and marinate for 2 hours.

2. Simmer the chopped figs, balsamic and brown sugar until the mixture is very thick and syrupy, (about 15 minutes).

Remove from the heat and let steep for 1 hour, then pour through a strainer.

Discard the chopped figs.

3. Remove the chicken and halved super fruits from the marinade and discard the marinade.

Thread the chicken and figs onto skewers.

Salt and pepper each skewer.

4. Grill the skewers over medium heat or roast in a 350 degree oven and baste with the fig-balsamic until the chicken is cooked through (about 10-15 minutes).

5. Serve with rice, pasta or potatoes.

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