Fig or common fig is mostly eaten in its dry form. It is one of the very popular dried fruits which has many health benefits not just for adults but also for children. Few health benefits of fig for infants include its natural laxative properties, aiding digestion, antimicrobial properties, improvement of immune system and liver protection.
It has been a well known tree for many millennia now and it has been cultivated as an ornamental tree and also for consumption. Many instances in historical records can be found about fig consumption. In the Mediterranean region, where it is believed to have originated, it is thought of as poor man’s fruit, for it is available in abundance. It is consumed both in fresh as well as dried forms.
Traditional medicines use fig to cure various diseases. Ayurveda uses fig as a medicine for fevers, asthma, haemorrhagia and epilepsy. While Unani medicine uses fig as a laxative, expectorant, diuretic and to cure liver and spleen related diseases. Fig fruit paste is applied to relieve from inflammations, swellings, tumours and pain. A decoction made from dried figs is useful in curing urinary disorders. Consuming dried fig every day can improve the immune system of the body.1
Health benefits of figs for babies
There are numerous health benefits imparted by figs. But, a doubt whether or not figs can be introduced to babies remains. Turns out that, figs can be introduced in baby food and they provide essential vitamins and minerals which are indispensable for baby’s growth. Let us look as some of those benefits.
Aid in digestion: Figs promote digestion. This benefit is especially useful in case of infants whose digestive system is very weak and hence, they need very soft food. Introducing figs in their diet can help in smooth digestion, there by the baby can absorb nutrition better.3
Natural laxative: Figs have been used since historic times as a natural laxative in its ripened state. Giving figs to your baby regularly can be beneficial as figs contain lot of dietary fiber which adds bulk to the stool by absorbing water. The result is smooth bowel movement.
Supply of essential vitamins and minerals: The need for vitamins and minerals is more in infants and children when compared to adults. In infants and children, vitamins and minerals play a major role in their body and brain development. Minerals such as iron, copper, calcium, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium are needed for the development of various organs in the body. Figs are a good source of vitamins and minerals and including figs in a child’s diet on a regular basis can prove to be a better option in the long run.
Antimicrobial properties: As toddlers and children are more prone to microbial infections than adults, figs make an ideal food for infants. Studies show that figs possess antimicrobial properties. These properties make figs an interesting fruit that can be given during microbial infections.1
Liver protection: Another health benefit of figs is that it possesses liver protective properties. Infants and children can also be prone to liver diseases such as jaundice and hepatitis. Under such conditions, feeding your child with figs can be beneficial apart from the regular medicines prescribed the paediatrician.1
Improved immune system: Improving the immune system should also be a part of the child’s diet plan, if overall health of the baby is to be considered. Figs can help you accomplish this. Various biochemicals and polyphenols found in fig have been known to improve the immune system.1
Measures to be taken while preparing figs
Use of ripened figs: Ripened figs can be a better choice in terms of feeding infants and children as dried figs can be hard to chew. You can introduce dried figs by steaming them. When boiling, make sure that you do not throw away the boiled water, as the water will contain all the nutrients.
Take the 4 day test: Undertake the 4 day test to ensure that your baby is not allergic to figs. While undertaking this test, make sure that you introduce figs alone and nothing else along with the figs. Once you are sure that your baby is not allergic to fig then, you can add boiled figs to other fruit mashes and make them interesting.
Nutritional value of dried fig (ficus carica)
The nutrition value found in dried figs, as calculated by the National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference from the USDA is as follows.
|Nutritional Component||Value per 100 g||Nutritional Component||Value per 100 g|
|Water||69.8 g||Calcium||70 mg|
|Energy||107 kcal||Iron||0.88 mg|
|Protein||1.42 g||Magnesium||29 mg|
|Total Lipid (fat)||0.40 g||Phosphorous||29 mg|
|Carbohydrates||27.57 g||Potassium||294 mg|
|Sugar||23.35 g||Sodium||4 mg|
|Dietary fiber||4.2 g||Zinc||0.24|
|Vitamin C||4.4 mg||Thiamin||0.011 mg|
|Riboflavin||0.11 mg||Niacin||0.64 mg|
|Vitamin B-6||0.133 mg||Folate||1 ug|
|Vitamin A||4 ug||Vitamin E||0.15 mg|
|Vitamin K||6.7 mg|
- Joseph, Raj, 2011, Pharmacognostic and phytochemical properties of Ficus carica Linn –An overview, International Journal of PharmTech Research CODEN (USA): IJPRIF ISSN : 0974-4304 Vol. 3, No.1, pp 08-12, Jan-Mar 2011. http://www.sphinxsai.com/Vol.3No.1/pharm_jan-mar11/pdf/JM11%28%20PT=03%29%2008-12.pdf
- HK Bakhru, Foods That Heal, pp 38, Orient Paperbacks, New Delhi, India.