The figs and olives strike a lovely balance of savory and sweet, with the balsamic vinegar adding twang and the rosemary anchoring the spread with its woodsy scent. We made our fig and olive tapenade in a food processor and loved the fine texture, but chop it all rustic-like if you prefer. Crackers or crostini are a must, but serve it with fresh goat cheese (or parmesan, or blue) for even more party karma.
Credit Recipe: Food52
Fig and Olive Tapenade Recipe
- 4 ounces dried figs
- 1/2 cup Kalamata olives
- 1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
- Mince figs and olives finely (or, if you prefer a finer texture, pulse a few times in the food processor).
- Add rosemary, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil and mix (or process). You may need to add a little more olive oil to get to the texture and consistency you want.
- Serve as a dip or spread with crostini and crackers. I like to serve it alongside goat cheese.
All You Need to Know About Figs
Figs are a unique fruit resembling a teardrop. They’re about the size of your thumb, filled with hundreds of tiny seeds, and have an edible purple or green peel. The flesh of the fruit is pink and has a mild, sweet taste. The scientific name for the fig is Ficus carica. Figs — and their leaves — are packed with nutrients and offer a variety of potential health benefits. They may promote healthy digestion, decrease your risk of heart disease, and help you manage your blood sugar levels. This article reviews figs, including their nutrition, benefits, and downsides, as well as how to add them to your diet.
Fresh figs are rich in nutrients while being relatively low in calories, making them a great addition to a healthy diet. One small (40-gram) fresh fig contains (1Trusted Source):
- Calories: 30
- Protein: 0 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbs: 8 grams
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Copper: 3% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Magnesium: 2% of the DV
- Potassium: 2% of the DV
- Riboflavin: 2% of the DV
- Thiamine: 2% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 3% of the DV
- Vitamin K: 2% of the DV
Fresh figs contain some calories from natural sugar, but having a few figs is a reasonable, low calorie snack or addition to a meal. On the other hand, dried figs are high in sugar and rich in calories, as the sugar becomes concentrated when the fruits are dried. Figs also contain small amounts of a wide variety of nutrients, but they’re particularly rich in copper and vitamin B6. Copper is a vital mineral that’s involved in several bodily processes, including metabolism and energy production, as well as the formation of blood cells, connective tissues, and neurotransmitters (2Trusted Source). Vitamin B6 is a key vitamin necessary to help your body break down dietary protein and create new proteins. It also plays an important role in brain health (3Trusted Source).
Fresh figs are low in calories and contain a variety of vitamins and minerals. However, dried figs are high in sugar and calories.
Figs have many potential benefits, including promoting digestive and heart health, along with potentially helping manage blood sugar levels.
Promote digestive health
Figs have long been used as a home remedy or an alternative treatment for digestive problems like constipation (4Trusted Source). They contain fiber, which may help promote digestive health by softening and adding bulk to stools, decreasing constipation, and serving as a prebiotic — or food source for the healthy bacteria populating your gut (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
In animal studies, fig fruit extract or paste helped speed the movement of food through the digestive tract, reducing constipation and improving the symptoms of digestive disorders like ulcerative colitis (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
A study in 150 people with irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) found that those who consumed about 4 dried figs (45 grams) twice daily experienced a significant reduction in symptoms — including pain, bloating, and constipation — compared with a control group (9Trusted Source).
What’s more, a similar study in 80 people found that supplementing with about 10 ounces (300 grams) of fig fruit paste daily for 8 weeks significantly decreased constipation, compared with a control group (10Trusted Source).
May improve vascular and heart health
Figs may improve blood pressure and blood fat levels, which can help improve your vascular health and decrease your risk of heart disease.
One study found that fig extract decreased blood pressure in rats with normal blood pressure, as well as those with elevated levels (11Trusted Source).
Animal studies have also shown improvements in total cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, and triglyceride levels when supplementing with fig leaf extract (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).
However, in a 5-week study in 83 people with high LDL (bad) cholesterol, researchers noted that those who added about 14 dried figs (120 grams) to their diet daily had no changes in blood fat levels, compared with a control group (14Trusted Source).
More human studies are needed to better understand the relationship between figs and heart health.
May help manage blood sugar levels
One dated study from 1998 in 10 people with type 1 diabetes found that having fig leaf tea with breakfast may have decreased their insulin needs. In the month they received fig leaf tea, their insulin doses decreased by about 12% (15Trusted Source).
What’s more, a more recent study found that drinks containing high doses of fig fruit extract had a lower glycemic index (GI) than beverages with no fig fruit extract, meaning these drinks would have a more favorable effect on blood sugar levels (16Trusted Source).
However, fig fruits — especially dried figs — are high in sugar and may increase blood sugar levels in the short term. If you have trouble managing your blood sugar levels, you should limit your intake of dried figs.
Potential anticancer properties
Many promising test-tube studies have been conducted on the effects of fig leaves on cancer cells.
Fig leaves and natural latex from fig plants have been shown to exhibit antitumor activity against human colon cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, and liver cancer cells (17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source).
However, this doesn’t mean that eating figs or drinking fig leaf tea will exert the same effects. Test-tube studies offer a promising starting point, but human studies are needed to assess how ingesting figs or fig leaves affects cancer growth.
May promote healthy skin
Figs may have some beneficial effects on the skin, especially in people with allergic dermatitis — or dry, itchy skin as a result of allergies.
One study in 45 children with dermatitis found that a cream made from dried fig fruit extract applied twice daily for 2 weeks was more effective at treating the symptoms of dermatitis than hydrocortisone cream, the standard treatment (21Trusted Source).
What’s more, a combination of fruit extracts — including fig extract — was shown to exhibit antioxidant effects on skin cells, decrease collagen breakdown, and improve the appearance of wrinkles in a test-tube and animal study (22Trusted Source).
However, it’s difficult to determine if these positive effects came from the fig extract or one of the other extracts being studied. More research is needed to determine figs’ effects on skin health.