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'Fig'ure Out How to Get Figs Into Your Diet

Figs are tasty fruits that boast many health benefits. They can be an important component of a balanced diet.

Figs have been grown and enjoyed for centuries. Native to the Middle East, figs grow on a ficus tree and come in different varieties. The fruit ranges dramatically in color and subtly in texture depending on the variety enjoyed. Turkey, Greece and even California are the top fig producers in the world.

It's possible to find figs from late summer through the autumn, depending on location. Fresh figs are very delicate and have a short shelf life. They can be kept in the refrigerator for about two days after being picked. Most people are familiar with the sweet dried figs that are available year-round.

One may not be aware of the health value of figs. First and foremost, figs are high in potassium, a mineral that helps control blood pressure. Individuals who have high blood pressure should consider figs as a natural alternative to medication or to use in conjunction with traditional therapies. According to medical research, low intake of potassium-rich foods, coupled with a high intake of sodium, can lead to hypertension.

Another benefit of figs is their high fiber content. Fiber-rich foods help promote a healthy digestive system, moving food through the bowels easily. Fiber helps satiate a hungry person faster, meaning it's a tool that can be used for weight loss. Fiber may also help reduce the risk of certain cancers, like breast cancer.

Rich in calcium, figs can also promote bone health. Individuals at risk for osteoporosis can consider eating figs as part of a bone-strengthening regimen.

Information published in the Archives of Ophthalmology state that eating fruit every day can help lower age-related risk of macular degeneration, one of the primary causes of vision loss in the elderly.

Make figs a part of a healthy diet. Here are some ways to enjoy this fruit.

* Eat fresh figs right off the tree. They're sweet and refreshing.

* To satisfy a sweet tooth, enjoy fig-stuffed cookies.

* Grind up dried figs with a little honey and use as a spread on toast or bagels.

* Stuff fresh, poached figs with nuts and enjoy.

* Add bits of dried figs to recipes that call for raisins, such as tarts or cookies.

* Put chopped fresh figs in rice, quinoa or couscous dishes.

* Fresh figs can be stuffed with goat cheese and topped with sliced almonds for a tasty appetizer at parties.