Figs and Dates

I love figs and dates–they are two of my favorite fruits. I like them because they tend to be quite sweet and can make wonderful desserts. They can also be served with more savory recipes like salads, curries or meat dishes. Both fruits pair really well with nuts, so eating a few dates or figs with some walnuts or almonds can make a well-balanced snack.

Dates are most commonly found in the produce section of the grocery store. The most common type of dates or the dates we see most often in the grocery store are the ‘semi-soft’ variety, an example being the Medjool dates from Morocco. They are a great source of dietary fiber and contain a good amount of potassium. They also have some calcium, magnesium and folate.
The calorie content for dates is higher than for many other fruits–a serving size of 5 dates has approximately 114 calories. But dates have a very sweet, distinct taste, so a little can go a long way. Dates can be eaten several ways:
  • As a snack, alone or paired with almonds, walnuts or a piece of string cheese
  • Chopped up and added on top of oatmeal or other cereals
  • Chopped up and added to granola or trail mixes
  • Added to plain yogurts for a natural sweetener
  • Added to quinoa or rice dishes for a fun, sweet taste
  • Added to stews or Moroccan curries
Like dates, figs are a pleasantly sweet fruit that can be eaten alone or used to enhance many dishes. Figs can be found both fresh and dried. They consist of a soft flesh pursed around a large number of tiny, edible seeds. Figs can be eaten whole, either peeled or unpeeled. Fresh figs are quite perishable and should be refrigerated for no more than 7 days. The peak growing season for fresh figs runs from June to October.
Fresh figs contain many nutrients, including: vitamin B6, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, folate and dietary fiber. The calorie content for a serving size of 3 medium fresh figs is approximately 111 calories. As with dates, figs can be used in many different dishes, including:
  • As a snack, alone or paired with nuts or cheese
  • Diced and added to salads
  • Paired with deli meat and cheese for a simple lunch
  • Added to sauces or salsas
Both figs and certain varieties of dates are a dark, purplish color. As a result of this, they contain anthocyanins, which are antioxidants that work to promote heart health. During National Nutrition Month last month, Jessica wrote this great blog post (click the link) which describes the benefits of eating foods with the natural blue/purple color pigments. Included in the blog post was this recipe for Curried Pineapple and Fig Salsa (click the link). This is just another great way in which figs can be incorporated into a healthy meal plan.
If you’ve never eaten dates or figs before, give them a try. Summer is on its way, and it’s a great time start incorporating more fruits into your healthy eating plan.
Rachel Andrew MPH, RD, CD