Are Figs Good for You?

Michael Merschel wrote . . . . . . . . .

The ancient world had a reverential affection for figs. They’re celebrated in both the Bible and in Islamic texts. In Egypt, they were offered to the gods, while the Greeks considered figs a gift from them.

Today, scientists would consider the common fig, Ficus carica, to be slightly less than a miracle food. But if you’re looking for a healthy treat that’s divinely sweet, you could do worse.

“It’s not going to be a go-to for anything,” said Christopher Gardner, a professor of medicine at Stanford University in California. “But I think it’s a great and underappreciated ingredient that could be used in multiple ways.”

Plus, he said, “They’re super easy to snack on.”

Gardner is a nutrition scientist the Stanford Prevention Research Center, but his fig expertise comes from being a fan. He buys dried figs at his local farmers market and eats about a pound a week.

He also has a fig tree in his yard, but he prefers dried to fresh. It can be hard to catch a fig at peak ripeness, he said. Once picked, they last only five to seven days, although the California Fig Advisory board says they can be refrigerated and kept up to two weeks.

Either way, figs offer plenty of good stuff.

One raw fig has about 37 calories, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. With that you get about 2.5% of the recommended daily amount of potassium, plus magnesium (2%), iron (1%) and calcium (1%).

Six dried figs, the USDA says, gets you about 125 calories and higher amounts of magnesium (8%), potassium (7%), calcium (6%) and iron (6%).

Figs also have vitamin K, which can alter the effectiveness of the blood-thinning medication warfarin.

Dried figs also contain healthy phytochemicals (plant-based nutrients) and antioxidants (chemicals that can help prevent cell damage), although not in a way that makes them stand out, Gardner said. “I don’t think you’re ever going to go to a physician who says, ‘Oh my God, you have fig deficiency disease – there’s almost nothing else that carries this phytochemical!”

Figs are delectably sweet, and there’s a reason for that: lots of natural sugar. Six dried figs have about 24 grams. That’s offset by a reasonable amount of fiber, Gardner said – about 5 grams, or more that 17% of the recommended daily value.

That fiber helps slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Dried figs have a glycemic index of 61 and a glycemic load of 16, putting them in the middle of the pack in terms of how they affect blood glucose.

Figs might have been the first fruit cultivated by humans. In America, they were grown by the earliest European settlers in Florida in the 1500s and were at the Jamestown settlement in Virginia by 1621. Despite such a long history, modern Americans probably know them only from a popular square cookie. Gardner himself used to devour fig bars as a young man.

Neither bar nor cookie, alas, is a great option for the health-conscious, he said. The standard cookie contains ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, and even in bars made with whole wheat, you’re still eating a sugary processed paste wrapped in refined flour. “At the end of the day, they’re just cookies,” Gardner said.

Actual figs have been used in traditional medicine as a laxative, and modern research confirms that effect. Other studies have looked at figs for a variety of potential uses. A fig extract lowered blood pressure in rats. In another study of 10 adults who were given a high-sugar beverage, fig extracts seemed to moderate blood glucose levels.

Such work might be intriguing, Gardner said. But there are better reasons to reach for some figs.

Figs, he said, are part of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. He adds them whole to hearty salads or dices them as an ingredient in a signature wheatberry salad that’s popular with his students. A fresh fig sliced in half with a walnut on top makes a great snack.

Dried or fresh, he sees figs as a great way to get more plants in your diet while crowding out less-healthy options.

He keeps a jar of dried figs handy for when he needs a little sugar hit. So if you’re tempted at such moments to reach for a candy bar, figs might be your salvation.

Gardner’s bottom line is you’re free to enjoy figs for some down-to-earth reasons: They’re better for you than a lot of other options. And, he said, “They’re tasty.”

Source: American Heart Association

Afternoon Tea at Kabukiza Theater in Tokyo, Japan

The price is 2,400 yen per person (tax included).

Study: You Probably Won’t Get COVID From Handling Cash

Go ahead, put your credit card away: Handling cash and coins isn’t likely to give you COVID-19.

European researchers treated various coins and paper money with different concentrations of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID. A stainless steel surface was used as a control.

“Under realistic conditions, infection with SARS-CoV-2 from cash is very unlikely,” said study co-leader Daniel Todt, a postdoctoral researcher in medical and molecular virology at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany.

It took just three days for infectious SARS-CoV-2 to disappear completely from a 10-euro bankrote, while it remained on the stainless steel after seven days, his team found.

The virus disappeared from a 10-cent, 1-euro, and 5-cent coins after six days, two days and one hour, respectively.

“The rapid decline on the 5-cent piece is because it’s made of copper, on which viruses are known to be less stable,” Todt said in a university news release.

The researchers also developed a new method to study how well the virus is transferred from a surface to the fingertip. They contaminated banknotes, coins and credit-card-like PVC plates with harmless coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2.

Volunteers touched the surfaces that contained harmless coronaviruses, and used artificial skin to touch the surfaces contaminated with SARS-CoV-2.

Samples were taken from the volunteers’ fingertips or the artificial skin and placed into cell cultures.

“We saw that immediately after the liquid had dried, there was practically no transmission of infectious virus,” Todt said.

The study — published July 26 in the journal iScience — was conducted with the Alpha variant of SARS-Cov-2 in addition to the wild-type variant.

The findings are consistent with previous research showing that the vast majority of COVID cases occur via airborne transmission.

Source: HealthDay

Boxty

Ingredients

2 lb potatoes, peeled
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 oz baking powder
1 level teaspoon celery salt
4 oz softened butter or margarine
sesame seeds, poppy seeds or pumpkin seeds to decorate

Method

  1. Cook half the potatoes in boiling salted water for about 15-20 minutes until tender. Drain thoroughly. Alternatively, cut into cubes and put into a microwave-proof dish with 3 tablespoons water, cover and cook on maximum (100%) for 9 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking.
  2. Mash potatoes until very smooth adding salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Preheat oven to moderate (350°F/180°C).
  4. Coarsely grate remaining potatoes. Remove as much moisture as possible with a clean cloth or paper towel, combine with mashed potatoes, flour, baking powder, celery salt and butter. Mix well.
  5. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into four. Shape each into a round about 1/4 inch thick and mark into quarters with a sharp knife.
  6. Place on well-greased baking sheets, sprinkle with sesame seeds and cook in oven for about 40 minutes until risen and golden brown.
  7. Serve hot or warm, broken into quarters with butter, cheese, pickles and salads.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: 50 Ways With Potatoes


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