Recently I was diagnosed with asthma and slight anemia, so they recommend me a diet including the typical things for these conditions, but also rich in figs. I’m not sure if the fresh ones should be peeled for any reason. I’m also interested if the whitish coating on the dried figs is harmful. Much is talked about the toxins of invisible molds that destroy the liver. So, how to be sure that dried figs are not infected with fungus?

Fig is one of the oldest plants on Earth. Fig fruit was highly appreciated in Ancient Greece and was used as a food that strengthens the organism and gives power. The fig was one of the most preferred fruits of the French King Louis XIV in whose Palace of Versailles many fig trees are planted.

These beautiful and useful trees are found along our south coast and in different parts of southern Bulgaria as well. There are two large fig families – purple (fleshy with thick skin and very sweet) and white (green in color with pink pulp, less sweet than the purple ones).

In Bulgaria the fig tree ripens in early autumn, and the harvest is performed in several stages depending on its purpose of consumption – drying, cooking or eating in fresh form. Unfortunately, fresh fruits don’t withstand transportation and their storage in the fridge can last for a maximum of two three days. It’s better to eat them right after washing, as peeling is not compulsory, unless it is very thick and bitter as is the skin of the purple sort.

The nutritional composition of figs is very rich. 100g of fresh fruits contain 71g water, 1g proteins, 0.4g fats, 16g carbohydrates and provide the body with 65 to 75 kcal (in comparison to 294kcal for dried figs). Glucose is predominant as they are sweet fruits, followed by fructose and sucrose is the least. Figs have the highest level of fibers among all others fruits and vegetables. One single dried fig gives 2g of fibers: 20% of the recommended daily dose. Studies in the recent 10-15 years show that fibers in plant foods are very important for proper function of the digestive system. Eating dried figs is an ideal way to increase fiber intake.

Your question about the mold in the dried fruits is very relevant.

Fungi most often are invisible to the naked eye. This mold is not dangerous by itself, the toxins it produces in the product (mycotoxins) are dangerous. They are very resistant even under heat treatment. At high temperature, on the sun the mold may be destroyed but not the toxins it has produced beforehand and there are no visible signs indicating the product is contaminated.

There are around 250 species of microscopic fungi producing more than 100 toxic metabolites. The most dangerous known mycotoxins are the so called aflatoxins (by the name of the mold that produces them). They cause liver cancer. Aflatoxins most often attack pistachios, hazelnuts and almonds from the nuts. Coriander, red, black and white pepper are affected from the spices. In dried fruits – figs, dates and raisins. They can be found also in beer if it’s made from barley infected with mycotoxins. The only way to protect the customers is more strict health control – a mandatory batch inspection, verification of documents and sampling for laboratory analysis – if the food complies with the aflatoxins contents normative, the goods should be allowed to enter the country. Otherwise it is destroyed or returned to the importing country. My advice is to take advantage of the seasonal presence of fresh figs on the market – they provide the body with vitamin C and A, contain large amounts of potassium and are rich in vitamin B as well.

The high iron content of figs makes them a suitable food for those suffering from anemia, as is the case with you. The plant enzyme ficin is found in figs. It has the ability to dissolve clots. Dried figs can be found throughout the year on the market, they are a more concentrated food product, rich in simple sugars and therefore high caloric, but their calories are not empty ones and contain vital nutrients.

Choose dried figs with no stains or rotted areas on them, not too dry and without wine flavor. Always prefer bio-certified and quality guaranteed dried fruits.