Here’s a reason to celebrate National Fig Week (September 1 to 7): Potential anti-cancer benefits, as indicated in one basic lab study. Other reasons to celebrate: the fact that figs are just so darn beautiful, especially at this time of year. But not only do these early autumn fruits look like dripping jewels out of Shangri-La, they contain compounds under study for potentially life saving potential.

Here’s the study: Chinese researchers tested the effects of polyphenol-rich fig extract on human brain and liver cancer cells. The fig extract left normal cells unmolested, but went to town on the bad guys: restraining the growth of brain cancer cells by 75% and liver cancer cells by 100%!  Indeed, the fig extract made brain cancer cells expire at a rate 10 times faster than they would otherwise. More study is needed to learn how to apply these findings, but meanwhile, enjoying figs is a great way to meet nutrition needs. A cup of dried figs provides 60% of daily  fiber, plus 40% manganese, 30% vitamin K, 29% potassium, and a quarter of your daily calcium needs! So “give a fig” about your health by enjoying this seasonal treat.

Bonus: Munching dried figs could translate into a lower Body Mass Index and a smaller waist, suggests one Louisiana State study.  Dried fruit eaters also enjoy a 43% higher intake of fiber.

Published September 1, 2012