This article was just emailed to me so feel free to copy it and email it to all your friends - those who need to be converted, and those who already are
I changed the email subject line to 'Fight disease, cancer, diabetes and more with Figs & Grapes' in the hope of catching their attention enough for them to read it
The Health Benefits of Figs & Grapes
by Sarah Dobbyn, September 2007
The situation at Angeliki Villa is getting out of control. Everyday my three fig trees are yielding about 5 kilos of ripe fruit and the vines are dripping with grapes. I have been making fig jam by the bucket load, fig bread, fig muffins, and figgy oat and sesame bars, all of which are going down well with friends and visitors. Since my previous attempts at wine making resulted in a dubious, mouldy brew a.k.a “Chateau Penicillin” I decided this year to deal with the grape glut by dehydrating grapes into raisins and making grape juice. Unfortunately, this is still fermenting and trying to become wine: a bottle just exploded upon opening by my visiting mother, (who is grumpily mopping up as I write this)!
It will therefore come as no surprise that this month I decided to look into all the incredible health benefits of figs and grapes, if only to boost my waning appetite for them.
Let’s start with figs. Figs contain an astonishing array of nutrients. Curiously, their mineral content resembles breast milk: they have calcium, iron, phosphorus, manganese and potassium. Contrary to what the cow milk marketing folk would have you believe, calcium from plant sources is much more absorbable than that found in dairy products, and the best form for preventing osteoporosis. About 5 figs covers 10% of your daily calcium needs. The iron in figs supports high energy levels. The mineral potassium is useful for lowering blood pressure and for preventing cramps. This is one of the reasons the ancient Olympians used them. The potassium in figs also helps prevent calcium loss in urine for those who are peeing away their bones by drinking coffee (see Paros Life article “The Dark Side of Caffeine”, April 2007) or eating other very acidic foods like meat.
Figs are one of the richest fruit sources of vitamin B6 (one fig provides about 0.1mg - 4% of the recommended daily amount) and vitamins B1 and B2. The B vitamins are nerve tonics and also support proper digestion and assimilation. The phyto-chemical ficin in figs also promotes digestion and the breakdown of protein. I always recommend B6 for women with hormonal irregularities such as PMS or high prolactin levels.
This biblical fruit is also a wonderful food for sustained energy – being high in fibre and in fruit sugar. They are very filling (eating more than 3 is quite difficult); and at only 47 calories each (for an average sized fig) they are certainly a friend for all slimmers.
The fibre in figs is also responsible for their reputation as a laxative. A syrup made from boiled figs is a good laxative for children whose elimination needs help.
Until researching this article, I had no idea that the leaves of fig trees, which I had always completely overlooked, have a number of medicinal benefits. Most importantly, they have anti-diabetic properties and reduce the amount of insulin needed by diabetics. A liquid extract of fig-leaf was given to diabetics with their breakfast in one study and removed the need for injected insulin later. I would suggest anyone with diabetes should boil up fig leaves together with fresh sage in mineral water as a herbal tea and drink this regularly (whilst monitoring blood sugar levels very closely).
Researchers have found that fig leaves lower triglyceride levels in animals (these are the circulating fats that clog up the arteries); but they do not know what compound in the leaf is responsible for this effect. Another study found that fig leaves inhibit the growth of cancer cells. The fruit of the fig tree also contains an anti-cancer compound called benzaldehyde. Apart from eating figs, I would also recommend that anyone with cardiovascular health issues or cancer try drinking a tea made from boiling up fig leaves in mineral water. It might not taste great, but it may do you a lot of good.
Since figs are also loaded with the anti-oxidant polyphenol (like green tea) and are overall a nutritional power food, it is not really surprising that there were laws in ancient Greece forbidding the export of the best quality figs.
Now onto grapes. Where to begin? There are hundreds of studies detailing the amazing health benefits of grapes and their miraculous healing powers. For those short on time: in a nutshell eat grapes (skin, seeds and all) if you want to help avoid cancer, heart disease and premature aging.
'The so-called “Grape Cure” was documented in the 1920s by a South African lady, Johanna Brandt, who claimed to have treated her stomach cancer by fasting exclusively on grapes and grape juice for some weeks.
It is only recently that science has begun to identify the anti-cancer compounds in grapes: ellagic acid, catechin, quercetin, selenium, lycopene, lutein, laetrile (vitamin B17 found in the seeds only), beta-carotene, caffeic/ferulic and gallic acid and resvertatrol, all of which help to kill cancer cells!
For those of you who spit out the pips - don’t! Chew and then swallow, if you want to help eliminate developing cancer cells in your body. I have recently been doing a lot of research into the vitamin B17 and cancer cure connection. It seems this compound (found most abundantly in apricot kernels as well as grape seeds) contains a mild form of toxic cyanide. Now, I know this sounds very scary, but healthy cells in the body possess an enzyme that converts this plant-cyanide into glucose. Malignant cells do not have this enzyme and are thus poisoned off - leaving all surrounding healthy cells unscathed: a kind of natural chemotherapy!
Hundreds of recent studies have been exploring the cancer-healing and anti-aging properties of a resveratrol, a compound found only in the skins of red grapes (and present in much higher quantity in organic grapes than commercially grown fruit). Resveratrol has been found to activate the so-called Sir2 genes (our anti-aging genes) to trigger DNA repair, as well as the body’s p53 quality control enzyme that kills off any dodgy cells. This means of course it also helps stop cancer promotion. In the parts of France where grape-fasts are still undertaken during harvest time, there is a significantly lower incidence of cancer.
Whilst red wine has long been known to have cardiac protective effects, red grape juice is even better. Its increased HDL (healthy) cholesterol levels and its polyphenol compounds stimulate the endothelial cells (those lining blood vessels) to produce nitric oxide, which helps to protect against cardio-vascular disease and to maintain healthy blood vessels and blood pressure. The potassium in grapes helps regulate the heart rate.
Grapes really are one of the most medicinal fruits on the planet: the anti-inflammatory effect is also beneficial for eczema; the potassium increases alkalinity in the blood which stimulates kidneys, cleanses the liver and removes uric acid from the body (which causes gout and arthritis.
Hmm. I am in the mood for some figs and grape juice...