Fig fruit (Ficus carica L.) is one of the most important agricultural products of the tropic and subtropics areas. In the Middle East and the Mediterranean region, the fig is included in diet since the ancient years and it is considered as the symbol of longevity. This review presents the main phytochemical compounds found in fresh and dried figs of different varieties, describes the analytical methods used for their determination and discuss the antioxidant capacity and the potential effects of figs in human health. Phenolic acids and flavonoids are the major types of phytochemical compounds that have been found in fresh and dried figs. Their levels are strongly influenced by various factors such as the color, the part of fruit, the maturity and the drying process. Gallic acid, chlorogenic acid, rutin, quercetin-3-O-rutinoside and epicatechin are the most predominant phenolic acids and flavonoids in dried and fresh fig varieties. Extracts of dark-colored varieties contain higher amount of phenolic compounds than the light-colored varieties. Fruit skin contributes most to the amount of phenolic compounds compared to the fruit pulp. The ripening stage affects the concentrations of phenolic compounds in figs, the maximum have been found in ripe fruit. On the other hand, contradictory results have been reported in the literature regarding the effect of air- and sun- drying on the total content of phytochemical compounds, as well as on the concentrations of individual phenolic compounds and carotenoids in figs. The antioxidant capacity of figs is highly correlated with their amount of phenolic compounds. The leaves, roots, fruit and latex of the plant are known for their health properties including acetyl cholinesterase inhibition, antifungal, anti-helminthic and anticarcinogenic activities. Future efforts should be focused on the application of fig extracts as functional ingredients of food products, on clinical trials in order to confirm the beneficial effect of plant extracts in human health and, on the valorization of the waste material produced during figs' processing.
Keywords: Analysis; Antioxidant capacity; Extraction; Ficus carica; Health benefits; Phenolic compounds.
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