Fig vs Date: What’s the Difference? From a Dietitian

Figs and dates are popular sweet fruits that are well-loved for their natural sweetness and versatility. But are they the same thing?

In this article I’ll cover the nutritional differences and similarities between figs and dates, and how you can incorporate them into your eating routine.

I’m Jamie, a Registered Dietitian and sweet-snack lover (big fig and date fan!). I love sharing realistic nutrition tips and easy recipes to help you build healthier habits and a healthy relationship with food.

Let’s get into it the differences and similarities between these small fruits.

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Whole and sliced fresh figs on a white plate.

What are figs?

Though we think of figs as fruit, they’re actually inverted flowers. Each fig pod contains a teeny group of inverted flowers.

Figs have a short growing season and are highly perishable, so you’re more likely to find dried figs or products that use figs, like fig paste or fig jam

Originally hailing from Western Asia, fig trees (ficus carica) have spread to Mediterranean climates and are now extensively cultivated in countries such as Turkey, Greece, and Spain. Figs thrive in regions with long, hot summers: that heat is essential for the fruit to ripen.

There are several varieties of figs, including mission, brown turkey figs, and black Genoa figs

Fig fruits are a surprising source of many essential nutrients and dietary benefits.

Figs are high in dietary fiber and also contain important minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and copper. In addition, figs are a good source of vitamin B 6, and vitamin K, and are rich in antioxidants

And even though this unique fruit has quite a bit of natural sugar, they’re still a nutritious, delicious addition to a healthy diet. 

Dried dates in a decorative glass dish.

What are dates?

Dates are the fruit of the date palm tree. Like peaches and olives, dates have a single large pit in the center of the fruit. Dates grow together in a bunch, kind of like a bunch of grapes. 

Similiarly to figs, we’re more likely to see dried dates than fresh dates here in the US. There are also different varieties of dates.

While dates have been around a long time, they became very popular with the Paleo movement because they’re a super sweet whole food option.

Paleo gurus love dates because they can be used in recipes to satisfy a sweet tooth without adding refined sugar (although, of course, dates do have natural sugar in them). 

You may have seen or tried recipes that use dates for a nutrition-boosted dessert, like my Take 5 Date Bites that use a dry date instead of a caramel layer.

Dates are a good source of fiber and a source of potassium, magnesium, copper, vitamin B6 and even some iron. They’re also high in disease-fighting antioxidants.

Dates are high in natural sugars, making them a great energy booster for busy days, and their naturally chewy texture makes them perfect for quick snacks or as part of a meal. 

Difference Between Dates and Figs 

Let’s explore the unique, health-packed profiles of both figs and dates

FYI, 100 grams of dried fruit is about three ounces. 

Dried Medjool Dates 100 g portionDried Figs 100 g portion
Protein2 g3 g
Carbohydrates75 g64 g
Fiber7 g10 g
Iron1 mg2 mg
Potassium700 mg680 mg
Magnesium54 mg68 mg
Calcium64 mg 162 mg

As you can see, both are the same calorically but figs have a bit more protein, less carbohydrates, more fiber, more iron, more magnesium, and more calcium.

Dates have less protein, more carbohydrate, less fiber (but they’re still a great source), less iron, less magnesium, and less calcium. Both have about the same amount of potassium.

One of the best nutritional benefits of both are that they have a high fiber content, which is important for digestive health. Dates have 7 grams per 100 g portion and dried figs have 10 grams per portion, which are both fabulous fiber numbers.

Fiber also helps stabilize blood sugar spikes from carbohydrate foods, like dates and figs!

Which should you choose? Both, if you enjoy them!

Frequently asked questions

Are dates dried figs?

No, dates and figs are two completely different fruits! Figs are an inverted flower and dates are the fruit of a date palm tree.

Both are less commonly found fresh in the US so both are frequently dried.

Are dates and figs the same?

Nope! Both fruits grow on trees, are sweet, and contain many of the same nutrients but they’re not the same thing. 

Do dates and figs taste the same?

Each one has a unique flavor. Dates have a more deep caramel-like flavor while figs have a slightly fruitier honey-like flavor, often compared to a berry or currant. Both have a sweet flavor.

Which is healthier dates or figs?

Neither is really “healthier” than the other. They’re both a naturally sweet source of of carbohydrates, high fiber, and are rich in other nutrients as well.

Can you substitute dates for figs?

Yes! They do have a different flavor but because of their natural sweetness they can often be interchanged in recipes. For example, you can use figs instead of dates in my recipe for Balsamic Date Vinaigrette.

Recipes and Ideas: How to Enjoy Figs and Dates

Ready to enjoy these delicious fruits? Here are a few ideas for eating figs and dates. 

Ways to enjoy figs

The sweet, honeyed flavor of figs pairs exquisitely with both sweet and savory dishes. 

Fresh figs are delightful when sliced and paired with cheese or drizzled with honey, while dried figs elevate baked goods like bread and cakes. They are also a delicious addition to oatmeal, salads, and even as a pizza topping.

Anywhere you might use other dried fruits is fair game for dried figs. Add chopped dried figs to your favorite cookies, sprinkle them on top of your morning oatmeal or pair with a salty cheese. 

Ideas for enjoying dates

Dates are incredibly versatile and can be enjoyed in a myriad of ways due to their rich flavor and natural sweetness.

Stuff a date with a nut or nut butter for a quick energy boost. Make a healthy date and nut bar for on-the-go snacking, or blend dates into smoothies for a natural sweetener.

You can even make “caramel” out of dates by blending them with a bit of milk.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes and healthy snack ideas using dried dates:

A sheet pan with parchment paper and sliced chocolate date bark.

Do dates and figs have too much sugar?

One of the questions I get often as a dietitian is whether or not fruits like dates and figs have too much sugar because they do have a “high sugar content” in comparison to some other fruits. But that’s okay!

Here’s the thing: even though they do have natural sugar, they also contain important nutrients including fiber, energizing carbohydrates and many different vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.

Most of us are far from the goal of having enough fruits and veggies in a day, so I am always encouraging MORE fruits and veggies, not less. 

If you’re feeling plagued with guilt after eating foods with sugar, I’ll invite you to check out this blog post with exactly what I recommend you do: Why Do I Feel Guilty After Eating? A Registered Dietitian’s Take.

If you like eating figs and dates, please do so! 

My favorite fig & date products

Figs and dates: a nutritious duo

While they do have a similar appearance and similar nutrition stats, they are different. So now that we all know that figs and dates are not actually the same fruit, we can celebrate that they’re both a delicious snack with health benefits. 

Whether you prefer the sweet and subtle taste of dates or the honeyed and complex flavor of figs, these fruits deserve a place in your pantry and on your plate.

Including a variety of nutrient-rich foods, like a selection of fruits such as figs and dates, can aid in maintaining overall health and wellness.

So, the next time you’re perusing the dried fruit section of the grocery store, or deciding on a dessert, don’t skimp on the figs and dates.

Instead, savor the delectable offerings from these ancient, yet timeless, fruits.

It can be fun to expand your culinary horizons with new foods, including fruits! The more we have a variety of foods throughout the week, the healthier (and more satisfied) we are.  

In need of healthy recipes? My recipe e-book, Easy Balanced Bites, offers 30 balanced, easy recipes with weekly grocery lists to make eating well simple.

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It's me, Jamie!

I’m a Registered Dietitian dedicated to helping you break free of the all-or-nothing dieting with balanced and realistic healthy eating.

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Meet Jamie

I’m a Registered Dietitian and I’ve been exactly where you are, right now. The all or nothing dieting, the constant food guilt, the scale obsession, absolutely no balance with food…. Sound familiar?