A few years ago I was lucky enough to spend a month volunteering at an Ecolodge in Panama, nestled deep in the mountainous cooler interior of the country. Luckier still, it was mango season, and the ecolodge was surrounded by massive old-growth mango trees, literally dripping with the fruit.
Even by eating mangoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, we could not keep up with the fallen fruit. A month worth of the ripest mangoes known to man did not quench my thirst for them. I love mangoes. Even though I only now am learning about their many benefits, I’ve always been obsessed with them. I’d even go so far as to say that mangoes factor into determining where I want to travel next. Do they grow mangoes? I’m in!
The Roots of Mangoes Around the World
The mango grove in Panama taught me that there is more to the fruit than we northern folk fully understand. We might only see one, maybe two kinds of mangoes in the grocery store, but in reality there are over 1,000 subspecies.
Each type of mango has a unique aroma, texture and flavor. Some are giants, with firm, sweet texture, while others (my favorites) are small, juicy and aromatic. The love affair with mangoes is global, considering that many countries have named the mango their national fruit, including the Philippines, India and Pakistan.
It’s technically a stone fruit, related to cashew fruits. The tree originated in South Asia, but has spread around the world. Mangoes are found in most tropical countries, where they are cultivated on a massive scale. In 2013 alone, the world produced nearly 43 million tons of the stuff.
What’s in a Mango?
A mango is not just known for its good looks, although if you ask me, it’s one luscious-looking fruit. It’s packed full of powerful vitamins and minerals, and tons of viable health benefits. In fact, the benefits of mango go far beyond just adding another fruit serving to your day.
One cup of mango, which is approximately the flesh from one medium-sized fruit, has 100 percent of your total daily vitamin C requirement. It has 35 percent of your vitamin A, plus 12 percent fiber, 20 percent folate and 10 percent B6. At only 100 calories, it makes a great mid-afternoon pick-me-up.
Besides the more prominent vitamins and minerals, mangoes contain many lesser-known amino acids and trace minerals. These compounds are difficult to obtain in a standard American diet, but that is easily rectified just by adding a few mangoes to it throughout the course of a week.
One hundred grams of cut mango contains roughly 6 percent of the daily value of copper and 4 percent potassium. Plus, it helps top up tryptophan, lysine, threonine and many other important amino acids.
Benefits of Mangoes
Vitamins and mineral content are great information to have, but what are the real mango benefits? What does it translate into when we look at our health and wellness? Here are some interesting mango facts:
1. Vitamin A for Eye Support
Mangoes contain tons of beta-carotene, which is transformed into vitamin A, which in turn is vital for eye health. Just as carrots have always been associated with good eyesight, mangoes contain similar amounts of the essential beta carotene needed for night vision.
2. Vitamin C for Immune System Support
Vitamin C is well known for its benefits for the immune system. It may help boost immune function for preventing colds and help you jump back from sickness into optimum health. A side bonus to increased vitamin C consumption is that it actually helps your body absorb more iron, something else mangoes contain.
3. Natural Digestive Aid
Many tropical fruits–papaya, coconut, and yes, even mango–have a long tradition of use for soothing digestive issues. They are high in healthy dietary fibers that smooth out the digestive process and alleviate constipation. Mangoes also contain digestive enzymes that break down difficult-to-digest proteins.
4. Manages Glucose Levels
Interestingly, the leaves and fruit of the mango help lower glucose levels. The flesh has a relatively low glycemic index (41-60), making it a sweet but safe snack for managing blood sugar levels. Also, some traditional methods of controlling glucose involve boiling mango leaves, allowing them to steep overnight and drinking the resulting mango leaf tea the next day.
5. Skin Care Benefits
Although excessive handling of mango peel can cause skin irritation (see below), the juicy pulp is often used to benefit the skin. A recent study linked mango extract to a reduction in visible signs of aging in mice. Plus, vitamin A may even protect skin from ultraviolet rays, according to a recent German study.
6. Controls Cholesterol
Mangoes contain a few characteristics that may help control the dangerous cholesterol levels: dietary fibers, pectin and tons of vitamin C. Studies link these compounds to a reduction of serum cholesterol levels. If just eating a few mangoes can help in the fight to lower cholesterol levels, count me in again!
7. Traditional Treatment of Heat Stroke
The juice of green mangos has long been used for treating heat stroke. Considering that mangoes usually grow in tropical, humid places prone to heat waves, this is vital information to keep in your back pocket should you ever find yourself suffering the symptoms of heat stroke.
8. Source of Folic Acid
One of the most challenging dietary requirements for a typical American diet is folic acid. It’s especially important that pregnant women meet their recommended daily intake, because folic acid deficiency in mothers is linked to spinal cord birth defects. Hence, pregnant women should take daily supplements, and mangoes contain 3 percent of the daily folic acid requirement.
9. Reduce Risk of Anemia
One serving of mango, about 100 grams of flesh, contains 2 percent of your recommended daily iron intake. As mentioned, it also has 100 percent of your vitamin C requirement, which helps your body to absorb the iron readily. It’s often difficult to get enough iron, especially if you are a vegan or vegetarian. Iron boosts red blood-cell production, helping to prevent development of iron deficiency. Every little bit counts towards your daily iron intake, and mango makes a delicious addition.
10. Antioxidant Compounds
Mangoes contain not one, but three separate compounds with antioxidant potential: phenolics, carotenoids and ascorbic acid. All three are capable of reducing signs of oxidative stress. Excessive oxidative stress stemming from toxins in our environment leads to increased signs of aging and development of cancerous tumors.
Inspiring Recipes with Mango
Mango doesn’t require tons of culinary finesse to work into your weekly grocery list. It’s delicious in its own right, and stores rather well in the refrigerator once it is cut. Using more mango in your everyday life is a great way to benefit from the quick mango facts explored above. I’ve eaten more mangoes than even I thought was possible, so take a little recipe inspiration from me.
Refreshing Mango Bubble Drink
2 cups filtered water
¼ cup chia seeds
1 cup frozen mango
1 banana, peeled and frozen
1 cup almond milk, or your nut milk of choice
5 to 7 drops stevia
¼ cup fresh blueberries
In a medium bowl, whisk together filtered water and chia seeds. Let sit for five minutes at room temperature, and whisk again. Let sit for 10 more minutes, and whisk again. The mixture will turn into chia gel.
Meanwhile, in a high-speed blender, blend mango, banana, almond milk and stevia until smooth. In the bottom of a large glass, place 1/2 cup of chia gel and blueberries. Pour mango and almond nut mixture on top.
Learn more about five other ingredients to have on hand for smoothies with a powerful healthy punch here.
Quick Crispy Mango Snack
1 green organic mango
1 tsp sea salt flakes
1 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp organic cane sugar
Peel the green mango and cut into long french-fry style strips. In a small bowl, toss together the sea salt, chili flakes and organic cane sugar until mixed.
Dip the green mango into the spice mix and enjoy!
Watch Out for Contact Dermatitis
Before going overboard eating mangoes, know that you can have too much of a good thing. Mangoes are known to trigger the onset of contact dermatitis. We discovered a few weeks into mango season that our hands and sometimes faces broke out in minor skin irritations.
Handling too many mangoes for too long can trigger something similar to a poison ivy or poison oak reaction, although typically much less severe. It goes away within a few days if you can lay off the mangoes. The main culprit is in handling the skin, leaves and stone of the fruit. However, the juice also may cause contact dermatitis in some people.
I’d like to thank the mango for many memories it gave me during my time in Panama. Every morning, it put a smile on my face as I cut it up into pancakes, or into my morning oatmeal bowl. Not only does it make even the most mundane meal immediately more interesting, it offers a bonus of being packed full of vitamins and minerals, many of which are difficult to obtain elsewhere.