Mango season is in full swing and we’ve been eating a LOT of them lately. Cuz who doesn’t love mangos, right? Mango smoothies, mango sorbet, mango salsa, fresh mangos. Even the traditional Thai dessert of fresh mangos and sticky rice is OH SO YUMMY!
So if you love this delicious super-food as much as I do, you might be wondering about the health benefits of mangos? They are pretty high in sugar. So can they really be that good for you? Below I share some of the health benefits of mangos as well as a few delicious recipes.
First a little history on this lovely tropical fruit. Mangos are related to both pistachios and cashews, (two of my most favorite nuts!) The mango is India’s national fruit and mangos were first cultivated in India and Southeast Asia over 4,000 years ago. Then they made their way to other parts of Asia, Africa, and South America through trade about 300-400 A.D.
Culturally, the mango tree also plays a large part in Hinduism and Buddhism. Buddha is reported to have mediated in mango groves. Mango leaves represent life are are used in wedding ceremonies in India. And the Hindu elephant-god Ganesh is often seen holding a ripe mango. So what are some of the health benefits of mangos?
Which Variety of Mango is Best?
There are many varieties of mangos around the globe. While most mangos in the US come from Mexico, a few also come from California, Florida, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. And the most common varieties available in US stores are: Haden, Tommy Atkins, Kent, and Ataulfo (or Champagne mangos).
So which type of mango is best? Flavors vary somewhat among them. I personally love the Tommy Atkins or Haden variety (larger with reddish-orange skin), and some of my friends prefer the Ataulfo or Champagne mangos (smaller with yellow skin.) So it’s really a matter of personal preference as to which variety of mango is “best.”
Seasons also vary, with most varieties being available from spring through summer. And while the amount of phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals may vary slightly among varieties, the health benefits of mangos are generally the same across all types.
Aren’t Mangos High in Sugar?
Fresh mangos contain about 24 grams of sugar per serving. While this may seem high, mangos score 51 which makes them low on the glycemic index. The glycemic index takes into account not only sugar and carbs, but also fiber which helps slow digestion and prevent blood sugar spikes. Mangos happen to be very high in fiber, with one small mango containing approximately 14% of your daily fiber. So that’s a good thing!
However, be aware that dried mangos contain much more sugar per serving than fresh mangos. Many dried mangos contain added sugar. And even if they don’t have added sugar, the natural sugar concentrates in the drying process, and you usually end up eating way more than “one mango” when you’re eating dried mangos.
Health Benefits of Mangos
The overall health benefits of mangos are numerous, and far outweigh their high sugar content. So look at all of the things this little yellow fruit can do!
- Anti Aging, Anti Cancer — mangos are rich in antioxidants which can aid in slowing the aging process and in the prevention of cancer. Antioxidants help remove free-radicals which are a common cause of both aging and some cancers. Studies also show that a phyto-hormone found in mangos called lupeol, is effective against prostate, breast, and skin cancers.
- Promotes Weight Gain And Weight Loss — they are high in calories so they can promote weight gain if you eat several of them a day. And they are also high in fiber which can help to make you feel satiated and eat less at each meal.
- Digestive Aid — mangos contain prebiotics and digestive enzymes that help with the breakdown and digestion of protein. Their high fiber content also helps to prevent constipation and hemorrhoids as well as helping to lower the risk of heart disease, type II diabetes, and diverticular disease.
- Eye Health — they are high in vitamins: C (76% Recommended Daily Allowance), A (26% RDA) B6 (11% RDA), E (9% RDA), and potassium (7% RDA), which help promote eye health among other benefits. Some sources claim that mangos are high in iron. This is not actually the case, however, because iron needs vitamin C to be absorbed, mangos can definitely help in the absorption of iron when eaten with iron-rich foods like spinach.
- Healthy Skin — mangos can help clear up acne and make your skin glow. While the skin is a direct mirror to the intestines, having a healthy digestive tract (see above) will help you have healthy, glowing skin. But you can also use mango pulp as a facial mask. The enzymes in the pulp will help to open pores and unclog skin. (See recipe below.)
- Brain Health — they contain glutamine which converts to glutamic acid in the brain. Glutamic acid is an important neurotransmitter which helps both memory (aiding in long-term memory processing) and concentration.
- Medicinal Benefits of Mango Leaves and Pits — mango leaves and pits have been used for a variety of medicinal purposes through the centuries. Various parts of the mango plant contain properties that are antiviral, anti-parasitic, antibiotic, act as an expectorant to help alleviate coughs, aid in asthma attacks, aid in digestion, and boost immunity.
I only recently learned how to determine when a mango is really ripe. We’d buy green mangos, but by the time they were soft and yellow they were almost past their prime and stringy. No bueno! So it turns out when they are ripe they are firm with a slight give when you push on it, but not too soft. The softer they get the more stringy they seem to get. The Haden and Tommy Atkins varieties might still be a bit greenish when they are ripe.
We also started peeling them with a vegetable peeler to get the most mango and not waste any fruit that sticks to the skin when you use a knife. Here’s a video from Real Simple that shows a super-easy way to cut up mangos.
So now that you know a little more about mangos, let’s try some delicious mango recipes, like this Kaleidoscope Fruit Salad, to help you optimize the health benefits of mangos in your daily life.
And if you really love mangos, I also recommend reading the book An Embarrassment of Mangos, by Ann Vanderhoof. This armchair adventure travel book is sprinkled with delicious mango recipes throughout.
Adapted from NYR Organic Healing Foods Book. This colorful mango salsa is a summertime favorite!
1 large ripe mango, peeled and chopped
1 organic roma tomato, diced
½ red onion, diced
1 small cucumber, peeled and diced
3 TBSP fresh squeezed lime juice
3 TBSP cilantro, chopped
1 small jalapeño, diced (optional, remove seeds for less heat)
Mix all ingredients together. Serve with organic corn chips, or on grilled mahi-mahi.
Mango Smoothie for Healthy Skin
Adapted from NYR Organic Eat Beautiful Book. This smoothies is full of enzymes to promote optimal skin health. It’s also anti-aging and is very beneficial for healthy hair.
1 large ripe mango, peeled and chopped
½ cup pineapple chunks
½ cup coconut milk (Try Trader Joe’s Organic or brands that don’t use fillers and additives)
12 strands of saffron (optional)
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground ginger
4 tsp baobab powder (optional)
¼ tsp ground cardamom
12 oz purified water
Pinch of Himalayan pink salt
Place all ingredients in the blender or Vitamix in the order listed, and blend until smooth. Sprinkle with Cocoa nibs. Serves 2
Quick ‘n’ Healthy Mango Snack
This is one of my go-to quick breakfasts or high-energy snacks when I’m in a hurry.
1/2 mango, peeled and diced
1 TBSP coconut oil
1 TBSP chia seeds
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup dried coconut flakes (unsweetened)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 TBSP cocoa nibs
Put the diced mango in a bowl drizzle with coconut oil and top with remaining ingredients. Mix up and eat. Serves 1
Mango & Honey Facial Mask
4 tablespoons mango pulp (finely diced mango)
2 tsp raw, organic honey
1 tsp organic coconut oil
Mash all ingredients together in a bowl. Apply on clean face and neck. Leave the mango and honey facial mask on for 15-20 minutes. Rinse off thoroughly with lukewarm water. Good for all skin types.
Here’s to enjoying this mango season! Please leave a comment to let us know your favorite mango recipe, or any mango tricks you know.