What Is a Mango?
Mangoes are one of the sweetest fruits. Native to South Asia, they've been an important food in traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine for over 4,000 years. Today, they're enjoyed all over the world. Most people can safely eat them in moderation.
Mangoes have been an important crop in India for millennia. Today, these colorful, sweet fruits are a mainstay of Indian cuisine and are popular throughout the world. Mangoes can weigh anywhere from a few ounces to more than 5 pounds each, depending on the variety.
Regardless of the type of mango you buy, these fruits offer some impressive health benefits. While mangoes were historically only available at the end of the dry season, today they can be found in grocery stores all year long.
Types of Mangoes
There are several different types of mangoes, each with its own flavor and texture.
The six most common varieties available in the U.S. are:
- Honey. These have a smaller seed than other types of mangoes, so their ratio of flesh to seed is higher.
- Francis. These are sweet and fruity.
- Haden. These are sweet and sour, with a slight bitter taste.
- Keitt. These are popular in Asian cultures, where they're often picked or eaten in their green stage.
- Kent. These are ideal for juicing and drying.
- Tommy Atkins. These are valued for their long shelf life and tolerance of handling.
Mango Health Benefits
The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in mangoes can provide important health benefits. For example, vitamin K helps your blood clot effectively and helps prevent anemia. It also plays an important role in strengthening your bones.
Mangoes are also rich in vitamin C, which is important for forming blood vessels and healthy collagen, as well as helping you heal.
In addition, mangoes can provide other health benefits like:
Lower risk of cancer
Mangoes are rich in beta-carotene, a pigment responsible for the yellow-orange color of the fruit. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant, just one of many found in mangoes. The antioxidants in mangoes have been shown to fight free radicals, which can cause damage to your cells and potentially lead to cancer.
Mangoes are also helpful for supporting your cardiovascular system. They are a great source of magnesium and potassium, both of which are connected to lower blood pressure and a regular pulse. Furthermore, mangoes are the source of a compound known as mangiferin, which early studies suggest may be able to reduce inflammation of the heart.
Mangoes can help stabilize your digestive system. They offer both amylase compounds and dietary fiber, which can help you avoid constipation. Amylase compounds can help dissolve other foods in your stomach, breaking down difficult starches. Meanwhile, the fiber in mangoes can be more effective for relieving constipation than equivalent fiber supplements.
Mangoes are rich in folate, which is used for healthy cell division and DNA duplication. Doctors recommend that people who can become pregnant consume at least 400 micrograms of folate daily because it is critical for avoiding birth defects.
Mangoes are also an excellent source of:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
Nutrients per serving
One medium-sized mango contains:
- Calories: 202
- Protein: 3 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
- Carbohydrates: 50 grams
- Fiber: 5 grams
- Sugar: 45 grams
Things to watch out for
Mango skin contains a compound called urushiol, which is also found in poison ivy. Urushiol is what causes the itchy red rash after touching the poison ivy plant. While mango skin contains less urushiol than poison ivy, it can still cause rashes and allergic responses. On rare occasions, some people can even react allergically when eating the peeled fruit. If you have a negative reaction to poison ivy, you should take care when peeling the fruit and never attempt to eat the skin.
How to Eat Mango
Mango can be found year-round in grocery stores, health food stores, and occasionally even at farmers' markets. This tasty fruit is sweet with just a hint of tart. When slicing mangoes, it's important to watch out for the large, flat seed at the center, which can easily dull knives.
If you have a skin sensitivity, you can peel the mango while stabilizing it with gloves or a towel to avoid direct contact. The flesh of the mango itself should be soft and bright orange-yellow when it's ready to eat. You can eat it raw, grilled, or frozen as a sweet treat.
Whether you eat it for their flavor or health benefits, mangoes make a great addition to almost any meal. Here are some ways you can include mangoes in your diet:
- Add mangoes to a smoothie
- Make mango chutney
- Grill mangoes as part of a barbecue
- Try mango sorbet
- Pair fish with mangoes
- Use mangoes to make jam
- Freeze mango cubes and add them to cocktails
How to ripen mangoes
It's best to keep mangoes at room temperature. They'll ripen this way, getting sweeter and softer. Don't refrigerate them before they ripen. You can speed up their ripening process by putting them in a paper bag.
How to store mangoes
Ripe mangoes can be refrigerated—this will slow down their ripening process. They can be kept this way for 5 days, if they're whole. When they're peeled and cut, they can be kept in your refrigerator in an airtight container for several days. You can freeze them for up to 6 months.
How to cut mangoes
Cutting mangoes can be challenging because they have one long and flat seed in its middle. Always wash a mango before cutting it. Use a clean knife and a cutting board. Try these steps:
- Slice each side of the mango, just past its seed, about 1/4 inch from its center.
- Slice the mango's flesh, without slicing the skin.
- Scoop out the slices with a large spoon.
Dried mango often comes in slices, which may include sulfites to increase its shelf life and keep the mango soft. Organic varieties can be stickier and more difficult to eat. Freeze-dried mangoes are crunchier and often free of added sugar. Mangoes that are candied or crystallized are steeped in a mix of water and sugar before they're dried.
Dried mango is sometimes used as a folk remedy for:
- Boosting the immune system
- Lowering blood sugar levels
A few studies show some support for these claims, but more research is required before dried mango can be recommended for such health benefits.
Dried mango nutrition information
Four pieces of unsweetened, unsulfured dried mangoes contain:
- Calories: 120
- Protein: 2 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 28 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Sugar: 20 grams
Dried mangoes are a good source of:
- Vitamin A
Many dried fruits are rich in antioxidants. Dried mango provides an especially powerful dose. Foods high in antioxidants have been shown to offer protection against a variety of conditions, including several types of cancer.
The source of mangoes' rich benefits is its seeds. Mango butter is crafted by extracting the content of the mango seed and cold-pressing it into a creamy butter.
Mango butter is a fat that originates from mango seeds—it exists in refined and unrefined forms. Mango butter is semisolid and melts when it touches the skin.
Like shea and cocoa butter, mango butter can nourish skin and hair and support overall skin health. Some forms of mango butter are also edible. Mango butter is included as an ingredient in chocolates and other snacks.
Nutrition of mango butter
Mango butter is a rich source of mangiferin, an antioxidant that can help reduce the risk of cellular damage that can cause diseases such as cancer.
It's also an excellent source of:
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C