Mango Tango? Or No Go?
A Bite-Size Read for Your Health and Your Waistline
Mangos are surprisingly controversial when people think about their health goals, especially for those focused on managing blood sugar. Like watermelon and cantaloupe, you’ll hear people sing its praises and then other people offer a warning. With a whole mango coming in at 200 calories with 46 grams of sugar, we understand. We also know this isn’t the whole story. So, what’s the deal with mangos? Are they a great addition to our meals or should we entirely steer clear?
Nutritionally, mangos offer vitamin A, which supports the daily replacement of our skin cells, maintains healthy tissue in the eyes, supports the health of our bones, reproductive and immune systems, and finally, provides a barrier to infection through mucus production. Vitamin A is an essential nutrient — essential meaning that our body can’t make it, so we have to get it through food or supplementation.
Given the color of mangos, it’s not surprising they’re a great source of vitamin C, which is important for our immune systems. Vitamin C also supports collagen production for the body — which is more than just our skin, but also our muscles, tendons, and bones. Vitamin C also aids in the absorption of iron from plant-based sources. Potentially because of the Vitamin C and A content, mangos demonstrate anti-aging properties when it comes to our skin and the sun.
Mango may also have some potential anti-cancer properties thanks to those micronutrients, like the vitamins and minerals in mango. You’ll find studies on breast cancer, skin cancer, colon cancer, and cervical cancer that are particularly promising. This is potentially due to an antioxidant in mangos called mangiferin. We need more research, but I think what we’re seeing so far is promising and likely to lead to more research.
Mangiferin also has the potential to protect heart cells against inflammation, oxidative stress, and apoptosis, which is programmed cell death. So given that, mangiferin may lower blood cholesterol, triglycerides, and free fatty acid levels. Mangos also have magnesium and potassium which help us support heart health and more.
In this new year, many are thinking about weight and mango may be interesting in this regard, as well. Some studies suggest mangos (mango peel) could potentially suppress fat cells and fat-related genes. Other studies show mangos can improve digestion. People with chronic constipation reported relief after eating mangos. In my mind, this could be connected to mangos’ vitamin C content in combination with the fiber. In addition, studies also see increases in healthy fatty acids and other measures of digestive wellness with mango thanks to a digestive enzyme, amylase, which breaks down complex carbohydrates into sugar and is more active in ripe mangos.
Before we jump into a bowl of mango with both feet (hands?) let’s remember, not all mangos are created equal. Like so many foods, depending on where they’re grown, the nutrient density of mango can differ. Unsurprisingly, the least nutrition-filled one is in the most common mango that we typically find in our grocery store. A study conducted by the USDA Agricultural Research Service found that the Mexican-grown Ataulfo Mango scored highest for vitamins A and C. The lowest was the Tommy Atkins (which we find everywhere) had a fifth of the beta carotene (the precursor to vitamin A) of the Mexican variety and the lowest levels of vitamin C of the five vitamins that they tested. Having said that, still, all mangos are considered a great source of these vitamins. It reiterates that we want to really look at where our food is coming from and what farming practices are used because both things really do translate into the nutritional value. Remember too, mango season is May to September which means any mango in your grocery store now is likely the opposite of local and potentially not our best choice.
Nevertheless, when the feeling strikes, enjoy it when it’s seasonal. Let’s wrap this up with a couple pro tips: (1) When cutting a mango there are two recommended methods: Cut it like an avocado, score it and then turn it inside out. Or there’s also a method that uses a pint glass — just google it. And (2) mangos start to go bad from the inside, so it’s hard to know from the outside if they’re overripe. You’ll have to cut into it to find out and you’ll notice discoloration or a bitter/sour taste.
All-in-all I would say, yes, mangos can have quite a bit of sugar, but they also offer tremendous nutrient density. So go for it! Enjoy your mangos…seasonally…and in moderation!