Exploring the many health benefits of the golden fruit
Mango trees are native to South and Southeast Asia and are considered sacred in India. They are now widely grown across all tropical and some subtropical areas including Africa, Brazil, Mexico, the Caribbean, Florida, California, Hawaii and Spain.
Mango fruit is an excellent source of mighty antioxidants which help to guard our short- and long-term health. They protect our tissues and DNA from damage, block some environmental toxins and assist the immune system in keeping us healthy. Mango antioxidants include mangiferin, catechins, quercetin, kaempferol, anthocyanins, gallic and ellagic acids.
Some, such as mangiferin, also have cancer-fighting and antimicrobial properties and so help to actively defend our health.
Great for the eyes
Among the plentiful mango antioxidants is also beta-carotene, that the body converts to vitamin A – essential to eye health and vision. And there’s more! Mango supplies lutein and zeaxanthin – two antioxidants that protect the retina of the eye from sunlight and from the blue light emitted by digital devices.
A 100-gram portion of mango provides around 60 per cent of your recommended daily vitamin C dose. This vitamin is important for your immune system but also for wound healing and collagen formation. Collagen is a protein crucial for the integrity of your skin and an inherent part of the body’s connective tissue such as tendons and ligaments.
As well as vitamin C, mango also contains vitamin E and beta-carotene and that’s why it’s great for skin health – these vitamins help to keep your skin well-nourished and supple.
A half of mango provides around 36 per cent of your recommended daily folate intake, a vitamin needed for brain and nerve function, production of DNA, cell reproduction and red blood cell formation. Folate is also crucial in foetal development – a mother needs an adequate intake to help prevent neural tube defects in her baby.
Heart and gut buddy
Mango offers several nutrients important for a healthy heart and blood vessels. While all its antioxidants help to protect blood vessels walls and fight inflammation, mango’s potassium helps to maintain healthy blood pressure and vitamin K is vital for effective blood clotting
On top of all this, mango is also a good source of fibre, which keeps your gut bacteria well-nourished and your digestive system happy. A healthy gut means better immunity, increased energy levels and it’s also linked to a lower risk of heart disease.
Enzyme top up
Fresh mango is rich in health-promoting enzymes such as catalase, invertase and amylase. Catalase is an antioxidant enzyme that helps to protect our tissues from the damage caused by ageing, environmental pollution and strenuous physical activity. Invertase and amylase are necessary for digestion because they break down complex molecules into simpler forms. Your body makes its own invertase and amylase, but when levels are low it may result in digestive issues so a little top up from mango can help.
Too much sugar?
Mango is a very sweet fruit but that doesn’t mean it has too much sugar – not at all! It does contain natural sugar but also fibre and this slows down sugar absorption so mango releases its energy gradually. It can fuel your day the healthy way!
And dried mango?
Unsweetened, dried mango retains many nutrients but not all. Its antioxidant content declines as well as beta-carotene (vitamin A) and vitamin E – how much depends on the temperature used in the process of drying. Perhaps surprisingly, its vitamin C decreases only a little and its vitamin K content is even higher than in fresh mango. The best choice is sun-dried mango because it hasn’t been exposed to excessive heat and has the best nutritional value.
When it comes to sweetened dried mango, it’s a different story. The product is so saturated with sugar that it loses any health benefits and all you will get from it is a sugar rush.
Choosing the best mango
When deciding which mango to buy, gently squeeze it – if it gives a little under your fingers, it’s ripe and ready to eat. If it’s rock-hard, it’s unripe and when you take it home, it may not fully ripen so it can be a waste of money. If it’s somewhere in between, it may take a while but it will ripen at home, especially if you place it in the sun, together with other fruits. Colour is not the best indicator as mangos come in many varieties – always judge by feel.
How to enjoy a mango
Once you’ve found your perfect mango, peel and cut it and enjoy the sweet, golden pulp. You can blend it with other fruits and veggies to make a smoothie or dice it into a fruit or vegetable salad – it goes great with both. You can top your morning cereal with it, finely dice it into salsa, put it on waffles and pancakes, use it in desserts, grill slices at a barbecue or blend it with frozen bananas to make mango ice cream.
Mangoes only grow in tropical and some subtropical regions so buying them in Europe usually means paying for the long-distance transport – the only exception being Spanish mangoes. Always check the origin of the fruit you’re buying as it follows that Spanish mangoes have a lower carbon footprint than fruits from Brazil, for example.
There are have also been concerns raised about workers in some countries not being paid living wages and the questionable use of fertilizers. That doesn’t mean we should stay away from this fruit but it’s best to buy organic and Fair Trade mangoes when possible.