Mango is also known as “the king of the fruits”. It is high in nutrients, with a unique flavor and taste. It’s one of my favorite fruits, besides watermelon and plums! Right now it’s high season in most mango-growing countries, with the mangos that began flowering in the spring now bearing delicious fruit.
There are many different kinds of mangos, ranging in color, shape, flavor, and seed size. Mango is thought to have originated in Burma and eastern India almost 4,000 years ago. It belongs to the family of Anacardiaceae, which also includes numerous species of tropical-fruiting trees such as cashew and pistachio. The trees can grow up to 100 feet in height, and are known to live for more than 300 years and continue to bear fruit.
Mango fruit has numerous health benefits, containing over 20 vitamins and minerals, and is rich in pre-biotic dietary fiber and poly-phenolic flavonoid antioxidant compounds. It is an excellent source of vitamin A and flavonoids like beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin.
Some research studies have shown mangos to protect against colon, breast, leukemia and prostate cancers, while the fiber, potassium and vitamin content in mangos all can help to reduce heart disease and help control heart rate and blood pressure.
Mangos contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which are natural compounds that protect the retina and lens and support overall eye health. In a study published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology &Visual Science, researchers found that these antioxidants can increase visual range, reduce discomfort from glare, and improve visual contrast.
They can also shorten the time that it takes for the eyes to recover from the stress of bright lights. Another study published in the British Medical Journal revealed that lutein and zeaxanthin can protect the eyes from harmful ultraviolet rats, and fight or delay the progression of cataracts and macular degeneration.
Vitamin A is also required for maintaining healthy skin, hair and mucus. Consumption of natural fruits rich in carotenes, like mangos, is known to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
Fresh mango is also a good source of potassium. 100g mango provides 156mg of potassium with just 2mg of sodium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps to control heart rate and blood pressure.
Mango is also a very good source of the vitamins B6 (pyridoxine), C and E, which can help the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals, and also help to control homocysteine levels within the blood, which may otherwise be harmful to blood vessels resulting in coronary artery disease and stroke.
And mango con
tains moderate amounts of copper, which is a co-factor for many vital enzymes and also required for the production of red blood cells, as well as vitamin K, which is important for improving calcium absorption, essential for bone health. Mango can even help prevent constipation by promoting a healthy digestive tract.
When picking a mango don’t focus on color, as that is not an indicator of ripeness. Instead, squeeze the mango gently — if it’s “squishy” it’s too ripe, if it’s too hard then it is not yet ready, but it’s perfect when it gives ever so slightly to gentle pressure. A perfect mango may also have a fruity aroma on the stem end.
If unripe, it’s best to keep it at room temperature so that it can become softer and sweeter. To speed up the ripening process, place it in a brown paper bag for a few days. Uncut, ripe mangos can be kept for around five days. Once peeled and cut, they will keep in the freezer in an airtight container for about six months.
Remember, though, that one cup of mango (165 grams) contains 23 grams of sugar. It’s not added sugar, however it still does count as sugar! So especially if you are overweight or have fatty liver disease then be careful to consume mangos in moderation, as they contain fructose which may be harmful to your health.
Ayda Ersoy is a nutrition and fitness director at The Diet Doc Hawaii. She can be reached at DietDocHawaii.com, Ayda@DietDocHawaii.com or (808) 276-6892