Mango is the world’s most widely eaten fresh fruit. Mango originated from India and southeast Asia, but is now grown in the Americas, the Caribbean, Africa, and Australia as well – today, Mexico is the world’s largest mango exporter. Mangoes were introduced in the U.S. in the late 1800s, and some are still grown in California and Florida. Mango is part of a nutrient dense family – its relatives include cashews and pistachios, but unlike its family members, the seed of a mango is inedible.
There are over 50 different varieties of mango, and we see about five of these in the U.S. Color varies – green, yellow, orange, red, or a combination. Although unripe mangoes are usually green, the best test of ripeness is how hard or soft the fruit is. A mango that indents in response to gentle pressure is ripe. Tart, unripe green mangoes are used in several ethnic cuisines, and are sometimes sliced and dipped in salt (but not by nutritarians!). Ripe mangoes, however, are extremely sweet and tasty.1-2
A great deal of research has been done on the health benefits of high antioxidant fruits – blueberries, goji berries, pomegranates, acai – but the mango has been somewhat ignored by scientists because its antioxidant capacity is not quite as high as these other fruits. Atulfo mangoes – the smaller, yellow mangoes often sold in Asian supermarkets – have the greatest antioxidant content of the five common varieties found in the U.S. Also, the orange flesh of mangoes is full of beta-carotene and vitamin C.3-4
A new study has revealed that mango, despite its low level of antioxidant activity, may have potent anti-cancer properties. Researchers treated cells derived from several common cancers – colon, breast, leukemia, and prostate – with mango polyphenol extract. Breast and colon cancer cells were most significantly affected – the cell cycle was disrupted and they underwent programmed cell death in response to the mango extract. Normal colon cells, however, remained alive and undamaged. The researchers suggest that gallotannins, the most abundant antioxidant polyphenols contained in mango, were responsible for the anti-cancer effects.5
Fresh mango is delicious all on its own. If you haven’t quite yet figured out how to cut a mango, here’s one way. Another is to slice lengthwise on each side of the pit, score the flesh, and then turn each side inside out.
Frozen and dried mango can make a great treat too:
Dr Fuhrman’s Fantastic Mango Ice Cream
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, reserving 1 tablespoon for garnish
1/2 cup hemp, almond or soy milk
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 10-ounce bag frozen mango
4 slices dried mango, unsweetened and unsulfured
Soak dried mango in the plant-milk until soft (overnight or one hour in advance). Then blend all ingredients, including the soaking milk, in a Vita-Mix or other high-powered blender until smooth and creamy. Garnish with reserved coconut.
- Manthey JA et al. Influences of harvest date and location on the levels of beta-carotene, ascorbic acid, total phenols, the in vitro antioxidant capacity, and phenolic profiles of five commercial varieties of mango (Mangifera indica L.). J Agric Food Chem. 2009 Nov 25;57(22):10825-30.