On this week’s fruit feature we have the mango. It’s possibly not as familiar to people in the U.S. as some of the other fruits out there, but it’s growing in popularity.
And thank goodness for that. With a delicious taste, and a long, interesting history, this is not a fruit to be slept on.
Plus, while the mango contains more sugar than other fruits (which gives it its refreshing sweetness), it is also full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that provide loads of benefits for our bodies.
A little bit of history
As a member of the cashew family, mangoes have been around for a long time. And by long, we mean really long. In fact, mangoes have probably been cultivated by humans for more than 4,000 years.
The fruit originated in India and is closely tied to the country’s religious ceremonies as well as its folklore. Mangoes pop up quite a bit in both the Hindu and the Buddhist traditions. For example, the Buddha was given a mango grove as a place to rest.
Additionally, in some parts, mango trees are considered symbols of love and some folk stories attribute them with the ability to grant wishes.
Mangoes are important in other cultures as well — they’re believed to bring abundance during Lunar New Year celebrations in a number of Asian countries, including China and Taiwan. They’re even the national fruit of the Philippines.
The name mango itself probably comes from the Malayam “manna,” which was adopted as “manga” by the Portuguese when they were introduced to the fruit via the spice trade in the 15th century.
The Portuguese likewise introduced the mango to the western hemisphere, bringing them to Brazil in the 16th century.
Today, mangoes are eaten pretty much everywhere. They are actually eaten more than any other fruit. India remains the top mango producer, but the ones you find at the store probably came from Florida, Mexico, Central, or South America.
Better hair and skin
Mangoes are a great way to improve your skin and hair health because they are rich in vitamin C, which is used for making collagen.
Collagen is the protein that gives our skin its structure. For this reason, vitamin C is associated with good skin health and may even reduce signs of aging.
The vitamin A found in mangoes can also give your hair a healthy refresh. This vitamin not only encourages hair growth but also helps with the production of sebum to keep your scalp nice and moisturized.
As for your skin, vitamin A encourages cell production and can provide natural protection against the sun.
Fun Fact: Mangoes will have more vitamin A or vitamin C based on how ripe they are. Green mangoes contain more vitamin C, but as mangoes ripen, they contain more vitamin A.
In addition to being good for your skin and hair, the vitamin A in mangoes also helps our eye health.
It helps to maintain a clear cornea, or the outside covering of your eye. Meanwhile, the fruit helps to improve night vision because vitamin A is a component of rhodopsin, a protein in your eyes that improves how well you can see in dim or poor lighting.
In fact, some eye issues, such as night blindness, have been linked to vitamin A deficiency. Some of the more serious vitamin A deficiency issues can even result in corneal ulcers and scarring.
Adding still more to the benefits — mangoes also have the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which protect the eye from excess light as well as the also-beneficial beta carotene (we’ll talk more about that in a bit).
Lower risk of cancer
Mangoes can also lower your risk for cancer as a result of their antioxidant content. They are particularly rich in the carotenoid beta-carotene, which has antioxidant effects and converts to vitamin A in the body (it’s actually often considered a type of vitamin A).
Beta-carotene is also found in foods like carrots and sweet potatoes. It’s what gives mangoes their yellowish-orange color. Be forewarned, though — too much beta-carotene can cause your skin to take on an orangish tint (I speak from experience).
However, it also works with the other antioxidants found in mangoes to fight free radicals, which can cause considerable damage to the body.
Mangoes are also high in polyphenols, which help protect against oxidative stress.
Magnesium and potassium are two minerals connected to lower blood pressure. The good news? Mangos are a great source of both.
Additionally, mangoes may be able to reduce heart inflammation and improve cholesterol levels.
Something that a lot of people don’t get enough of in their day-to-day lives is fiber. This really gets to be a problem when you think about how much it can do for you.
Fiber consumption not only aids digestion but also helps with controlling blood sugar and possibly reduces the possibility of getting heart disease. In other words, fiber is pretty important. Luckily, mangoes are a delicious way to get it.
Ways to enjoy them
There are many varieties of mangoes, but the one we’re probably the most familiar with the Tommy Atkins mango. It’s a rounder, more fibrous variety with skin that has an orangish-reddish hue (a bit of green makes its way in as well) and firm flesh.
You may think that the best way to choose a mango is to look at its color, but that’s not exactly the case. You really want a mango with a fruity smell that feels heavy for its size.
You can also tell if a mango is ripe by squeezing it. Next time you’re at the store, try pressing a mango — if your thumb leaves a slight indent, it’s ripe.
If you can’t find any ripe mangoes at the store, don’t fret. These guys keep ripening evening after being picked. Unripe mangoes should be ready to eat after a few days if you leave them out of the fridge.
The best way to cut a mango is to slice down on either side of the stone (the pit). Once you remove the pit, you’ll have two individual mango bowls of sorts.
You can scoop the fruit out of these with a spoon or score it with a knife to make cubes (a good way to go if you’re making a salad).
Interested in learning new ways to enjoy this age-old fruit? As a fruit that’s been around for thousands of years and consumed in countries the world over, the list of mango recipes goes on and on.
Here are some of my personal favorites.
- Mango smoothies: A smoothie amongst smoothies in my opinion. It tends to be thicker and creamier than other fruit smoothies
- Mango salsa: If you love spicy-sweet, this is the one for you. All you need are mangoes, cilantro, jalapeno, red onion, and lime.
- Salads- Seriously. Mangoes go well in fruit salad, a quinoa salad, a cold bean salad. They are excellent for adding a touch of sweetness to any salad of your choice.
- Mango preserves: Find how to make your own here!
- Rice pudding: There are a lot of recipes out there for mango puddings. For example, if you ever have the opportunity to try Thai Sticky Rice, do it (your taste buds will thank you). Another recipe I recommend is a spin on one from my childhood (What can I say? I’m biased). Simply mix together mango, rice, pineapple, and whipped cream. It’s simple but ridiculously good.