The Many Health Benefits of Mangoes
THE MANGO FRUIT
Despite being a member of the Anacardiaceae family (as are poison ivy and poison oak) and therefore producing the irritating chemical urushiol, the mango has a much better reputation than its renowned rash-inducing relatives.
Most people will never come in contact with the mango parts that harbor high irritant concentrations, such as its vines or mango tree sap, and only a few susceptible individuals react negatively to mango skin; therefore, a majority of the population has everything to gain and nothing to lose by eating the nutritious and delicious mango.
There are countless ways the mango is credited with improving health, including but not limited to the following:
Although it has substantially fewer antioxidants than the acai berry or pomegranate, its high fiber and vitamin C content together with its several phenols and enzymes give the mango promising anti-carcinogenic properties (9).
Consuming pectin, the form of fiber found in mangoes, lowers the risk of developing gastrointestinal cancers (9, 12).
Vitamin C protects against free radical damage, also reducing cancer risk (13).
When colon and breast cancer cells were exposed to mango extract (containing the active ingredient gallotannin, a polyphenol) by Texas AgrLife scientists, the cells stopped growing and dividing and began to systematically die (1). Because the division of these cells was halted, scientists believe mangoes may prevent cancers by interrupting the process by which mutant cells proliferate to form cancerous growths (1).
Texas AgrLife scientists also determined that mangoes have negative effects on lung, leukemia, and prostate cancer cells as well; however, not as strong an effect as on colon and breast cancer cells (1).
Scientists at the University of Queensland analyzed the peels of different mango varieties and found that a few (the Irwin and Nam Doc Mai) contained bioactives with the ability to inhibit fat cell development (5).
In another experiment by the University of Yaounde, 102 overweight individuals were given either mango seed extract or a placebo two times a day over a ten week period; the placebo group lost virtually no weight, while those given the extract lost an average of 28 pounds (2). Scientists found that ingredients in the mango seed altered the metabolism of these individuals and reduced their overall body fat production (2).
This same Yaounde University study showed promising effects on cholesterol as well; the participants receiving mango seed extract not only lost weight but experienced reductions in LDL cholesterol levels (2).
In addition to the cholesterol reducing effects of the mango seed, extracts from mango plant leaves containing mangiferin have similarly proven beneficial. Laboratory animals exhibited lower levels of overall cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) coupled with increases in HDL cholesterol (the good kind) after being administered mangiferin-rich extracts for 28 days (3).
Mango has also been studied extensively in combination with other fruits and herbs. When laboratory animals fed a high-fat diet were given mango extract along with Hawthorn herb, expected increases in cholesterol levels did not occur (3). In fact, when combined with gooseberry, mango sped up the rate at which cholesterol was broken down and eliminated from the body (3).
Vitamins A and C are essential for collagen production and keeping skin supple, firm, and strong; mangoes are excellent sources of these nutrients (6, 27). Vitamins C and E fight the effects of aging and minimize sun damage (6). The carotenoid pigments in the mango, a type of pigment also found naturally beneath the skin, boost pale complexions and provide a healthy, natural glow (8).
Applied externally, slices of the fruit can prevent acne outbreaks and blemishes by unclogging pores (7).
Try it: After peeling and eating a mango, save its skin: rub it over your face and let it dry for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse it off with a cleanser. Skin should be noticeably soft and, with a few treatments, blemish-free!
Although mangoes have only a little iron, they are a fantastic source of vitamin C, which along with other benefits enhances iron absorption from other plant-based sources (8). In fact, eating the mango flesh or drinking its juice while consuming iron-rich foods reduces the risk of developing iron deficiency anemia (4). This is especially important for women, infants and children, vegetarians, and routine blood donors who are at a higher risk for this condition (4).
EYE HEALTH PROMOTER
The vitamin A in mangoes is a nutrient necessary for maintaining eye health and preventing various eye-related disorders such as night blindness, dry eye, errors of refraction, soft cornea, and general ocular discomfort (9).
The mango has an alkalizing (de-acidifying) effect on the body, as do many other fruits and vegetables (13, 15). Eating mangoes is therefore beneficial as they help maintain the normal and slightly alkaline pH of the blood between a healthy 7.35 and 7.45. In contrast, a diet filled with high amounts of dairy, meat, and grains can have an acidifying effect and lower blood pH (15).
Acidic blood is linked to several problems including chronic metabolic acidosis, kidney disease, muscle impairment, and weakened bones (15). In contrast, alkaline blood within the normal and ideal parameters holds more oxygen, increasing energy levels, and counters weight gain, pain, digestive problems, and osteoporosis (14).
Mango nutrition per 1 cup serving
In a study involving mice, water-based mango bark extract was found to be as effective in reducing pain as morphine (19). Ethanol-based extract was equated with the potency of methimazole sodium, a nonnarcotic analgesic (19).
FUNGI AND BACTERIA ELIMINATOR
Extracts taken from the mango leaf and root inhibit the proper functioning of various bacteria and fungi (19). In fact, scientists believe their research may allow natural extracts, such as that of the mango, to eventually replace commercially utilized synthetic preservatives as healthier alternatives (20).
BLOOD SUGAR REGULATOR
With a glycemic index between 41 and 60 on a scale from 0 to 100, mangoes do not cause large spikes in blood sugar if eaten in moderation (9, 16). In fact, the mango has proven short and long-term benefits for diabetics.
When diabetic rats were fed mango extract in levels of 150 and 250 mg/kg their blood glucose levels declined dramatically after two hours (19). Mango fiber given to diabetic rats reduced their body’s uptake of glucose within the span of a month (19).
Mango leaves stabilize insulin levels, also helpful to those with diabetes (9). This benefit is achieved by seeping leaves in hot water overnight and drinking the filtered fluid as a tea each morning (9, 18). A half teaspoon of the dried, powdered version of the leaves taken twice daily is an alternative version of this homeopathic treatment (18).
When mangiferin was injected into rats immediately after training sessions they demonstrated enhanced recognition of novel objects (22).
The antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamin C, both in mangoes, are known to improve memory and reasoning ability and to protect the brain from free radical damage (23, 17).
In a three-year-long study on senior citizens, daily dietary vitamin E was found to improve memory recall and to diminish symptoms and prevent onset of Alzheimer’s disease (24). Mangoes are a great source of this vitamin.
This Pineapple, Honeydew, and Mango with Ginger and Fresh Herbs recipe from Epicurious pairs the pectin-fiber-filled mango with ginger, an herb renowned for its digestive benefits, in a delicious, savory (and bowel-regularizing) fruit salad.
The vitamin E contained in high levels in mangoes assists hormone regulation and gives libido a boost (12).
Folate and vitamin B6 in mangoes aid the digestion of proteins and conversion of food into energy (11). Pectin fiber helps with the elimination of waste, normalizing bowel movements and preventing constipation (9, 11, 12).
Mango extract inhibits the formation of stomach ulcers when given to mice in laboratory studies (19). In addition, the extract minimizes the secretion of acid and increases the production of mucous within the murine stomach (19).
BLOOD PRESSURE NORMALIZER
A one month long study in which 40 obese patients were fed a daily amount of 1050 mg mango seed extract revealed that many experienced lowered systolic blood pressure as a favorable, unanticipated side effect (19).
Diets filled with vegetarian foods including whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits (such as the mango) are linked to lower blood pressure as they have little sodium or fat and no cholesterol; in contrast, diets composed mostly of meat, dairy, and animal fats are linked to higher blood pressure (21).
The potassium contained in the mango has proven helpful in lowering blood pressure levels as well (21).
HEAT STROKE RECOVERER
A boiled mango juiced and combined with cumin seeds, honey, jiggery, salt and pepper is a medicinal cure for those suffering from heat stroke (25).
IMMUNE SYSTEM STRENGTHENER
Mango’s vitamin A is essential for an optimally functioning immune system as it maintains healthy skin and mucosal membranes, minimizing the risk of pathogen entry and infection (10, 26, 27). It also helps fight current infections by stimulating the growth of pathogen engulfing white blood cells (27).
Mango’s vitamin C keeps skin structurally sound and prevents tears and the entry of infectious particles (27). It also boosts white blood cell formation, stimulates these antibodies once formed, and together with vitamin E and carotenoids (also in the mango) strengthens immunity (26, 27).
ANCIENT, TRADITIONAL MANGO REMEDIES
Southern Indians fold and chew the ends off mango leaves, then rub them along the teeth for cleaning purposes (29). The midrib of the leaves, which is removed before teeth are cleaned, is afterwards used on the tongue (29). Mangiferin present in the leaves was found to kill off strains of four different bacteria: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Pneumoccocci, Staphylococci, and Streptococci and this unique oral practice delivered results comparable to individuals using toothbrushes (29).
In Samoa infusions made from mango bark are used to fight mouth infections and in Tonga mango leaf infusions mixed with orange prevent sickness relapse (31).
Hindu alternative medicine utilizes green, unripe mangos to cleanse the intestines and colon and to fight diarrhea, constipation, morning sickness and inflamed hemorrhoids (30).
Traditional Chinese Medicine believes in the balance of yin and yang, or hot and cold, to prevent illness (28). Yin energy cools the body and keeps it moist; deficiencies in yin cause dryness and inadequate bodily cooling (28). Mangos are considered yin tonic foods that can be eaten frequently in moderate amounts; foods such as cinnamon, sugar, lobster, and caffeine are yang foods to be avoided when possible (28).
The application of burnt, dried mango flowers is an ancient Hindu mosquito repellent; tonics made from mango bark are drunk to cure menstrual complaints; gum made from mango sap, mud, lime, aloe, and turmeric is used as a traditional joint and ligament pain reliever (30). The sap of the mango tree is also an externally applied treatment for skin afflicted with psoriasis or ringworm and even to treat scorpion bites and bee stings (30, 31).