The Health Benefits of Mangoes
Disponible en Español |
This tropical fruit contains a treasure trove of nutrients.
Is there anything more delectable than a mango? Happily, South Floridians don’t have to settle for the unripe green rocks masquerading as mangoes sold in supermarkets. From May to October, these juicy gems ripen right in our own backyard (or perhaps your neighbor’s).
Bright as a tropical sunset, this fruit is as nutritious as it is delicious. The mighty mango contains vitamin C to boost immunity, vitamin B-6 to aid sleep, fiber to improve gut health and prevent colon cancer, and carotenoids that fight age-related macular degeneration. It also has mangiferin, a bioactive compound that some researchers credit with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, and antidiabetic properties.
Before you binge on this or any other fruit, consider the advice of Lesley Klein, M.S., RD, LD/N, a registered dietitian and clinical oncology dietitian at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.
To put the health benefits of mangoes into perspective, Klein uses the example of carotenoids.
Found in orange, red, and yellow foods, their antioxidant properties promote eye and heart health and help fight cancer.
“One mango contains 48 micrograms of carotenoids; 61 milligrams of carotenoids have been shown to reduce macular degeneration by 41 percent, but you would need 1,000 micrograms, or a ton of mangoes, to get 61 milligrams.”
Still, Klein, a mango-lover herself, says, “There are a lot of health benefits linked to mangoes; they are a superfood when part of a balanced diet.”
Eat the rainbow
While you can’t eat enough mangoes to prevent macular degeneration, you can promote your overall health by including lots of orange, red, and yellow foods on your plates, such as carrots, turmeric, peppers, or papaya. Klein calls this “eating the rainbow.”
Depending on the color, food has different benefits.
“Purple onions are good for heart health, as are white and tan foods such as cinnamon, ginger, hummus, and parsnips. I play with colors when I’m preparing food.”
Everything in moderation
There is a caveat to this colorful approach.
“More is not necessarily good,” Klein says.
Eating too much of one food can create imbalances in the body. By consuming too many mangoes, carrots, or other foods rich in fat-soluble carotenoids, your body may accumulate unhealthy levels of vitamin A.
What about the sugar content of mangoes?
Even diabetics can enjoy the succulent sweetness of mangoes in moderation. To explain how this works, Klein refers to the glycemic index, which measures how foods affect blood sugar levels.
“Under 55 is considered low glycemic; mangoes rank at 51,” Klein says.
A half cup (the size of a small apple or half a banana) is a healthy serving of mango or any fruit. Whether you are diabetic or not, “With fruit, eat no more than two to three servings per day,” Klein says.
Her recommendation will help you moderate the amount of fructose (the sugar found in fruit) and carbohydrates you consume. (A half cup of mango contains 12.5 grams of carbohydrates.)
“Carbohydrates affect blood sugar; too many spikes your blood sugar up, then drops it down. I would never eat fruit on its own; I would pair it with a protein such as nuts, (unsweetened) Greek yogurt, or a hard-boiled egg to avoid the sugar spike. You should always pair protein with a carbohydrate,” Klein says.
As an oncology dietitian and someone living with mantle cell lymphoma, Klein is acutely aware of the role diet plays in preventing and recovering from cancer. She also recognizes the limitations.
Mangoes cover many nutritional bases.
Even so, there’s only so much a mango or any so-called superfood can do.
“If my body is a garden and cancer is a weed, I want to nurture that garden with healthy food and eradicate that weed by going to the experts at the University of Miami. I had always dreamed of working at an NCI-designated cancer center because there are more research trials, more options, and better outcomes available to patients,” Klein says.
With help from oncology dietitians like Klein, Sylvester patients fine-tune their eating habits to benefit their health, especially when undergoing cancer treatment. The rest of us can learn from a recap of Klein’s guidelines:
- Eat a balanced diet that includes a variety of healthy “rainbow” foods
- Eat all foods in moderation
- Always pair fruit with protein
- Eat no more than two to three servings of fruit per day
- Incorporate healthy eating habits as early as possible in life
People with a cancer diagnosis who want to learn more about Sylvester’s clinical nutrition services can call Cancer Support Services at 305-243-4129.
Nancy Moreland is a regular contributor to UMiami Health News. She has written for several major health care systems and the CDC. Her writing also appears in the Chicago Tribune and U.S. News & World Report.