Mango: nutrition facts and health benefits

Mango

Mango is the fruit of the mango, a large tree growing easily under warm climates. Depending on the species, the mango is round or ovoid, sometimes pointed, and its weight varies from 300 to 700 g but it can reach 2 kg. Its skin may be greenish, yellow, mottled with red or purple. It protects a flesh that is always yellow, sweet and very smooth but can also be stringy. It contains a very large and flat pit to which it adheres completely.

History of mango

The word “mango” appeared in the language in the seventeenth century. It comes from the Portuguese manga, which borrowed it from Tamil mangka. The mango fruit is also mentioned by a commander from the Netherlands Hendrik van Rheede in his book Hortus Malabaricus.

The genus Mangifera is from Southeast Asia. The ancestor of the cultivated mango tree grows there always in the wild. Mango has been consumed since the most remote times. Its domestication could rise to 4 000 years before our era, in India. For all the people of this part of the world, mango was, and is still, considered “the king of fruits”. In India, it has long symbolized the royalty itself.

Unknown to the Greeks and Romans, as well as the Middle Ages, the mango tree was introduced to England and Europe only in the eighteenth century by the English. The latter then occupied the Indies, although the previous origin of its name in the French language suggests that it might have been there before.

The Spaniards and the Portuguese introduced it to America at the same time. Today mango is grown in more than 90 tropical and subtropical countries. India, the world’s leading producer of mangoes, has made improvements to the species. Of the extremely fibrous little wild fruit, whose taste resembles of turpentine, it has become the modern fruit, with a tender and aromatic flesh. Over the centuries, all the science and know-how of the Indian farmers has made it possible to select several hundred varieties.

In tropical countries, in addition to ripe fruits, green fruits are consumed. They come into the production of various food preparations, such as chutneys, pickles, canned oil and beverages.

People make edible oil from the almond pit which,in some places, replaces the coconut oil. Flour is also extracted into the preparation of certain dishes (including Indian chapatis).

Mango health profile

Mango is the most consumed tropical fruit in the world after banana. Its orange and juicy flesh is a good source of fiber and vitamin C. It would have anti-cancer potential, especially because of its antioxidant content.

The benefits of mango

Several prospective and epidemiological studies revealed that high consumption of fruits and vegetables reduced the risk of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and other chronic diseases. The presence of antioxidants in fruits and vegetables could play a role in these protective effects.

Cancer. One of the few studies done specifically on mango showed that mango juice exerted an anti-cancer effect on in vitro cells. However, further studies will be needed to determine whether these properties persist after the digestion or absorption of the juice by the human body. Overall, the anti-cancer effect of mangoes would be explained by their content in polyphenols. Furthermore, it appears that the Haden and Ataulfo varieties would have a preventive activity superior to others.

What does the mango contain?

Polyphenols

Mango, as well as guava and lychee, is highly differentiated from other tropical fruits by its high content in polyphenols (or phenolic compounds). Phenolic compounds are found in food from plant origin. Their antioxidant capacity would protect the body cells from damage caused by free radicals. They would reduce the appearance of multiple diseases. Their abundance and composition differ according to the different varieties. For example, the Ataulfo variety would contain more polyphenols, vitamin C and beta-carotene and would have an antioxidant capacity greater than the Tommy Atkins, Haden, Kent and Keitt varieties. The concentration of phenolic compounds can also vary greatly between the fruits of the same variety, within the same culture and for a similar degree of maturity. The main polyphenol found in a ripe mango is gallic acid.

The mango also contains mangiferin and gallotannins as well as tanins. These 3 compounds would however be present in a much larger proportion in the pit and the peel of the fruit. The mangiferin was studied mainly from extracts of the bark of the mango tree. Studies have given him beneficial virtues against diabetes, inflammation, oxidative stress and hypercholesterolemia. However, mango would contain 400 times less mangiferin than the bark of the tree, which is not sufficient to produce the observed effects.

Carotenoids

The main carotenoids of the mango are beta-carotene and violaxanthin. These pigments with antioxidant properties give an orange-red color to foods which contain a large quantity, such as mango. In some varieties of mango, beta-carotene, would account for 20% to almost 100% of the total carotenoids. Beta-carotene is an important precursor of vitamin A in the body. However, the different varieties of mango as well as the ripening stage greatly influence the quantities of these carotenoids. A study showed that ripe mango would have an antioxidant activity higher than the fruit which is not ripe. Mango would also contain other types of carotenoids, such as beta-cryptoxanthin, but in smaller amounts.

Soluble fibers

The edible part of the mango contains fibers, half of which are soluble fibers. Their proportion tends to increase with the ripening of the fruit. Soluble fibers help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease due to their ability to reduce blood cholesterol. The majority of the soluble fibers of the mango would be in the form of pectin in a quantity comparable to that of the apple or the banana, two fruits recognized for their high content in pectine.

Skin and pit: no waste!

The peel and the pit of the mango represent about 25% and 20% of the weight of the fruit. Instead of being discarded, these parts may have interesting properties for the food industry. The mango peel is recognized as a source of high quality pectin. The phenolic compounds it contains would also allow it to be used as a natural antioxidant. The pit would also have antioxidant properties. It is a source of edible oil, starch and flour.

Precautions

Allergies

Few cases of mango allergy have been reported in the scientific literature. However, the actual frequency of this allergy may have been underestimated because of the low consumption of this fruit in the northern countries. Tropical fruit allergies have often been detected in latex-sensitive individuals. This phenomenon is called the “latex-fruit syndrome”. Thus, people allergic to latex may suffer from hypersensitivity to certain tropical fruits, including mango. Attacks on the mouth and throat are the most commonly observed consequences, but more severe symptoms, such as anaphylactic reactions, may also occur. People who are allergic to latex must therefore pay special attention when consuming these foods, given the potential severity of the reactions. It is recommended to consult an allergist to determine the cause of the reactions to certain foods and to better understand the precautions to be taken.

It is recognized that people allergic to mango can react to other foods or compounds through a cross-reaction. Indeed, a person allergic to mango could also react to celery, carrot, and pollen from birch and mugwort. Some common antigens would explain this phenomenon. However, these cross-reactions cannot be explained by any botanical relationship, since these foods or compounds are not part of the same family.

Contact dermatitis

In some sensitive people, skin contact with different parts of a plant may cause an inflammation reaction. Contact dermatitis cases have been reported as a result of contact with a mango tree (lifeblood, leaves, or stem) or the peel of the fruit. In general, the edible part of the mango (pulp) is not recognized as being capable of causing this type of reaction. But caution must be taken. Some people who are concerned about this problem mistakenly believe it is enough to have another person peeling the fruit to safely consume it. Researchers now recognize the pulp which is immediately below the surface of the mango peel could contain enough antigens to cause a reaction. In order to be as careful as possible, it is recommended that sensitive individuals peel the fruit by removing a small amount of the flesh (about 5 mm) before consuming it.

Interaction with warfarin

Mango is one of the foods having been recognized to alter blood levels of warfarin. Warfarin, marketed under the name Coumadin, is a drug used primarily as an anticoagulant. To avoid problems, public health authorities recommend people consuming these foods make sure they eat the same portions every day. In addition, it is recommended that you inform your health care provider about other foods that can alter the effects of warfarin or act directly on blood coagulation.

Choice and conservation

Choose

Fresh mango is available almost year-round. The countries of the southern hemisphere supply the market from October to March, while those in the northern hemisphere do so from April to October. A ripe mango releases a strong smell and its skin yields slightly under pressure. This should be smooth and without bruising.

Green fruits are more difficult to find, but they can be found in Caribbean, Mexican or African grocery stores.

Keep

Keep fruits that are not quite ripe at room temperature. To accelerate their ripening, put them in a paper bag with an apple (apple produces ethylene which is a gas having the effect of ripening the other fruits).

Refrigerator. Only a few days, because the cold damages the mango.

Freezer. Peel the mango, remove the pit and cut into slices, then put it in the freezer. Or make a puree and pour into ice cube trays. Freeze, then put in bags and return to the freezer.

Ecology and environment

In orchards, irradiation is increasingly used to remove the mango fly (or vinegar fly) and increase the life of the fruit. Upstream, hundreds of millions of male insects are sterilized by irradiating with radioactive cobalt-60. Sterile males, released into orchards, then compete with wild males and severely restrict offspring of females. The technique is known as the “autocidal control”. Downstream, the fruits for export are then directly irradiated. For many exporting countries, this type of treatment has become practically mandatory. Some importing countries, notably the United States, make it a precondition for the entry of mangoes into their territory.

Although food irradiation is approved by the World Health Organization, it does not make a unanimous decision within the scientific community and the population. Especially since, in the case of mango, it is not a matter of protecting the population against pathogenic bacteria, but rather of facilitating trade between countries. Among other concerns are the dangers for the environment by the leakage of radioactive cobalt-60 used for irradiation, as well as problems resulting from the transport and storage of atomic waste.

There are other solutions to counteract the infestation of the mango fly, but they are more complex. Diversity can be promoted by planting a larger number of varieties and selecting resistant varieties. Polyculture and intercropping methods can also be practiced. This is done in some parts of India, where mangoes grows with other fruit trees, legumes and various vegetables.

It is also possible to capture insects using a flycatcher, a container containing an attractive liquid, suspended in the trees. The fruit bagging is also used on the tree, when they release the characteristic aromas which attract the fly. Finally, the traditional method of soaking fruit in hot water after harvest also gives satisfactory results.

 

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