Luscious and sweet, mango is known as the “the king of fruit.” Biting into the tropical fruit can feel like pure bliss, so much so that you may wonder if something so delicious and decadent can actually be good for you. The answer is a resounding “yes.” Although they’re high in sugar (one cup contains about 25 grams of carb and 100 calories), mangoes offer some pretty impressive perks. Here are five benefits of mango, along with some simple ways to enjoy the juicy gem.
Mangoes may protect against cancer
The fruit packs over a dozen types of polyphenols. These plant compounds have antioxidant activity that shields cells from the DNA damage that can lead to degenerative diseases, including type 2 diabetes and cancer. (In research done on animals, mango antioxidants actually suppressed the growth of breast cancer cells.)
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They boost the immune system
One cup of mango provides about a quarter of the daily target for vitamin A, a nutrient that’s essential for proper functioning of the immune system (including the production and activity of white blood cells). Not getting enough of the vitamin is associated with a greater susceptibility to infections.
Mangoes improve skin and hair health
The vitamin A in mangos is also key for the development and maintenance of multiple types of epithelial tissues, including skin, hair, and sebaceous glands. The latter, which are attached to hair follicles, help keep hair moisturized and healthy. (In animal research, a Vitamin A deficiency has been tied to hair loss.) One cup of mango also supplies about 75% of the daily minimum vitamin C intake. This nutrient is needed to produce collagen, a type of tissue that gives skin its elasticity and helps prevent wrinkles and sagging.
They may ease constipation
In a study on people with chronic constipation (and funded in party by the National Mango Board), eating mango was found to be more helpful than taking an equivalent amount of isolated fiber. It’s important to note though that mangos are a high-FODMAP food, so they may trigger gas and bloating in some, particularly those with irritable bowel syndrome.
And improve blood sugar regulation
It seems unlikely that such a sweet food would improve blood sugar, but that was the conclusion of a pilot study at Oklahoma State University. For 12 weeks, 20 obese men and women ate 10 grams of ground, freeze-dried mango pulp (equivalent to about half a fresh mango) every day. At the end of the study, the participants had lower blood glucose levels than when they began the experiment. Researchers suspect bioactive components in the fruit, including antioxidants, may be at work.
Mangoes support eye health
The antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin found in mangos help your eyes in several ways. The two natural compounds, which protect the retina and lens, have been shown to increase visual range, lessen discomfort from glare, enhance visual contrast, and reduce the time it takes the eyes to recover from the stress of bright lights. The duo also protect eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays, and fight or slow the progression of cataracts and macular degeneration.
How to eat more mango
Luckily, the fruit is easy to incorporate into any meal, sweet or savory. For example, you can top your avocado toast with sliced mango, or add it to Greek yogurt or overnight oats. Whip mango into a smoothie; add it to salsa, slaw, tacos, tuna or chicken salad, and garden salads. Serve mango over cooked fish, or mix it into whole grains, like quinoa or wild rice. Mango also makes a delicious and colorful addition to desserts and treats, including chia pudding, coconut milk ice cream, even mango margaritas!
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Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets.