Mango: properties, benefits and use in the kitchen
Fresh mango is the fruit that is consumed in larger quantities every day all over the world. And it is certainly not a coincidence that it boasts such an important record: in addition to being sweet and tasty, it has in fact highly appreciated characteristics and beneficial effects.
Promoted by the experts as ” super-fruit “, the mango is receiving an increasingly broad consensus even at latitudes where there is no traditional consumption, also thanks to an easier marketing of exotic products. Its nutritional properties allow this fruit to carve out a well-deserved starring role in the diet of those who care about their well-being in a natural way.
Mango: what is it?
The Mango ( Mangifera indica L. ) belongs to the Anacardiaceae family , the same as the cashew and pistachio .
The trees of mango reach a height of 35-40 m, with an amplitude that arrives to a radius of 10 m. The trees are long-lived so that some specimens continue to bear fruit even after 300 years . They have a taproot root, that is, that goes down into the ground up to 6 meters, with ramified and diffused feeding roots and with many secondary anchoring roots.
Leaves and flowers
The leaves are evergreen, alternate, simple, 15-35 centimeters long and 6-16 centimeters wide. The young ones are pink-orange in color and then turn into a dark, glossy red, to reach a dark green when ripe.
The flowers are produced in terminal panicles 10-40 centimeters long. Each flower is small and white with five 5-10 mm long petals. They have a sweet and aromatic smell reminiscent of lily of the valley.
Fruits and seeds
The mango fruit takes three to six months to mature. The ripe fruit can have different sizes and colors depending on the variety. There are many and varied cultivars , over 400 . They are ovoid shaped fruits of yellow, orange, red or green color but also shaded in a combination of these colors.
The fruits inside guard a single flat , oblong, rather hard seed , which can be fibrous or hairy on the surface and which does not easily separate from the pulp. Ripe and unpeeled mangoes give off a characteristic resinous and sweet smell. The seed that contains the plant embryo does not survive freezing and drying.
The pulp is orange yellow, compact, juicy and fragrant, in some cases with some filamentous fiber.
Many varieties ripen the fruit in the summer, others may present a double fruiting.
The most appreciated varieties
The most appreciated varieties (Tommy Atkins, Haden, Kent, Keitt and many other similar varieties) produce fleshy and juicy fruits that can weigh from 200 grams to 1 kg , although fruits of 300/400 g are normally found on the market.
History of mango
The mango plant is native to southern Asia , particularly in eastern India , Burma and the Andaman Islands . The first traces of this fruit date back to 4000 years ago. From this area it has spread throughout the world, so that it has become one of the most cultivated fruits in the tropics.
Kama, love and spirituality
Since ancient times the extraordinary characteristics of the mango were immediately appreciated both for its alimentary qualities and for the solidity of the wood obtained from the trunk. In Central Asia the mango plant soon became also a religious symbol: it is present in Hindu and Buddhist mythology . The best known is that of Kama, the protagonist of the Kamasutra, who represents a sort of Cupid of the Western tradition. Kama is the one who instills love in the hearts of men and gods by shooting arrows soaked in mango flower oil.
The journey of the mango
It is believed that it was the Buddhist monks who introduced mango to Malaysia and East Asia around the fifth century BC. It was the Chinese traveler Hwen T’sang , between 632 and 645 AD, who first brought the mango to attention of the outside world. It was probably Chinese merchants who brought the fruit to Persia from which it spread to East Africa in the tenth century.
The first transport to Europe is due to the Portuguese navigators, who arrived in Calcutta in 1498 .
The mango is rich in vitamin A and vitamin C . With a medium-sized fruit (about 250 g) you can ensure the daily requirement of these vitamins by adding only 130 calories to your menu (53 calories per 100 grams of product).
Trace elements and antioxidants
But the mango also contains other vitamins, especially vitamin E and those of group B , an excellent quantity of folates and a vast assortment of trace elements . Many of these are minerals , such as potassium, copper, sulfur, manganese, magnesium and iron. To these are added important antioxidants , in particular lupeol , carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin and phenols such as quercetin and gallic acid.
Also the peel of mango is rich in antioxidant elements , including carotenoids, polyphenols and fatty acids. The content of many components, such as vitamins, depends on the variety and maturity of the fruit . A mango that is still growing and immature contains higher levels of vitamin C. The more the fruit ripens and the more the quantity of beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A) increases. The same applies to the sugar content, which increases with maturation.
A series of precious characteristics have led the scientific community to consider mango a ” superfood “, that is a food that has some micronutrients that are important for the health of our body.
Let’s look in more detail at the effects of mango on our health.
Anti-obesity, slimming and digestive
Mango is a low-calorie fruit and the content of simple sugars is not excessive. According to studies conducted by researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia , the mango would have strong slimming properties . The mango fibers then generate high contentment and fullness .
To these are added the presence of enzymes, which help the digestion of proteins, and the non-alkalinity of the fruit, a non-secondary aspect against stomach acid. This mix of properties promotes weight loss and makes it easier to control obesity.
The peel against fat cells
What emerges surprisingly from the research is that, in some of the mango varieties studied (Irwin and Nam Doc Mai), the peel has a strong ability to prevent the formation of new fat cells and fat accumulations. This does not happen, however, with the skins of the Kensington Pride variety, which have produced a diametrically opposite result.
The good fiber content promotes and facilitates normal intestinal motility and regularity, avoiding constipation. As a consequence, this fruit decreases the possibility of developing severe intestinal pathologies.
Diuretic and antihypertensive
Thanks to the high content of water and oligomineral substances , mango exerts a diuretic action , indicated for those suffering from water retention or hypertension. In the latter case the diuretic action combines with that exerted by potassium and magnesium , present in large quantities in mango. Potassium acts on the body’s acid-base balance, in particular:
allows the transmission of nerve impulses;
regulates heart rate;
fights excess sodium;
maintains the good functioning of the cells;
regulates the functionality of the kidneys and adrenal glands;
rebalances body fluids by eliminating excess fluids and thus generating a reduction in water retention and cellulite in women;
regulates blood pressure.
The antihypertensive effect is aided by the presence of magnesium , an important mineral for reducing arterial pressure , but also essential for:
the constitution of bones and teeth;
the functionality of the muscular system and the nervous system;
the absorption of vitamins and other mineral salts, which is favored.
Magnesium deficiency in the body could contribute to the onset of arteriosclerosis and arterial hypertension.
Fresh mango is a fruit suitable for diabetics . Some research seems to show an improvement in blood sugar after its consumption. Obviously, excessive quantities should be avoided.
Other studies have observed a relationship between diabetes control and mango leaves . It seems that, by soaking some mango leaves in hot water and letting them rest for about 8 hours, you will get a drink of great help for those with diabetes problems.
Antioxidant and anticancer action
Mango contains a high amount of substances with antioxidant properties:
vitamins A (from beta-carotene) and C, two powerful antioxidants able to perform a series of protective actions against cellular aging
carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin
or phenols such as quercetin and gallic acid
the lupeol .
The lupeol is a triterpene from the powerful antioxidant, used to counteract prostate, lung, pancreas, breast and colon.
Research in this regard is numerous, not least that conducted by Texas AgriLife Researchnel scientists , who have highlighted the relationship between the antioxidants of mango and the prevention and growth of tumor formations.
The vitamins A and C and flavonoids such as beta carotene involved in the production of collagen , a protein critical to the health of blood vessels and connective tissues. Collagen helps maintain skin elasticity even in mature age by slowing down the aging process. Vitamin C, in particular, facilitates iron absorption and is necessary for collagen synthesis.
The pulp of ripe mango can be used to treat boils and acne . Applied on the epidermis for 10 minutes, it purifies the skin and has an illuminating effect.
Eye and eye protection
Mango contains vitamin A and its precursors, carotenoids , precious substances that allow a normal visual function. Vitamin A comes into play in the constitution of the structure of the retina and its deficiency can cause discomfort: from dry eyes to the night vision deficit.
Strengthens the immune system
The vitamin constituents of mango, together with those antioxidants , are valuable for strengthening the immune system , providing a protective shield against attacks by viruses and bacteria. Mango is a panacea for typical flu, cough and seasonal colds . The peel is much richer in antioxidant substances. From the decoction of the peel of the mango you get a drink to drink three times a day for a week.
Mango also helps during convalescence, alleviating symptoms such as fatigue and physical stress . Its energizing and restorative power is given by the presence of numerous mineral and oligomineral salts, from potassium to sulfur to magnesium, to copper to zinc.
Antidepressant and anti-stress
Mango is also recommended for those suffering from nervousness , depression and stress . It also has a calming effect useful for those suffering from insomnia .
The vitamin B6 it rather useful for the proper functioning of brain activity, facilitates the function of the main neurotransmitters that play an important action on ‘ mood and sleep patterns .
The peel of the mango can cause problems of allergic dermatitis to skin, lips and gums if ingested, but also to skin, mucous membranes and eyes by contact, especially in those already allergic to the ivy plant .
The side effects concerning the consumption of mango can be linked to individual predispositions towards the fruit, especially if consumed unripe . In this case, minor irritation of the oropharyngeal and esophagus tract, digestive problems and abdominal colic may occur.
Excessive consumption of mango could cause colitis and diarrhea, given the large amount of fiber it contains. Care should also be taken not to overdo it due to sugars .
Mango in pregnancy has no contraindications, except those already indicated. It can be consumed with tranquility because it is also a source of folate, minerals and iron, recommended for pregnant women.
Method of use
Mango is eaten naturally , even unpeeled because the pericarp is edible and very rich in precious substances. Mango can be cooked and added to many recipes or even dried . It is a fairly versatile fruit and commonly used in many cuisines in the world, especially Indo-Asian and tropical.
How to store mango
The mango must be stored at room temperature , out of the refrigerator: the cold, in fact, impoverishes its organoleptic characteristics. If the fruit is still hard it is good to wait for it to soften leaving it exposed to the air. It is important that it is soft to the touch before consuming , because only then will it be sweet and juicy. If it is not ripe, instead, it is hard, sour, bitter and indigestible.
How to cut the mango
To cut the fresh mango it is necessary to cut the two portions on the sides of the large central seed, flattened and very anchored to the pulp. The two large parts thus obtained must then be peeled and cut to taste. A characteristic way of preparing it is to cut it “a porcupine” , engraving the pulp of the squared section and turning the peel inwards so as to widen the square portions of the pulp outside, with an aesthetically very original result.
Mango varieties are very numerous and vary from area to area. The most common in the United States and the United Kingdom are:
In Asian countries like India, the most popular varieties are:
How to choose the perfect mango
At the time of purchase it is very useful to understand if the mango is at the right level of ripeness . Take it between thumb and forefinger and feel if the skin is weak or not. If it is too hard, at least 3 or 4 days must pass before it can be consumed. If instead the peel yields to the pressure of the fingers, we have the certainty that the fruit is ready to be consumed. Pay attention that the peel is not too soft: in this case the fruit may already be too ripe.
Thanks to its special properties, the pulp, peel, seed and leaves of the ripe mango can also be used for other uses.
From the mango seed , which is very fat, a soft and white looking butter is obtained which is used in cosmetics . It is odorless and contains oleic acid, palmitic acid and isostearic acid .
It is used as a component of many moisturizing and emollient creams. Applied on the skin of the hands or body, it offers an excellent protective barrier against sun rays and aging . It can also be used as a hair conditioner, to which it gives a soft, silky and smoothing appearance.
Mango butter can be found in herbal medicine to be used in home-made preparations and can be kept for a long time if kept cool and away from light.
Pulp, peel and leaves for beauty
The pulp and peel of the mango can be inserted in various topical treatments ( masks, oils, soaps ), as they make the skin soft, toned and elastic, and give vigor and softness to the hair.
With the leaves you can prepare curative decoctions, in particular against diabetes.
To use mango pulp as a beauty product , choose a very ripe fruit.
If you have normal or dry skin , you can apply the flattened pulp with a fork on your face (avoid the eye area): leave to rest for 15 minutes and then rinse well.
If you have oily skin , prepare a mask based on mango pulp, white yogurt and honey.
2 tablespoons of mango pulp
1 tablespoon of yogurt
1 tablespoon of honey.
Crush the mango pulp until reduced to a puree, mix it with yogurt and honey, apply the mixture on the face. Leave on for 20 minutes, then rinse thoroughly.
In case of sensitive or intolerant skin, always ask your doctor for advice before using DIY products.