Mangoes are one of the most popular fruits around the world. The first thing I want you to know is that the peel of the fruit is a common cause for dermatitis for some of you. It contains the same compound found in poison ivy, oak and sumac which is called urushiol which the plant uses as its own defense mechanism. My husband is so allergic to mangoes that I kissed him and he broke out in a rash. More on that personal story in a minute.
Other than that allergy, which most people do not have, mangoes are incredibly healthy. Millions of people eat them with no problem, but to be totally responsible, I need to caution you of the potential allergic response and sensitivity that some people (not all) have when touching or eating mangoes. It results in contact dermatitis (itching, pain, swelling, redness or flaking) on the part of your body or skin that has been exposed to the mango. Again, it has to do with the urushiol. I’ll circle back to this later because mangoes are delicious and have many medicinal benefits, some of which might help you or a loved one. New research in 2018, surrounding mangoes, proves they possess compounds that support:
- Healthy cells and DNA due to their strong antioxidant nature
- Fewer infections due to their antimicrobial properties
- Blood sugar due to their anti-diabetic compounds
- Healthy lipid ratios due to their cholesterol-reducing virtues
- Fewer infections and cancer spreading due to their immunomodulatory properties
Mangoes Contain Mangiferin and Other Nutrients
Mangoes are incredibly healthy in many different ways. It has many different antioxidants, some of which you might recognize like Vitamin A, Vitamin C, copper, potassium and magnesium. Eating it regularly could provide some protection against a wide range of physiological disorders, infection and pain. Eating mango provides you with lots of mangiferin, and I’ll explain more about why that compound is critical later.
Right now, here are my top six reasons you should start enjoying mangoes.
- Reduce Blood Sugar
Researchers have shown that mango can help to control blood sugar. In ONE STUDY, mice were either fed freeze-dried mango as part of their diet, or they were given rosiglitazone (a common diabetes medication sold in the U.S. as Avandia). Results suggest that mango worked as well as the prescription drug!
This is great news for those of you who prefer natural solutions over prescriptions, or simply want to include mangoes as part of your healthy low glycemic diet. Of course, it’s common sense but I want to remind you that you should never replace your prescription with a fruit! Talk to your healthcare practitioner and nutritionist about all changes. As an aside, I am not truly convinced blood sugar matters as much as you think it does, I feel it’s more important to control inflammation and “advanced glycation products.” If you’d like to read my article, Why Blood Sugar Numbers Don’t Matter Much, then take 5 minutes and CLICK HERE to read it.
On the same continuum, you might be interested in how my mom USED TO HAVE DIABETES but doesn’t anymore because I found out what was causing it and fixed her! If you’d like to see what happened and what drug caused it, CLICK HERE to read my article, Find Out How to Effortlessly Support Healthy Blood Sugar Levels Without Drugs.
In that study I mentioned above, the mice that were fed mango not only had blood sugar control equal to mice taking rosiglitazone, but they also avoided some uncomfortable side effects. Blood sugar reducing medications can sometimes reduce total bone mass (in both people and animal models) and this may change the architecture of your bone, increasing a person’s risk of bone fracture. Unsurprisingly, mango didn’t induce this negative effect on bone. This is just another reason why we should look to foods that heal first, before bringing in medications with undesirable side effects.
There was a human STUDY too.
A group of 20 people (who already had problems with blood sugar control)consumed freeze-dried mango every day for 12 weeks. Their blood sugar control significantly improved. Unfortunately, many people with diabetes or pre-diabetes avoid fruit, because they believe it has too much sugar but some fruit is okay, at least in my book, Diabetes Without Drugs: The 5-Step Program to Control Blood Sugar Naturally and Prevent Diabetes Complications.
(If you’re on the fence about my book, don’t be. It’s great! It’s used in some classrooms during certification courses to teach MDs how to treat patients with diabetes holistically and naturally. This is quite an honor.)
Anyway, back to fruits. I feel that fruit in moderation is good for you because of the beautiful health-giving pigments (ie the blue in blueberries, the orange in mango, etc) which impart antioxidants; these are called anthocyanins and some are actually anti-cancer. And fruits confer fiber which is excellent for colon health, plus keep in mind that many fruits (including mango) are low on the glycemic index. My vote is to NOT to be afraid of mango. I don’t think it will spike your blood sugar in a damaging way, and in fact, if STUDIES are correct here, it could help you with your blood sugar and oxidative stress.
- Help Control Weight
Mango has also been used to help prevent weight gain in animal models. RESEARCHERS SHOWED that mice who were fed a diet that would normally make them more rotund, feeding them mango prevented the weight gain!
Not only did the mice maintain their normal body weight, but the animals who ate mango also showed less accumulation of fat inside the tissue of their body’s organs.
You may not realize this, because most of us are obsessed with losing the fat around our thighs, belly and neck, but it’s actually the fat (lipophilic) deposits INSIDE your organs that does most of the damage.
This is what causes the harm and increases risk of heart attack and stroke. Preventing the deposit of the fat into the tissue (the mangoes do) could help to prevent the serious issues associated with obesity. Another consideration in weight gain is appetite. If you’re feeling voracious most of the time, and satiety is harder and harder to obtain, it could be your insulin that is elevated. Insulin is a fat storage hormone, when it’s balanced you don’t have quite the cravings! The same could be said for serotonin. But this insulin is a marker that is rarely measured, it seems the gold standard lab test is “fasting blood sugar” but not insulin. Please take a minute to read about insulin, adiponectin and you’ll see there are dietary supplements that can help control levels and help you with appetite, and therefore weight gain. The article is called, Many Diseases Linked to High Insulin, The Longer Story and you can CLICK HERE to read it.
- Reduce Pain and Inflammation
Like most other fruits, mango contains a class of compounds called polyphenols. These are known to be hugely beneficial, particularly for their anti-inflammatory properties. When you reduce inflammation, you naturally reduce pain too.
Mangiferin, a specific polyphenol found in high concentrations in mango, has attracted much scientific attention because of its ability to modulate inflammation through several different biochemical pathways.
In a STUDY published in Biofactors in 2016, it was shown that “mangiferin’s [molecular] structure contributes essentially to its free radical-scavenging activity. Moreover, its ability in regulating various transcription factors like NF-κB, Nrf-2, etc.”
Mangiferin reduces pro-inflammatory cytokines such as TNF alpha and COX-2. The latter one is what Celebrex does! Do mangoes work as well as Celebrex? Well, that would be ridiculous wouldn’t it? I do not think mangoes work that strong, or fast, but it’s a nice thought to think that something so delicious does contribute to blocking COX-2 pathway and all the nasty painful cytokines that result when it’s up-regulated.
All this is to say (in scientific speak) is that mangiferin’s role in reducing inflammation and pain is undeniable. It’s profound and surprising to most people who see this fruit as nothing more than a good smoothie! And if you don’t like mangoes, but rather prefer kiwis, then make a smoothie out of that. Kiwis are thought to help people with anemia, respiratory problems, stress, vision and sex drive. Just CLICK HERE to read, 9 Medical Benefits of Kiwi Fruit.
- Relieve Constipation
We don’t talk about it a lot, but chronic constipation is actually very common, affecting 20% of American adults. It’s not just uncomfortable, but can also lead to serious problems like intestinal inflammation, hemorrhoids and toxin build up in your blood stream. Eating more fiber can make a big difference, and mangoes (like all fruits and vegetables) gives you a jump start on that by providing a lot of natural fiber. But it stands apart from other fruits due to the way mangiferin and other compounds control intestinal inflammation.
See above, number 3, to learn how they control inflammation in your body. Doing so in your intestinal region really helps with certain types of constipation, unless it’s the type of constipation that’s secondary to thyroid disease.
Did you know thyroid illness can sometimes cause constipation as it’s first primary symptom? If you’re invested in thyroid illness, I wrote the book on it! Here’s a FREE ebook on thyroid that you can download right now by CLICKING HERE.
You can also watch this short video by CLICKING HERE. This is about thyroid and why T4 drugs (ie Levothyroxine/Synthroid) may not be working for you. Thyroid Script is a dietary supplement that seeks to improve conversion of the precursor T4 to T3.*
A RECENT STUDY showed that eating one mango each day improved constipation symptoms much more than taking an equivalent amount of dietary fiber. Researchers believe that it’s the plant-derived natural polyphenols in mango that make the difference. By addressing inflammation in your gut, you can restore gut function a little faster.
- Protect Your GI Tract
Tons of research has focused on the gut microbiome (the mix of bacteria in the gut) in the past few years. We know that probiotics can have a positive influence, but who thinks of mangoes?!
When I looked into the research, I found out that this little fruit helps support your flora (your gut microbiome) in a very positive way. And that in turn means your mood gets better, while inflammation goes down and bowel transit time improves.
Having the right mix of bacteria in your intestines depends on what you regularly eat and drink. Remember that everything you eat is feeding you AND your living microbiome. The RESEARCH I read shows that mice fed a diet rich in mango showed dramatic alterations in their gut bacteria. It helped normalize it.
Mango is your gut’s friend. It could help to protect your gut flora. It’s an ally for your microbiome. Speaking of gut health, our immune cells LIVE DOWN IN THE GUT, and most people don’t know that. Your gut is everything when it comes to a healthy immune system.
- Protects Your Brain.
Mango leaf extract has even been shown to PROTECT THE BRAIN. In mice exposed to cadmium, a toxic heavy metal that causes serious brain damage (which by the way is found in some cigarettes), mango leaf extract was shown to protect the brain.
More specifically, the mice who received mango extract displayed significantly less damage to their brains than those who were exposed to cadmium (without the protective effects of mango leaf). No surprise there. It’s believed that the anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of mango protect brain cells. Since we’re all exposed to heavy metals on a regular basis in our modern chemically-laden world, anything that helps to protect the brain from these could be very helpful. If you’d like to learn about Brain-Saving Foods and Spices, CLICK HERE to read my article on that. Surprisingly mushrooms made the list, but not the kind of mushrooms you’re thinking…
- Heal Minor Burns
This one is more of a folk remedy. Scalding yourself and burning are unexpected painful conditions. So the theory goes like this. You burn some mango leaves until they are ash. You apply the ash to the affected area for supposedly instant relief. This is not something I have tried so before you do it, research yourself and ask your own health coaches. The folk remedy has been circulated for quite a long time.
As a pharmacist, it’s my duty to warn you that some drugs can increase your risk of sunburn. Since it’s August at the time of this writing, and that’s summertime here in North America, I would like you to CLICK HERE if you take any medication because you will see if it’s on the list of drugs that induce photosensitivity. What that means is that some medications (maybe one you take) can cause you to get a sunburn in minutes, just because your skin chemistry has changed. If you don’t take medication, just read on.
Here’s one more fun fact.
Although the mango fruit is the most delicious part of the plant, it’s not the only part that can be beneficial to health! Mango leaves have been used as folk medicine in Brazil and other countries for centuries. Traditionally, these leaves have been made into a medicinal tea which contains the same compounds as the mango fruit, all of which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. CLICK HERE and HERE for the research.
Very Important: Allergies to Mangoes
Please make sure you are not allergic to mangoes before eating them. The skin of the mango is especially problematic for people so it’s best to wear gloves while cutting them up. The skin contains urushiol, and so does the sap, stem and leaf of mangoes.
This urushiol is also found in poison ivy, poison oak and sumac.
So a similar reaction can happen if you expose yourself to this and you’re sensitive.
The fruit itself can be a big sensitizer as well. In fact, many people are allergic to mangoes including my husband. We found out the first time about his severe allergy when he ordered a smoothie at a restaurant and told them to substitute the mango for peach. The girl behind the counter forgot, so he got a full-body rash and had to take a 10-day steroid pack. What’s worse is he paid for that smoothie and tipped her for the substitution which again, she didn’t do!
Aye-yi-yi! People can be so scatterbrained sometimes! Stuff like this doesn’t normally annoy me or Sam, but this was just pure misery for 2 solid weeks because of her.
Sam is so allergic that he had a full-blown, head to toe rash from mangoes and he didn’t even eat them. We couldn’t figure it out because he wasn’t exposed to mangoes at all. And then it dawned on me, I got this sinking awful feeling of guilt. He had kissed me at night, it was literally 4 or 5 hours AFTER I had eaten mangoes! That’s how sensitizing this fruit can be to people who are very allergic! Sam ended up taking a steroid pack for the systemic allergic response he endured. So now, I never eat them unless I’m out of town!
Anyway, the sensitivity varies as it does with any allergic response. It also varies based upon the part of the fruit you eat or touch. For some people, they can actually eat the fruit, but they can’t touch the skin due to the urushiol (see above, this compound is also found in poison ivy).
The reaction can cause your lips and tongue, or the skin around your lips and chin to itch and burn. It can cause full-on anaphylaxis! So I just want you to be warned mangoes like many tropical fruits can cause a problem, and sometimes it’s a new onset problem when you get exposed to the skin of the fruit (as opposed to just the fruit).
How to Get Mangoes In Your Diet
If you are not allergic, this is the most delicious health advice you’ll ever get: Just cut open a mango and eat it while standing over the sink with delicious mango juice dripping down your chin. I don’t judge! If that’s out of your comfort zone, here are some more refined ways to eat mangoes 😉
- Make a smoothie. CLICK HERE to get my Mango Bango Smoothie recipe
- Slice some carefully and put on your salad
- Make a salsa
- Get my recipe for Coconut Black Rice Pudding with Mango
- Take freeze-dried mango as a dietary supplement
- Some people who are safe with mangoes and mango leaves actually make mango leaf tea. I’m not advising you drink mango leaf tea or take mango leaf extract UNTIL you are 100 % sure you are not ALLERGIC to this component, as it contains a lot of urushiol, which is also found in poison ivy. Read my cautions above about the leaves/peel/skin and stems.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.