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Mangoes are aam-azing. But are they healthy?

Priya Nagwani
5 min read • 
23 May 2024

Editor’s note: Hi there! It’s mango season, and you’re likely enjoying the sweet indulgence of the king of fruits. But perhaps you’re also wondering about the sugar, calories, and overall health impact of these delicious treats. If so, today’s piece by Priya Nagwani will put your mind at ease. She dives into the key bits you need to know about mangoes and healthy ways to enjoy them.

Priya is a nutritionist and certified weight management coach who specialises in customised vegetarian diets. In her previous article for TBT, she explored how vegetarians can ensure they get enough protein.

Many people have a love-hate relationship with mangoes, feeling guilty about indulging in this beloved summer fruit. But make no mistake: mangoes are amazing and can absolutely fit into a balanced diet. In fact, their natural sweetness can help satisfy sugar cravings without relying on processed snacks.

In today’s piece, I will explore the nutritional benefits of mangoes, address common concerns, and discover delicious ways to enjoy them.

1. Mangoes are nutritious

Let’s start by debunking the myth that mangoes are just a sugary indulgence. 

While they do contain natural sugars, mangoes are also packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. A single 100-gram serving (about a cup of sliced mango) can provide you with 60% of your daily vitamin C needs, 12% of your vitamin A requirement, and a good dose of folate and potassium.

As mangoes ripen, their nutritional composition changes. The sugar content increases as starch converts into simple sugars, while vitamin C content slightly decreases. However, the levels of beneficial antioxidants like beta-carotene and polyphenols increase. Fibre content may decrease slightly but remains significant.

So yes, mangoes are great. Because fruits are great. (There are those who say all sugar is just sugar and want you to not eat fruits because it also has sugar… umm, ignore them.)

2. What about the calories? 

Surprisingly, mangoes are quite modest in that department. 

Fructose, the primary sugar found in mangoes, contributes to their sweetness and accounts for a portion of their calorie content. However, the overall calorie density of mangoes remains relatively low. Like most fruits, mangoes have a high water content and are relatively low in calorie density.

A 100-gram serving contains approximately 75  calories, while a medium-sized mango (336 grams) has about 240 calories.

Below is a comparison of common fruits and their calories per 100 g of the fruit:

Source: HealthifyMe

They are also lower in calories than 100-gram servings of carbohydrate-rich foods like cooked white rice (130 calories) and whole wheat bread (247 calories). When compared to calorie-dense snack foods like potato chips (536 calories) and milk chocolate (535 calories), the difference is even more striking.

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3. So how many mangoes can you eat in a day? 

As with any food, moderation is key. The American Heart Association recommends consuming 4 servings of fruit per day as part of a healthy diet. For mangoes, one serving is equivalent to half of a medium size mango. So a regular healthy individual can have 150-200 g of mango in a day, which is equivalent to 1 small to medium mango.

However, it’s a good idea to have a balance and omit other sweeter fruits if you’ve had an entire mango in a day.

4. Will mangoes give me diabetes?

No, mangoes won’t give you diabetes if you eat them in moderation. Like all fruits, mangoes contain fructose, but they also have fibre, which helps prevent a rapid spike in blood sugar. In fact, a study showed that eating mangoes caused less of a blood sugar spike than consuming wheat bread.

Mangoes have a moderate glycemic index (GI) ranging from 41 to 60, depending on the variety and ripeness. The glycemic index measures how quickly a food raises blood sugar levels, with high GI foods causing a rapid spike and low GI foods having a slower, more gradual effect.

However, portion size is still important. Even though mangoes have a moderate GI, eating too much of any food can lead to weight gain over time, and being overweight is a major risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. 

Best is to limit the quantity so that it fits in the total carbohydrate intake of the day. Ideal would be no more than 100 g of the fruit.

If you have pre-diabetes or are at high risk for diabetes, it’s best to consult your doctor or a registered dietitian for personalised advice on how to include mangoes and other fruits in your diet plan.

5. Do mangoes cause acne?

Good news: No! Mangoes themselves don’t trigger breakouts. In fact, the vitamins A and C found in mangoes are great for your skin. Vitamin A helps reduce oil production and promotes cell turnover, while Vitamin C helps with collagen production and has anti-inflammatory effects.

A Plants Journal study even mentions that mangoes help eliminate pimples and improve skin.

Natural sugars in mangoes are not inherently bad for your skin

However, some people may experience acne breakouts after eating a lot of mangoes. They may be more sensitive to the fruit’s natural sugars, experiencing a temporary increase in insulin and oil production, which can clog pores and contribute to acne.

So, while the natural sugars in mangoes are not inherently bad for your skin, eating too many mangoes can sometimes make acne worse for certain individuals.

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6. Watch out for artificially ripened mangoes

Some mangoes are ripened using a chemical called calcium carbide, which is banned by food safety authorities. This chemical can irritate your skin, so it’s best to choose naturally ripened mangoes.

How to find out?

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) advises consumers to avoid fruits with large, dark blotches on the skin. These blotches may indicate that the fruit has been artificially ripened using calcium carbide. The acetylene gas produced from calcium carbide can leave distinct, sizable black marks on the fruit’s surface.

It’s important to note that these artificial ripening marks are different from the natural, smaller, and lighter spots that can occur on mangoes. Natural spots are typically less noticeable and more evenly distributed.

To further reduce the risk of purchasing artificially ripened mangoes, buy your fruits from reputable and known vendors. Trustworthy sellers are less likely to use prohibited chemicals to ripen their produce.

7. How to maximise the nutritional value of mangoes?

a) Choose ripe, naturally sweet mango varieties to minimise the need for added sugars in recipes.

Different mango varieties have varying levels of natural sweetness. Selecting ripe, sweet varieties like Alphonso allows you to enjoy the fruit’s natural flavour without relying on added sugars, reducing overall sugar intake while satisfying your sweet tooth.

b) Opt for fresh, whole mangoes over processed mango products or juices, which often contain added sugars and lack fibre.

Whole, fresh mangoes provide the most nutritional benefits, including fibre that slows down sugar absorption and promotes digestive health. Processed mango products, such as mango juice or dried mango strips, often contain added sugars and may have lower fibre content.

c) Incorporate mangoes into balanced meals and snacks.

Pairing mangoes with nutrient-dense foods creates balanced meals that provide a range of vitamins, minerals, protein, and healthy fats. Examples include mango salsa with grilled fish, mango salad with leafy greens for added fibre and antioxidants, or mango smoothies blended with yoghurt and nuts for a satisfying and nourishing snack.

8. How to enjoy mangoes?

Different ways to enjoy mangoes

In Indian cuisine, mangoes reign supreme. From creamy desserts to tangy chutneys, mangoes add a burst of flavour to dishes that tantalise the taste buds and evoke memories of the summers. Here are a few popular delicacies and their guilt-free versions:

a) Aam Ras: A simple yet indulgent dessert made by blending ripe mangoes into a smooth puree. Opt for naturally sweet mango varieties to reduce the need for added sugar, and blend in some coconut milk for a creamy texture without the guilt.

b) Mango Lassi: A refreshing yoghurt-based drink that combines the sweetness of mango with the creaminess of yoghurt. Use high-protein Greek yoghurt and ripe mangoes at their peak sweetness to avoid adding sugar. Top with chopped berries for a tangy note and added nutrition.

c) Mango Chutney: A versatile condiment that pairs the sweetness of ripe mangoes with the tanginess of vinegar and the heat of spices. Limit salt and experiment with herbs like mint to enhance flavour. Increase fibre content by adding diced vegetables like bell peppers or onions.

d) Aam Panna: A refreshing summer drink made from raw mangoes and spices. Reduce the quantity of sugar, and add mint leaves and black salt for a refreshing taste and digestive benefits.

e) Mango Kulfi: A rich and creamy frozen dessert traditionally made with thickened milk, pureed mangoes, sugar, and spices. Replace sugar with a banana for sweetness, minerals, and fibre, and use cashew nuts for creaminess without the milk fats. Many other preparations like aam papad, pickles, and mango phirni can be enjoyed without added sugar.

More ways to eat mangoes!

The trick is to have mangoes with some protein, fat or fibre so that the overall carbohydrate content of the preparation is balanced and the glucose spikes are stable. It should also be minimally treated with heat as it degrades the enzymes present in the fruit.

Here are some examples:

a) Mango Raita: Add chopped mango pieces to yoghurt and enjoy after your meal. Add rock salt or mint leaves for a refreshing taste. The combination of mangoes and yoghurt provides vitamins, antioxidants, and probiotics.

b) Smoothies: Combine frozen mango chunks with yoghurt, spinach, a banana, and almond milk for a nutritious and refreshing blend that offers a balance of fibre, protein, and vitamins.

c) Salads: Add diced mango to salads with tomatoes, cucumber, onions, and a squeeze of lime juice to enhance flavour and increase vitamin and antioxidant content.

d) Chia Pudding: Mix chia seeds with yoghurt and pureed mango, then refrigerate overnight. This dessert is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, and vitamins, providing a guilt-free treat.

To conclude, mangoes, the quintessential gift of summer, offer not only delightful flavours but also significant nutritional benefits. By understanding their varieties, nutritional nuances, and addressing common misconceptions, we can enjoy mangoes guilt-free.

Whether in traditional dishes or healthier alternatives, mangoes bring a burst of sunshine to our plates and a wealth of health benefits to our bodies.

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