The Health Benefits of Mango Make It One of the Best Tropical Fruits

From immune-boosting nutrients to cancer-fighting properties, mangoes are a must. Here, mango's nutrition, health benefits, and beyond.

sliced mango halves arranged in a pattern on a blue background
Photo: Juj Winn/Getty

If you aren't eating mangoes on the regular, you're totally missing out. This plump tropical fruit is so rich and nutritious that it's often referred to as the "king of fruits." And for a good reason too — mangoes are teeming with vitamins and minerals, along with fiber to boot.

Here are the health benefits of mango, along with ways to use mango in your food and drinks.

What Is a Mango?

Known for their sweet flavor and striking yellow color, mangoes are a creamy-textured fruit native to southern Asia that thrive in warm tropical and subtropical climates (think: India, Thailand, China, Florida), according to an article published in Genome Biology. Mangos are technically a stone fruit (yes, like peaches), and — fun fact alert! — come from the same family as cashews, pistachios, and poison ivy. While there are hundreds of known mango varieties, one of the most common cultivars is the Florida-grown Kent mango — a large oval fruit that, when ripe, has a red-green-yellow peel that looks just like the mango emoji IRL.

Mango Nutrition Facts

The nutrient profile of mango is just as impressive as its yellow hue. It's exceptionally high in vitamins C and A, both of which have antioxidative properties and are essential for immune function, according to Megan Byrd, R.D., registered dietitian and founder of the Oregon Dietitian. Vitamin C also aids in collagen formation, which helps heal wounds, strengthen bones, and plump skin, while vitamin A plays a role in vision and keeping your organs working efficiently, she explains.

Mango also boasts impressive amounts of mood-boosting magnesium and energizing B vitamins — including 144 micrograms of vitamin B9, or folate, per mango, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). That's about 36 percent of the daily recommended intake of folate, which is not only an essential prenatal vitamin but also necessary for making DNA and genetic material, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

What's more, research suggests that mango is a stellar source of polyphenols — micronutrients that are packed with disease-fighting antioxidants — including carotenoids, catechins, and anthocyanins. (Carotenoids, by the way, are plant pigments that give mango flesh its iconic yellow hue.)

Here, a nutrition breakdown of one mango (~336 grams), according to the USDA:

  • 202 calories
  • 3 grams protein
  • 1 gram fat
  • 50 grams carbohydrate
  • 5 grams fiber
  • 46 grams sugar

Health Benefits of Mango

If you're new to mangoes, you're in for a real treat. The succulent fruit offers a wide range of health benefits thanks to its rich cocktail of essential nutrients. Check out the health benefits of mango and what it can do for you:

Promotes Healthy Digestion

Mango contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, which are crucial for healthy digestion. "Soluble fiber [dissolves in] water as it moves through your digestive system," explains Shannon Leininger, M.E.d., R.D., registered dietitian and owner of LiveWell Nutrition. This creates a gel-like substance that slows down the digestive process, letting your body properly absorb nutrients passing through, she adds.

As for insoluble fiber? That's the stringy stuff in mangoes that gets stuck in your teeth, notes Leininger. Rather than dissolve in water like its soluble counterpart, insoluble fiber retains water, which makes stool softer, bulkier, and easier to pass, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. "In this manner, it helps contribute to regular bowel movements and [prevents] constipation," says Leininger. Case in point: A four-week study found that eating mangoes can improve symptoms of chronic constipation in otherwise healthy people. Essentially, if the frequency of your bowel movements is lacking, mangoes may be your new BFF.

Reduces Risk of Cancer

"Mangoes are loaded with antioxidants that protect your body against free radicals," says Byrd. Quick refresher: Free radicals are unstable molecules from environmental pollutants that "basically circulate through your body, attaching themselves to cells and causing damage," she explains. This can ultimately lead to premature aging and even cancer, as the damage spreads to other healthy cells. However, antioxidants such as vitamins C and E in mangoes "attach to the free radicals, neutralizing them and preventing damage in the first place," notes Byrd.

And, ICYMI above, mangoes are also packed with polyphenols (plant compounds that function as antioxidants), including mangiferin, the "super antioxidant" (yes, it's been called that). Prized for its potentially powerful cancer-busting properties, mangiferin has been shown to destroy ovarian cancer cells in a 2017 lab study and lung cancer cells in a 2016 lab study. In both experiments, researchers speculated that mangiferin caused cancer cell death by suppressing molecular pathways the cells needed to survive.

Regulates Blood Sugar

Yes, you read that right: Mangoes can, in fact, regulate blood sugar. But aren't they super stocked with sugar? Yes — but still, a 2019 study found that the mangiferin in mangoes suppresses alpha-glucosidase and alpha-amylase, two enzymes involved in blood sugar control, resulting in a hypoglycemic effect. Translation: Mangoes can potentially lower blood sugar, allowing for more control over levels and, thus, reducing the risk of diseases such as diabetes.

Additionally, a small 2014 study published in Nutrition and Metabolic Insights found that mango can improve blood glucose levels in people with obesity, which may be due to the fiber content in mangoes. Fiber works by delaying the absorption of sugar, which prevents a sharp rise in blood glucose, explains Leininger.

Supports Iron Absorption

Thanks to its high levels of vitamin C, mango "is a really healthy food for those who are deficient in iron," points out Byrd. That's because vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, specifically nonheme iron, which is found in foods such as peas, beans, and fortified grains, according to the NIH.

"Iron absorption is important for red blood cell formation and its oxygen-carrying ability," explains Byrd. And "although most people don't have to worry about their iron levels, those who are iron deficient would benefit from eating [vitamin C–rich] foods like mangoes at the same time as iron-rich foods," she adds.

Promotes Healthy Skin and Hair

If you're looking to boost your skin-care game, reach for this tropical fruit. The vitamin C content in mangoes can "aid in collagen formation for healthy hair, skin, and nails," says Byrd. And that's especially important if you're aiming for bouncy, glowy skin, as collagen is known to smooth skin and provide some of that elasticity. Then there's the beta-carotene found in mangoes, which may have the power to protect skin from sun damage when eaten, according to an article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. So it pays to keep up with an antioxidant-rich diet that includes mangoes (though you should still be applying SPF).

If you want to make room for mango-infused products in your medicine cabinet, try Golde Clean Greens Superfood Face Mask (Buy It, $34, target.com) or One Love Organics Skin Savior Multi-Tasking Wonder Balm (Buy It, $49, credobeauty.com).

Potential Risks of Mango

Remember the aforementioned fun fact that mangoes are from the same family as a few types of nuts? Well, if you're allergic to nuts, you might want to steer clear of mangos too. And the same goes if you're allergic to latex, avocado, peaches, or figs since they all contain proteins similar to those in mango, according to an article published in Asia Pacific Allergy.

Mango is also considered a high-FODMAP food, meaning it contains fermentable carbohydrates that are hard or even impossible for some people to digest. If you have irritable bowel syndrome or an otherwise sensitive stomach, opt for a small serving of mango.

How to Buy, Cut, and Eat Mango

When buying fresh mangoes at the supermarket, there are a few things to keep in mind. Unripe mangoes are green and tough, while ripe mangoes are bright orange-yellow and should have some give when you gently squeeze them. Can't tell if the fruit's ready? Bring it home and let the mango ripen at room temperature; if there's a sweet scent around the stem and it's now soft, it's ready to eat.

You can also technically eat the skin, but it's not the best idea. The peel is "pretty waxy and rubbery, so the texture and taste aren't ideal for many," says Leininger. And while it does have some fiber, "you'll get much of the nutrition and flavor from the flesh itself," she adds.

Not sure how to cut it? Byrd has your back: "To cut a mango, hold [it] with the stem pointing toward the ceiling, and cut the widest two sides of the mango [off of] the pit. You should have two oval-shaped mango pieces that you can peel and dice up," she explains. Or, you can slice a "grid" into each half (without piercing the skin) and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. There will also be some leftover flesh on the pit, so be sure to cut off as much as you can.

You can also find mango jarred, canned, dried, frozen, or in the form of juice, jam, or powder. However, keep an eye out for added sugars and preservatives, which are especially high in dried mango and mango juice, suggests Byrd. "Added sugar is a concern because [it contains] additional calories, but no additional nutritional benefits," notes Leininger. "This can contribute to an increased risk of excess weight, higher blood sugar, fatty liver, and high cholesterol," she explains.

Specifically, when buying mango juice, try looking for a product that says "100% juice" on the label, advises Leininger. "This way, you can at least ensure you're getting some nutrients with the juice," and besides, "you're less likely to feel full on a glass of juice versus eating a piece of fruit," she adds.

Keep an eye out for the fiber content of packaged mango too. "If you don't see at least 3 to 4 grams of fiber per serving, that product is most likely really refined and overly processed," shares Byrd. "By overprocessing mango, you lose a lot of nutritional value," she adds.

As for mango powder? (Yeah, it's a thing!) "The most practical use would be to add it to water [for] some flavor," says Leininger. You can also add it to smoothies or juices. It also has a similar nutritional profile to an actual mango, but since it's highly processed, eating the whole fruit is suggested for optimal benefits, notes Leininger.

Sensing a theme here? To repeat: Consuming mango in its unaltered state is the way to go. That said, you don't have to stick to eating it alone. Here are a few ideas for how to add mango to your diet:

In a salsa. Try using diced mango to make a tropical salsa, suggests Leininger. Simply mix "red onion, cilantro, rice wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper, [then add to] fish or pork," she says. "The tanginess of the vinegar balances out the sweetness of the mango, which complements the [meat]," explains Leininger. It also makes for a killer chip dip.

In salads. Freshly diced mango adds a delightful sweetness to salads. Pro tip: The fruit pairs especially well with lime juice and seafood.

In breakfast tacos. For a sweet breakfast, make tropical berry tacos by layering yogurt, diced mangoes, berries, and shredded coconut onto small tortillas. Together, these ingredients can add some serious beach vibes to your morning routine.

In smoothies. Fresh mango, along with pure mango juice, is incredible in smoothies. Pair it with other tropical fruits such as pineapple and orange for a blissful mango smoothie.

In overnight oats. "Overnight oats are great because you can prep them the night before and you've got breakfast ready to go in the morning," says Leininger. To make it with mango, combine equal parts old-fashioned oats and non-dairy milk, along with half as much yogurt. Store in an air-tight container such as a mason jar, and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, top with diced mangoes and maple syrup, then enjoy.

In fried rice. Liven up your usual fried rice with diced mangoes. Consider pairing it with carrots, garlic, green onion, and soy sauce for a medley of amazing flavors, recommends Leininger.

In fruit-infused water. Don't be so quick to toss that mango pit. Since it's covered in leftover mango flesh, you can add it to a jug of water and let it chill in the refrigerator overnight. Come morning, you'll have delicious infused water.

As a sauce. "Mangoes [taste amazing] as a sauce, blended with coconut milk and cilantro," says Byrd. Drizzle it on top of shredded beef, baked fish, or black bean tacos.

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