Mangoes are the most widely consumed fruit in the world, but besides their coveted flavor and sweetness, they also offer a ton of nutritional benefits. St. Croix is one of the best places on earth to be during mango season. In late June and early July the island is dripping with dozens of varieties of the delicious fruit. Aside from the mango trees you can find seemingly everywhere, you will find local mangoes for sale at farm stands, on restaurant menus, and sometimes even set out for the public to take for free. St. Croix is even home to an annual event known throughout the Caribbean called Mango Melee, held at St. George Village Botanical Garden, which is centered around the fruit and it’s many uses.
Packed with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber, this sweet and delicious fruit offers a number of health benefits. Here are just 10 of the many benefits of the marvelous mango:
- Prevents Cancer: Research has shown that the antioxidant compounds in mangoes have been found to protect against several different kinds of cancers, most effectively colon and breast cancers.
- Lowers Cholesterol: The high levels of fiber, pectin and vitamin C help to lower cholesterol levels, especially Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL), the bad kind.
- Boosts Immunity: The generous amounts of vitamin C, vitamin A, and 20+ different types of carotenoids help keep your immune system healthy and strong.
- Prevents Asthma: The risks for developing asthma are lower in people who consume a high amount of beta-carotene, the nutrient found in mangoes that gives them their orange color.
- Prevents Heart Disease: The fiber, potassium, and vitamin content in mangoes all help to ward off heart disease. In fact, an increase in potassium intake coupled with a decrease in sodium intake is the most effective dietary change a person can make to reduce their risk of heart disease.
- Improves Digestion: Like papayas, mangoes also contain enzymes that break down protein. Plus, the fiber in mangoes helps aid in digestion and elimination.
- Improves Skin and Hair Health: Mangoes are great for your hair and skin because they are high in vitamin A. Vitamin A is a nutrient required for sebum production, which keeps hair moisturized, and vitamin A is also necessary for the growth of all bodily tissues, including skin and hair. Additionally, adequate intake of vitamin C is needed for the building and maintaining of collagen, which provides structure to skin and hair. Mangoes can also be used both internally and externally for the skin to help clear clogged pores and eliminate pimples.
- Improves Eye Health: Just one cup of sliced mangoes supplies 25% of the needed daily value of vitamin A, which promotes good eyesight as well as preventing night blindness and dry eyes.
- Controls Blood Sugar: Blood sugar spikes and drops are common in people who are overweight, and these spikes and drops can lead to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, which affects the development of diabetes. Choosing sweet mango instead of other sugary treats can help control blood sugar, which then regulates insulin levels and reduces the risk of developing these other diseases.
- Helps Boost Metabolism: The fiber in mangoes is excellent at fueling the probiotic bacteria that live in your gut, which aid in the absorption of certain vitamins, such as B12, which is needed for good energy metabolism.
Selecting, Peeling and Cutting Mangoes
St. Croix’s local farmer’s markets and farm stands, like ARTfarm, offer many varieties of locally grown mangoes for your noshing pleasure. If you are not familiar with purchasing fresh mangoes, here are a few tips for selecting the best fruit, and ripening it if necessary:
- Don’t judge a mango by its color – red does not not mean ripe (in fact, red can mean the fruit is overripe)
- Squeeze the mango gently to judge ripeness – a ripe mango will “give” slightly, but will not be soft or squishy
- A firm mango will ripen at room temperature over a few days, but you can speed up ripening by placing firm mangoes in a paper bag at room temperature
- Once ripe, mangoes can be moved to the refrigerator to slow down ripening for several days
Now that you have picked out your mangoes, how do you cut them up? If you have never actually peeled and cut up a mango, or if you struggle to do so, here is a great video tutorial that shows one of the easiest ways:
There are few things on earth as delicious and sweet as a ripe mango…so enjoy the fruit by itself, blend it into smoothies, mix it into yogurt, use it a s a topping for everything from vanilla ice cream to salads, make it into salsa, bake it into cakes, or concoct a refreshing tropical cocktail with it. In fact, here are a couple of great mango and rum recipes from the local Cruzan Rum and Captain Morgan Rum distilleries:
Now that you know all the amazing health benefits of mangoes, and you are an expert and picking them out and prepping them, you can dig in! However you like to enjoy your mangoes, savor the flavor knowing that you are not just treating your taste buds, you are nourishing your entire body.
– Jennie Ogden, Editor