Are Mangoes Good for You?

Intensely sweet and juicy, here’s the nutrition scoop on this tropical fruit

A Bunch of Whole Mangoes Photo: iStock

Mangoes are the national fruit of India. In Mexico, the average person eats 30 pounds of them per year. But in the U.S., mangoes are overshadowed by many other fruits—apples, bananas, strawberries, and even fresh pineapple. People may overlook mangoes because they’re not quite sure how to cut one or what to do with them. Given the nutritional benefits, and lush flavor, it may be time to give mangoes a try.

Mango Nutrition

Rich, tropical flavor aside, part of what makes mangoes a good pick is the combination of nutrients in the fruit.

One cup of fresh mango pieces is an excellent source of vitamin C—supplying more than half the daily value—which is essential for tissue growth and repair throughout the body, as well as more than 15 percent of the folate daily value, which is critical for immune function, and brain and spinal cord development in unborn babies. It also provides 20 percent of the daily value for copper, a key mineral that cells use to produce energy and that’s important for red blood cell formation.  

More on Fruit and Vegetables

“Some of the key health benefits of mango include improved digestive health, eye and hair health, immunity, and a potential anticancer effect,” says Vandana Sheth, RDN, author of "My Indian Table" (Vandana Sheth, 2019). And while berries tend to steal the antioxidant spotlight, mangoes deserve some of that shine. The golden fruit contains good amounts of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for healthy vision, and other compounds such as quercetin that boast antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The vibrant yellow color hints at the vitamin A in mango, making it a good pick for skin health.

Though more extensive follow-up studies are needed, mango may be good for the gut, too. You’ll get 2.6 grams of fiber in a cup of mango, almost 10 percent of the daily value. And one pilot study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research suggests that eating mango may help reduce constipation while also helping to promote the production of healthy bacteria in your gut.

Plus, adding mango into your fruit rotation might help you get potentially helpful micronutrients not found in commonly eaten fruits like apples, for example. “Mangoes provide bioactive components that distinguish [it] from other fruits, including the combination of gallotannins and mangiferin,” says Britt Burton Freeman, PhD, director at the Center for Nutrition Research at Illinois Institute of Technology. Gallotannins are being studied for their potential to promote a healthy gut, while mangiferin may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

One (non-nutritional) downside of mango is that some people can be allergic to its skin. It contains urushiol, the same chemical in poison ivy and poison oak that causes an itchy rash. Not everyone has a reaction, but even if you do, you can still enjoy mango. Just use caution when handling the fruit or stick to peeled mango because the pulp contains little to no urushiol.

Choosing and Cutting a Mango

Though you may be tempted to use color as a guide, color is often a characteristic of the mango variety, not ripeness. Instead, rely on the way it feels and smells. Without poking it, gently squeeze the mango to check for a slight give and check for a fresh sweet aroma. This is your green light that the mango is ripe and ready to eat. But remember, mangoes continue to ripen at room temperature. If you buy firm mangoes, place the fruit in a paper bag to speed up ripening. Once ripe, store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Though the oval shape and slippery flesh can make getting all of that luscious pulp an adventure, slicing a mango might be easier than you think. The key is to cut around the flat seed. Here’s how:

• Wash and dry the mango. Stand it on a cutting board with the stem end pointing up.

• Place the knife just off-center from the tip of the stem end. Slice down, cutting as close to the seed as possible to remove one rounded half (or cheek). Repeat on the other side.

• With the cut side up and taking care not to cut through the skin, slice the mango flesh into strips or cubes using a grid-like pattern. Use a spoon to scoop out the cubes.      

There will be some mango flesh left in the section surrounding the seed. Don’t waste it—though it may not cut into even-sized pieces, the fruit is no less delicious.

No fresh mango available? Frozen mango is already cut—perfect for tossing into smoothies or yogurt.

Savory or Sweet?

Though eating mango straight as a snack is a given, indulge in its versatility from sweet to savory. Try mango sweet paired with coconut sticky rice. For a spicy option, combine it with serrano chilies in a salsa that you can spoon over grilled fish or stack on guacamole for a creamy, sweet-and-spicy layered dip.

Though she loves sipping on mango lassi, a traditional Indian smoothie made with ripe mango and yogurt, Sheth also suggests adding mango to savory dishes such as salsa, rice pilaf, or grilled chicken kabobs. And adding grilled mango to a small bowl of vanilla ice cream can make your dessert healthier and tastier.

Marissa Moore

Marisa Moore

Marisa Moore, RDN, MBA, LD, is an award-winning registered dietitian nutritionist and communications and culinary nutrition expert. She has an integrative and practical approach to her work, and her wellness articles, simple recipes, and science-based nutrition advice are regularly featured in leading media outlets. She lives in Atlanta.