Mango

This tropical fruit is rich in nutrients, which is perhaps why it has been used for thousands of years across the world for medicinal ends. Learn more about its history and uses.

Quick Facts
General Information
  • Common name(s)Mango
  • Common name(s)Mango
  • Scientific nameMangifera indica
  • Plant typeTree
  • Native regionSouthern Asia
  • Main producer(s)India
  • Main Economic UseFood industry
Mango

Mango, a famous South Asian fruit, has been a popular addition to "tropical" and refreshing fruit platters for decades. It has had great cultural importance around the world for hundreds of years, and researchers believe it was first domesticated as a food crop in the subtropical regions of South Asia, approximately 6,000 years ago. Mangos have become a standard food crop in northeastern India, and many people around the world consume mango on a regular basis for its excellent nutritional value.

Medicinal and Nutritional Information

Quick Facts (Medicinal and Nutritional Information)
  • Medicinal actionDemulcent, Hypoglycemic
  • Key constituentsMangiferin
  • Medicinal rating(3) Reasonably useful plant
  • Safety rankingSafe

Health Benefits of Mango

Though research is ongoing, mango has been used traditionally for the following:

  • Speeding up scarring processes. Mango's carotenoid and vitamin C (ascorbic acid) content improves the health of soft tissues around the body and promotes proper skin hydration.

  • Promoting eye health. The carotenoids in this fruit can prevent vitamin A deficiency, thereby helping to maintain healthy vision.

  • Helps to prevent diabetes. This fruit's mangiferin content seems able to lower blood sugar levels.

How It Works

Mangos are best known for their nutritional value, but their therapeutic prowess lies in the rare phytocompounds present: the main active ingredient is the unique mangiferin, which is presently undergoing extensive research. It acts in combination with over 25 different carotenoids, as well as polyphenols, gallic acid, caffeic acid, catechins, and tannins.

Mangos are also remarkably nutritious: they are a very concentrated source of vitamin A precursors (carotenoids), as well as vitamin B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folate), and large quantities of vitamin C.

Fat-free and relatively low in sugar, mangos retain an overall low caloric value and are thus friendly to those interested in weight management.

How to Consume Mango

Quick Facts (How to Consume)
  • Edible partsFruit
  • Edible usesBeverage
  • TasteSweet

Natural Forms

The mango fruit is consumed mainly in its natural, fresh form in a variety of ways. It can be consumed either as a fruit, made into juice, or used as a seasoning for grilled meats, desserts, salads, and many other types of preparations. The flavor of mango has found an easy audience throughout history, satisfying palates in each region to which it has been brought.

Mango fruits are highly regarded for their rich, sweet flavor and strong aroma.

Typically, any nutritional differences in the various ways of storing mango are negligible, if present at all. Research has shown that there is not a significant difference in the concentrations of vitamin A, vitamin C, and phenolic compounds in pre-cut and stored mangos versus fruits sliced immediately before consumption. Freeze-dried mangos, however, lose some of their beta-carotene content and antioxidant power.

Mangifera indica should not be confused with supplements labeled as "African mango"; they are different plants entirely.

Buying

Quick Facts (Buying)
  • Where to buySupermarkets, Farmers' markets

Natural Forms

Raw mangoes are easy to find in most grocery stores or local markets around the world. They can be purchased unripe to be used in jams and chutneys, or ripe to be consumed raw or cooked to individual preferences in various cuisines.

Growing

Quick Facts (Growing)
  • Life cyclePerennial
  • Harvested partsFruit
  • Light requirementsFull sun
  • Soil pH6.1 – 6.5 (Slightly acidic)
  • Growing habitatSubtropical regions
  • Planting timeFall

Mango trees can be grown from seed can take up to eight years to bear fruit. Given the proper care and climate conditions, they can be cultivated in a garden.

Growing Guidelines

  • They thrive best when grown in a frost-free, tropical climate, though some cultivars are tolerant of lower temperatures provided they stay above 41°F (5°C).

  • In order for the fruit to develop as big as possible, it is best to plant seeds on slight slopes that favor good drainage and in slightly acidic soils (pH of 6.0 - 7.0).

  • Early September is the ideal time for planting the mango tree. As much flesh as possible should be removed from the seeds, and they should be allowed to dry for two days.

  • Mango seeds should take up to 10 days to sprout initially. The trees should be planted in a position that is exposed to full sunlight.

Additional Information

Quick Facts (Additional Information)
  • Other usesDye, Fuel

Plant Biology

The mango is the fleshy stone fruit of a medium-sized evergreen tree. The fruit produced can be of different colors and sizes depending on the cultivar.

  • Classification

    Mango, or Mangifera indica, is a member of the Anacardiaceae family, which contains flowering plants and is often referred to as the cashew family. Mango is a member of the Mangifera genus, comprised of 69 species, most of which are canopy trees.

  • Subspecies and Cultivars of Mango

    There are now over 1,000 mango cultivars, which have been selectively bred to be more resistant to pests, grow better in certain climates, and produce juicier fruits. Around 20 of these are cultivated commercially in India, a country that boasts over 100 cultivars in all, including 'Alphonso', 'Amrapali', 'Bombay', 'Banganapalli', 'Bombay Green', and 'Bangalora'. On the other side of the globe, the most frequently found mangoes in Western markets belong to the 'Tommy Atkins' cultivar.

Historical Information

The oldest remains of fossilized wild mango are over 25 million years old. Mangos were initially propagated by monks in southern Asia around the 4th and 5th centuries BCE. By the 10th century CE, mangoes had been introduced to east Africa and the Middle East. By the 15th century, the mango as a food product had reached the rest of the world.

Economic Data

It is estimated that as of 2009, 35 million tons of mango have been produced worldwide annually. India remains mango's biggest producer, contributing over 16 million tons alone. In fact, mango is such a significant part of India's culture and economy that it has been named the national fruit. China, Thailand, Pakistan, and Mexico make up the rest of the top five producers. The top 10 mango-producing countries account for 80% of overall production.

Other Uses of Mango

  • Energy and shade
    The bark of the mango tree can be used to make charcoal, and the tree is often planted to provide shade in sunny areas.

  • Paints and dyes
    Mango extract is also used in the manufacturing of euxanthin, a yellow pigment widely used in oil paint.

  • Folkloric uses
    Hindi and Tamil religious rituals frequently include mango fruits and branches. The branches are particularly popular for the purpose of decorating archways and houses during weddings and the Ganesh Chaturthi festival.

Bibliography

  • USDA Nutrient Database, Nutrient Report 09176: Mangoes, raw
  • FAOSTAT, Mango production statistics
  • Encyclopedia Britannica Online, Mango (fruit)
  • International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, Characterization of phenolic compounds in some Indian mango cultivars, 2004
  • Government of South Africa, National Department of Agriculture: Cultivation of Mangoes
  • Government of India, National Fruit – National Symbols