A mango is a fleshy yellow-orange fruit that is sometimes sweeter than sugar to the tastebuds. It has many textures - stringy, waxy or mild - and causes most people to scream when a wiggly worm is seen coming out of its flesh, after enjoying a portion of the succulent yet nutritious fruit.
Mango is a tropical fruit that comes in many varieties, is high in carbohydrates, fibre - soluble and insoluble, potassium and vitamins A and C.
Carbohydrates are needed for energy, but too much carbohydrate in the diet is stored as fat and increases body weight.
Insoluble fibre is found in the 'stringier' versions of mangoes, such as 'hairy', 'stringy', 'common mango', Robin, Number 11, 'green or fine skin', East Indian or 'saddle back'. Insoluble fibre is useful to increase the bulk or size of the faeces, preventing constipation and hunger, controlling weight, and reducing the risk of obesity.
Soluble fibre reduces blood cholesterol levels by preventing the absorption of cholesterol in foods and cholesterol-rich bile acids in the intestines (tripe). Soluble fibre decreases the release of insulin from the pancreas, and slows the amount of glucose (blood sugar) that is absorbed in the body.
Potassium regulates the heartbeat and prevents muscle cramps. Vitamin A is important for making new cells for the skin, and repairing damaged cells that cause heart disease and cancer. Vitamin C is needed for healing cuts, absorption of iron, and acts as a free radical to get rid of substances that damage cells that cause cancer and heart disease.
Mangoes cause blood sugar levels to increase and then in return, a large amount of insulin is released from the pancreas. Large amounts of insulin in the blood may result in high blood triglycerides (fat), increased fat stored in the body, increased blood clots, increased amount of fat being produced by the liver, and feeling hungry quickly after eating.
Mangoes have a high glycemic index, which means that when mangoes are eaten, there is an increase in blood glucose levels when compared to eating table sugar or white bread. The glycemic index of mango depends on the amount of fibre in the fruit (type of mango), the processing - whether it is the whole fruit, juice (strained or unstrained) and if it was consumed with or without a meal or other food items.
Mangoes are believed to have a low glycemic load, meaning, whether or not the consumption of the fruit affects one's blood sugar. This depends on the amount of fruit consumed and whether or not it was consumed with other food items. This is an interesting concept because during the mango season, mango lovers usually 'tun dung de pot' and eat a bowl full or pudding pan of mangoes with little or no other food at the same time. This practice may cause problems for persons with diabetes, because the blood sugar increases after eating a large amount of mangoes, then blood sugar may go low, especially after taking medication.
Here are some tips for the mango season:
Do not overeat mangoes at any one meal or sitting. Mangoes do not provide all the nutrients for a balanced meal, but should be used as an accompaniment to a meal.
Eat mangoes with other food items such as milk, yoghurt, nuts, peas and beans - high protein foods with a little fat to prevent the sudden increase in blood sugars and insulin secretion.
Wash and freeze mangoes for consumption when the fruit is not abundant at other times during the year.
To keep mangoes fresh and safe:
Wash with soap and water.
Store in a cool place. Chilling reduces the amount of nutrients lost after picking.
Limit storage time, because mangoes start losing vitamins after picking.
Peel, trim and cut the mango to remove the skin, seed and rotten parts. Oxygen in the air breaks down vitamins when the surface is exposed. If possible, store the whole fruit.
Mango, a delicious fruit, should be eaten in moderation to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout the year.
Marsha N. Woolery is a registered dietitian/nutritionist in private practice and adjunct lecturer at Northern Caribbean University; email: firstname.lastname@example.org