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Healthy Lifestyle: Mango mania
published: Saturday | May 31, 2008

Heather Little-White, Contributor

Whether it is Julie, East Indian, Bombay, blackie or the common stringy, any variety of mango is a delicious culinary treat for which persons journey miles to enjoy.

Emma has a mango session every Saturday on her farm in the peak of the season. Her friends travel from far to share the day with her, eating mangoes until belly bus' in her rural backyard every year.

The mango is smuggled in suitcases to countries where they are banned and their seeds have travelled the world to make the mango a universal fruit. It has become the meal for several families when in season. It easily solves problems with household food security as the fruit can be eaten raw, used for juices, for baked products or to add a new twist to everyday entrees.

Its existence

The mango has been around for a long time, originating in Southeast Asia and India, according to documentation in early Hindu writings dating back to 4,000 BC. The earliest mention of mango, Mangifera indica, is in Hindu scripture. Buddhist monks cultivated the fruit and the mango is considered a sacred fruit because it is said that Buddha meditated under a mango tree.

Mango seeds were carried by humans from Asia to the Middle East, East Africa and South America. Over the years, mango groves have spread to many parts of the tropical and subtropical world, where the climate allows the mango to grow best.

Mango trees are evergreens which grow to 60 feet tall. The mango tree will fruit four to six years after planting. Mango trees require hot, dry periods to produce a good crop.

History of mango

The fascinating history of the mango highlights the wild mango, which originated in the foothills of the Himalayas of India and Burma, and about 40 to 60 of these trees still grow in India and Southeast Asia. However, with its tiny fruit, fibrous texture, and unpleasant turpentine taste, there is little resemblance to the superlative mango we have come to enjoy today.

The mango belongs to the same botanical family as the cashew and pistachio nut. Today, there are more than 1,000 different varieties of mangoes throughout the world. Whichever varieties you enjoy, you will obtain a bundle of nutrition. Mangoes are cholesterol free and are very low in saturated fat and sodium. They contain B complex (anti-stress) vitamins, as well as vitamins A, C and E.

Physically active mango lovers replenish potassium by eating mangoes. Mangoes are a source of magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, selenium, folic acid (folate), and zinc. Two per cent of the daily recommended amount of protein and amino acid can be obtained from mangoes.

Mangoes are an excellent source of dietary fibre, so you should have no problems with irregularity or constipation as an average-size mango can contain up to 40 per cent of your daily fibre requirement. Dietary fibre is known to offer protection against degenerative heart diseases and may help prevent certain types of cancer. Mangoes also lower blood cholesterol levels.

Rich in vitamins

Beyond being delicious and rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, mangoes contain an enzyme withstomach-soothing properties similar to papain found in papayas. These comforting enzymes act as a digestiveaid and can be held partially responsible for that feeling of contentment we experience during and after our daily mango ritual!

Mangoes are ideal summer food as they are high in many carotenoids, especially beta-carotene, which offers protection against the harmful rays of the sun. Research by Professor Matthews-Roth of Harvard University has shown thateven in older people, sun tolerance is increased when beta-carotene intake is increased.

Distinctive flavouring

Mangoes are versatile in cooking. They add a distinctive flavour to breads and muffins and provide the kick for a breakfast smoothie. Entrees and salads take on a gourmet slant with the inclusion of mangoes. Mango cheesecake is to die for, as are mango curried prawns for a seafood treat.

Mango maniacs claim that cooking with mangoes is a waste of time. They say during mango time you wash a plate of mangoes and if you use a knife, you insert it until you hit the seed. You cut off both jaws first and then work on the seed, sucking it dry.

The best advice, to avoid fruit worms, is not to eat mangoes in the dark.

Mango time, pot tun dung, it's mango time again.

Heather Little-White, PhD, is a nutrition and lifestyle consultant in the Corporate Area. Send comments to or fax 922-6223.

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