One does not typically think of mangos while in the wintery throws of March. But one should! They have enough nutritional value to warrant this tropical indulgence and, lucky for us, they are available year round. Plus, they add a nice splash of color to the mid-winter blues, or grays, if you live in a cold, snowy climate. One cup of diced mango is around 100 calories, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 1 gram of protein and less than 1 gram of fat. It is an excellent source of vitamins A and C with 25% DV and 76% DV, respectively, and a good source of vitamin B6.
- Nutrients of interest: Vitamins A and C are both powerful anti-oxidants that help to neutralize free radicals. In addition to aiding our night vision, vitamin A assists with cellular differentiation, keeps our skin and mucous membranes healthy and plays a key role in our immune system function. Vitamin C also keeps our skin healthy through its effects on collagen production, which promotes wound healing, and is similarly immune enhancing. Vitamin B6—well, it is involved in over 100 enzyme reactions! Most of them are related to protein metabolism, but it also plays a role in cognitive development, promote immune function and hemoglobin formation.
- Anticancer ability: Special interest is being paid to this exotic fruit for its potential cancer fighting properties. In studies with cancer cells in the laboratory, polyphenolic nutrients from the fruits demonstrate an ability to stop cancer cells from spreading and promote programmed cell death (apoptosis) within them. Interestingly, these polyphenols seem to target cancer cells, while leaving non-cancerous cells unaffected. Such specificity is a much sought after feature in any anticancer agent. So although mangos are not touted for their antioxidant properties, they seemingly can hold their own in anticancer activity. It will be exciting to see how this plays out in future research.
The Ins and Outs of Mangos
There are a variety of mangos and most are available in the U.S. They range in color so do not use your eyes as a ripeness indicator. Instead, go by touch. The fruit should give a little when you squeeze it gently. Like with a peach or avocado, you can ripen mangos by leaving them out on the counter for a few days or put them in a paper bag if you want to speed up the ripening process. Whole, ripe mangos can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days and cut mangos for two to three days or in the freezer up to six months.
If you have never peeled or cut a mango before, the National Mango Board has provided a helpful short video with time saving tricks for cutting them. The site is also filled with recipes and mango fun facts—did you know that the paisley pattern developed in India was based upon the shape of a mango?
Mangos are wonderful in a variety of recipes from curries to salsas, to summer rolls and grain salads. Or use them in a marinade; the natural acid in the fruit is a great tenderizer and works well for any meat. The following recipe makes for a great dinner side dish or lunch main option.
- 1 cup quinoa, dry
- 1 cup snap peas, stem removed
- 1/2 cup cashews, roasted and unsalted
- 4 to 5 scallions or spring onions, rinsed and trimmed
- 2 mangos, peeled
- 1-2 serrano chilies (or Thai bird chilies or jalapenos — whatever hot chilies you like best, or leave them out if you do not want the spice right now)
- 1 tbs finely chopped or grated ginger (about one inch-long or slightly bigger)
- kosher salt and pepper to taste
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 to 2 limes, juiced
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, place quinoa in a fine-meshed sieve and rinse under cold water. When the water comes to a boil, add the quinoa and simmer for 9 minutes. Drain in a fine-meshed sieve and run under cold water until cool. Set aside to dry.
- Meanwhile, prepare the remaining ingredients: Slice the snap peas on a bias and set aside. Roughly chop the cashews. Thinly slice the scallions (white and light green portions). Slice down around the pit of the mango to remove, then dice the flesh. Remove the seeds from the chilies, then finely dice. Grate the ginger on a box grater or finely dice with a knife or purée in a food processor. You need about a tablespoon (or more or less to taste) of minced ginger flesh/juice.
- Place the drained and dried quinoa into a large mixing bowl. Season all over with salt (I used one teaspoon kosher salt to start) and pepper to taste. Add the snap peas, cashews, scallions, chilies, mangos (or not if you have time to let the salad marinate in the fridge for a bit).
- In a smaller bowl, mix together the minced ginger, olive oil and about two tablespoons of lime juice. Taste and adjust as needed. Add the dressing to the bowl with everything else. Toss and taste, adjust seasoning as necessary. You may need to add two more tablespoons of lime juice and a pinch more salt. Let salad marinate in the fridge for an hour (if you have the time). Fold in mangos just before serving.