About Malanga

People in many parts of the world may not be familiar with malanga. However, this root vegetable has been farmed longer than many other plants.

According to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, malanga goes by many other names, including “…yautia, cocoyam, eddo, coco, tannia, sato-imo, and Japanese potatoes.” The scientific name for malanga is Xantyosoma sagittifolium, but it is more commonly known as the elephant ear plant.

In this article, we take a look at malanga, examining its nutritional content, possible health benefits, and how to include this root vegetable in a diet.

What is malanga?

Malanga root vegetable chopped up on wooden background.
Malanga is a type of root vegetable grown in the Caribbean. The part of the plant that is eaten is the tuber, similar to a potato.

Malanga originated in South America, but it is now grown in the Caribbean, Central America, and certain parts of Africa and Asia.

It is sometimes confused with other tropical root vegetables, such as taro. The two plants have subtle differences in their structures. The malanga plant has sizeable leaves and may grow to be more than 5 feet tall.

The part of the malanga plant that is eaten is known as a tuber. The tubers grow underground and are similar in size to a potato. People should remove the brown, hairy skin of the tubers before eating them.

The flesh of the malanga root is light-colored and can be prepared using a variety of cooking methods, such as baking, frying, and stewing. Malanga can also be ground to make flour for baking.

Nutritional information

According to the American Diabetes Association, 1/3 cup cooked malanga provides the following:

  • 70 kilocalories
  • 0.1 g of fat
  • 16 g of carbohydrate
  • 1 g of protein

The same amount provides 3 g of fiber, which is 10 percent of the daily recommended amount of fiber for adults.

Regarding vitamins and minerals, 1/3 cup cooked malanga provides the following proportions of daily recommended amounts:

  • potassium: 9 percent
  • phosphorus: 5 percent
  • magnesium: 5 percent

It also contains smaller amounts of vitamin C, calcium, iron, and folate.

Possible health benefits

There have not been many studies specifically looking at the health benefits of malanga. One study in rats did report that malanga may be a source of antioxidants.

However, malanga contains many components that have been associated with health benefits.

Cholesterol

Malanga contains insoluble fibre, which may help to manage and reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

While it is usually the root of the malanga plant that is eaten, one study looked at the benefits of consuming fiber from malanga leaves.

The leaves contain a type of fiber called insoluble fiber. This type of fiber has been associated with an improved digestive function, lower risk of colon cancer, and healthier weight.

In contrast, soluble fiber is mainly associated with blood pressure and cholesterol improvements.

All of the rats in the study were fed a high-fat diet, but some of the rats also received varying types of dietary fiber. At the end of the study, the rats that ate the malanga leaf had significantly lower total cholesterol levels than the other rats, despite the malanga containing mainly insoluble fiber.

The malanga root itself is also a good source of fiber. As mentioned above, 1/3 cup of cooked malanga contains 10 percent of an adult’s daily recommended amount of fiber.

review of studies found that eating more fiber is associated with significantly lower total and LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol levels. Since high cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease, eating more fiber may help protect against heart disease.

Weight

Besides its effects on blood cholesterol levels, dietary fiber may also play a role in weight management. This is important because obesity is a risk factor for many chronic diseases.

In the same study mentioned above, rats in the malanga leaf group gained less weight than the other groups.

review of studies found that a diet higher in fiber may help prevent weight gain. Adding malanga to a diet is one way to increase fiber intake.

Blood pressure

A 1/3 cup serving of cooked malanga provides 320 milligrams (mg) of potassium. Some studies have reported that there is an association between dietary potassium intake and blood pressure.

In one study, higher potassium intake was associated with a significantly lower risk of high blood pressure. This is important because high blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Potassium relaxes blood vessels, which lessens the work required by the heart to pump blood through the body.

How to incorporate malanga into a diet

Stew with meat and root vegetables.
Malanga can be used to replace potato and may be included in a variety of dishes, including stews.

There are many ways to include malanga into a diet. Malanga is available in many Latin American grocery stores, as well as some supermarket chains.

The vegetable needs to be washed, peeled and cooked before being eaten. People should not eat malanga raw.

Malanga has a similar texture as potatoes and can replace potatoes in many recipes. Malanga flour can also be used to replace wheat flour in baked goods.

Malanga is described as having a woody or earthy taste with a hint of nuts.

Boiled malanga can be mashed with milk and olive oil to make a tasty side dish. It is a natural thickener and can be added to soups and stews.

Recipe ideas

See below for recipes that use malanga:

Possible risks

Malanga is likely safe for most people, except for those who are allergic to it or have certain medical conditions.

In general, malanga is considered a well-tolerated food that is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction.

A 1/3 cup serving of cooked malanga has 320 mg of potassium. According to the National Kidney Foundation, foods that contain more than 200 mg of potassium per serving are considered high potassium.

Some people with kidney disease or those who take certain medications may need to limit high-potassium foods. Having too much potassium in the blood can cause dangerous side effects, such as abnormal heart rhythm and weakness.

Anyone who is concerned should check with their doctor to see if they need to limit potassium in their diet.

Overall, malanga provides many useful nutrients. Some of these nutrients may offer health benefits when included as part of a healthful diet.

Malanga is well-known in many parts of the world but not commonly eaten in others. As interest in regional cuisines grows, malanga may become even more widely available.

Although not a familiar taste for some, it is a versatile root vegetable that can be used in many recipes.

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Food as Medicine: Spinach (Spinacia oleracea, Chenopodiaceae)

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea, Chenopodiaceae) is an annual plant that grows up to 23 inches tall (60 cm). Spinach plants produce an edible rosette and toothed fleshy leaves. There are two main types of spinach: crinkled savory leaf spinach and smooth or flat-leaf spinach. Spinach leaves are fleshy, deep green, and rich in essential nutrients and phytochemicals. Spinach requires deep and nitrogen-rich soil to grow, and prefers a cool climate, with spring and autumn being optimal growth seasons for the leaves. The hot weather of summer may cause the spinach to bolt quickly, which causes the leaves to deteriorate. The plant produces greenish-yellow flowers when ready to set seed.

Spinach is native to southwest Asia, in the area of present-day Iran. Spinach cultivation spread to China in 647 BCE and spread across Europe by the 12th century CE. Now, spinach is cultivated throughout the world in temperate climate zones. In the United States, California is the largest producer of spinach, followed by Arizona and New Jersey. The annual per capita consumption of spinach in the United States was estimated to be 1.7 pounds in 2014.

Phytochemicals and Constituents

Spinach is one of the most nutritious leafy vegetables and ranks second behind kale (Brassica oleracea var. acephela, Brassicaceae) in total carotenoids and folate content. Spinach is high in protein and low in carbohydrates and fat.

The plant is a nutrient-dense source of vitamins and minerals and maintains its nutritional value well after cooking. Spinach provides an array of B vitamins, which are important for carbohydrate metabolism, the nervous system, and the brain. Spinach contains other important minerals including calcium, magnesium, zinc, and selenium, and is a significant source of potassium, copper, iodine, and iron. It also contains abundant amounts of vitamins A, K, and C.

The flavonoid, phenolic acid, and carotenoid content of spinach make it a healthy, therapeutic food. These compounds are effective at neutralizing free radicals in the body and are able to protect the body from damage and disease by reducing inflammation.

The two major carotenoids present in spinach leaves are lutein and beta-carotene, and they compose more than 65% of the total carotenoids content. Lutein may help prevent vision loss from age-related degenerative disorders such as macular degeneration and cataracts. A yellow pigment, lutein is found in high amounts in the retina and absorbs blue light emitted by back-lit devices such as smartphones and computer screens. Other carotenoids in spinach include violaxanthin and neoxanthin.

The carotenoids in spinach are very delicate and highly susceptible to degradation over time. Post-harvest handling of spinach from a field to freezer does alter the phytochemical profile of the leaves. In one study, storing fresh spinach leaves for 24 hours at 39°F (4°C) did not impact the carotenoids content in fresh spinach. However, storing fresh spinach for 72 hours at the same temperature resulted in a reduction of the carotenoids content by almost 15%. Blanching fresh leaves for two minutes at 212°F (100°C) followed by freezing effectively preserved the carotenoid content of spinach.

Historical and Commercial Uses

Historically, spinach leaves have been used as a laxative, diuretic, antidote against poison or infection, and as a treatment for asthma and other breathing difficulties, sore throat, and kidney stones. Spinach also has potential effects against hyperglycemia and inflammation. The seeds were used to control fever, to address back pain, and as a diuretic. In the Indian traditional medicine, the plant is known as palak and was used to treat liver injury or infection and jaundice. Spinach was prescribed and used in traditional Iranian medicine as an antidepressant. Due to its high iron and chlorophyll content, spinach often is used as a therapeutic food for patients with anemia.

Spinach leaves are available commercially fresh, frozen, or canned. Depending on the spinach cultivar and method of preservation, the nutrients and phytochemical profile of spinach may vary. Spinach leaves can be eaten fresh or cooked. Several popular spinach-based dishes are said to be prepared “a la Florentine,” supposedly in honor of Catherine de Medici (1519-1589), who was born in Florence and introduced the vegetable to the French court upon her marriage to King Henry II.

Modern Research

There are limited data regarding the effect of whole spinach leaves on diseases, metabolic pathways, and conditions. Most of the available literature reports the effects of leaf extracts or specific isolated phytonutrient components.

Oxidative Damage and Inflammation

The antioxidant content of spinach leaf, which contains high amounts of vitamins A and C, suggests protective effects against damage from cellular oxidation. A mouse study found that supplementation with 1,100 mg/kg per day of methanolic spinach leaf extract significantly decreased radiation-induced lipid peroxidation in the liver. This study further demonstrated that the leaf extract decreased the negative impact of radiation on glutathione levels.

A 2017 rat study used a different methanolic spinach leaf extract with high levels of lutein, luteolin, quercetin, and coumarin. High-performance liquid chromatography analysis of the extract confirmed the presence of these compounds in active amounts. The study reported that intraperitoneal injection of the extract showed a protective anti-inflammatory effect in mice that were given isoproterenol to induce a heart attack. Spinach extract intake led to changes in activities of multiple enzymes, including paraoxonase, lecithin-cholesterol acyltransferase, C-reactive protein, myeloperoxidase, and caspase-3. Furthermore, the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the heart tissue were significantly lower in mice pretreated with spinach extract than the control group. These results indicate the potential protective effects of spinach against inflammation and atherogenesis (the formation of abnormal fatty masses in arterial walls) when used as a concentrated leaf extract.

Cancer Chemoprevention

An in vitro study demonstrated that neoxanthin significantly suppressed inflammation and proliferation of prostate cancer cells. Additionally, in a bacteria-based model, flavonoids found in spinach leaves showed antimutagenic potential.

A study in mice reported that the antioxidants extracted from spinach leaves have protective effects against benign epithelial tumors. The potential mechanism of action was linked to the direct and indirect abilities of antioxidant compounds in spinach leaves to act as free-radical scavengers that inhibit the progression of carcinogenesis.

The abundant glycolipids in spinach leaves were found to possess inhibitory effects on the gastric cancer cell and promyelocytic leukemia cell proliferation in vitro. These findings are considered positive, but preliminary, results of the potential therapeutic effects of spinach glycolipids to prevent cancer proliferation.

Cardiovascular Disease

In a semi-randomized crossover study in humans, the consumption of a fortified spinach beverage resulted in a significant increase in plasma nitrate concentration, which correlated with lower diastolic blood pressure within 150 minutes post-consumption and persisted for five hours thereafter. This study suggests the possible therapeutic uses of spinach as a safe alternative and effective carrier for nitrate medications.

Supplementation

Spinach, like most dark, leafy greens, contains a high amount of folate: 100 grams of raw spinach provides almost half of an average person’s daily recommended intake. Daily intake of spinach for three weeks showed a significant increase in plasma folate concentrations, and processing spinach leaves did not affect the bioavailability of folate when compared to fresh whole-leaf spinach. Frozen whole-leaf spinach, minced spinach, and liquefied spinach have similar effects in terms of increasing plasma folate concentration.

Researchers currently are examining the potential benefits of fortifying flour with dehydrated spinach, with a goal to improve total folate content in bread.21 Fortification of white bread and whole grain bread with spinach (40 g spinach per 100 g of other ingredients) increased the total folate content, despite the effect of processing factors such as kneading and baking.

Diabetes

Spinach leaves contain many beneficial compounds such as vitamin C, iron, zinc, folic acid, polyphenols, and fatty acids. These compounds have protective effects topically as well as internally. In a study, diabetic rats were fed an aqueous spinach leaf extract to determine its effects on wound healing. The results showed that the spinach group had better wound-healing outcomes as indicated by significant improvements in epithelial and granulation tissue formation and blood vessels. These results indicate the potential beneficial effects of supplementation with spinach juice or other types of spinach extracts to treat wounds and ulcers in patients with diabetes.

Consumer Considerations

In August 2008, The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it would allow the irradiation of spinach in order to kill the harmful bacteria Escherichia coli and Salmonella after numerous outbreaks of foodborne illness. Strains of E. coli have the ability to survive and multiply in the absence of an animal host when soil, water, and plants become contaminated. Pathogenic bacteria can grow inside the leaf tissues of spinach, rendering typical antimicrobial surface treatments ineffective. Uniformity of crop management practices as well as environmental factors not only impact the vegetable quality, but also the survival rate of E. coli in the soil and on the leaf crops. There are concerns, however, about the irradiation of food crops. Research indicates that the process generates harmful reactive oxygen species and decreases the phytonutrient content of the food in the process of eliminating foodborne pathogens.

The primary source of spinach leaf contamination with heavy metals is from pesticides containing lead arsenate, environmental pollution, contaminated irrigation water and rainwater, and runoff from nearby areas treated with plant pesticides and fertilizers. Leaf crops are most sensitive to lead contamination and bioaccumulation. Commercially farmed spinach is most susceptible to heavy metal and pathogen contamination due to the reliance on pesticides and poor land management techniques such as continual replanting in contaminated soil.

Caution with spinach consumption may be warranted in populations susceptible to kidney stones. Spinach is one of a number of foods that naturally contains oxalates. The oxalate content in spinach is estimated to be about 0.77 mg/100 g. Oxalates bind to many minerals, including calcium, zinc, and magnesium, inhibiting their absorption. Approximately 80% of kidney stones contain calcium and predominately consist of calcium oxalate. High levels of urinary oxalate are a major risk factor and precursor to the formation of calcium oxalate kidney stones. Observational data indicate an inverse relationship between dietary calcium and the risk of kidney stone formation, since dietary calcium may bind to oxalates in the gut, and thereby limit the absorption of intestinal oxalates and subsequent excretion of urinary oxalates. However, a study of three diverse populations noted only a small association between oxalate and spinach consumption and the risk of kidney stone formation.

Nutrient Profile

Macronutrient Profile: (Per 100 grams raw spinach)

23 calories

2.9 g protein

3.6 g carbohydrate

0.4 g fat

Secondary Metabolites: (Per 100 grams raw spinach)

Excellent source of:

Vitamin K: 482.9 mcg (603.6% DV)

Vitamin A: 9377 IU (187.5% DV)

Folate: 194 mcg (48.5% DV)

Vitamin C: 28.1 mg (46.8% DV)

Manganese: 0.9 mg (45% DV)

Magnesium: 79 mg (19.8% DV)

Potassium: 558 mg (15.9% DV)

Iron: 2.7 mg (15% DV)

Very good source of:

Riboflavin: 0.19 mg (11.2% DV)

Vitamin E: 2.03 mg (10.1% DV)

Vitamin B6: 0.2 mg (10% DV)

Calcium: 99 mg (9.9% DV)

Dietary Fiber: 2.2 g (8.8% DV)

Good source of:

Thiamin: 0.08 mg (5.3% DV)

Also, provides:

Phosphorus: 49 mg (4.9% DV)

Niacin: 0.72 mg (3.6% DV)

DV = Daily Value as established by the US Food and Drug Administration, based on a 2,000-calorie diet.

Recipe: Savory Spinach-Onion Pastry

Courtesy of Mariam Alhado

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon ground sumac or za’atar spice blend
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 package frozen puff pastry

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Using several layers of paper towels, squeeze as much excess water from the frozen spinach as possible.
  2. In a large bowl, combine spinach, onion, lemon juice, olive oil, sumac, and salt and form a uniform mixture.
  3. Roll out the pastry until it is smooth and of even thickness. Divide into three-inch squares. Add a few tablespoons of the spinach mixture into the center of each square, then fold the corners in and press to seal.
  4. Arrange the pastries on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and heated through.

Food as Medicine: Sesame (Sesamum indicum, Pedaliaceae)

Sesamum indicum (Pedaliaceae) is an annual flowering plant with fuzzy, slender, oblong leaves that are arranged opposite to one another on the stem. The plant reaches an average of two to four feet (0.6-1.2 meters) in height and produces small, bell-shaped pink, violet, or white flowers arranged closely to the stem. The plant produces oblong seed capsules that contain many small oval-shaped seeds.1 There are three color varieties of seeds: black, white, and red/brown. Sesamum indicum grows in well-drained soil in warm or hot climates and does not tolerate frost or poorly draining soil. It is, however, a robust plant that will grow in poor soil, drought, and high heat conditions where most other crops will not.

While the leaves of the plant are also edible, the sesame plant is grown primarily for its seeds, and the oil pressed from the seeds is an important commercial and medicinal product. Sesame seeds are possibly one of the oldest seed crops known to humankind. The exact origins of domestication are uncertain, but it is believed that sesame originated in Africa, and its cultivation and use spread to Egypt, India, the Middle East, and China. Currently, S. indicum is cultivated in dry tropical and subtropical regions of Asia, Africa, and South America.


Phytochemicals and Constituents

Although small in size, the sesame seed is densely packed with nutrients. Sesame seeds are rich in protein (approximately 20-25% by weight) and oil (approximately 50% by weight). Sesame additionally contains fiber, vitamin E, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and minerals, such as copper, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and calcium. Sesame oil contains approximately 38% monounsaturated fat (MUFA) and approximately 44% polyunsaturated fat (PUFA). The unsaturated fatty acids oleic acid and linoleic acid account for the majority of the oil weight of the seed (more than 800 g/kg). Sesame seeds are low in saturated fat. PUFAs have anti-inflammatory, antithrombotic, antiarrhythmic, lipid-lowering, and vasodilatory properties.

Sesame seed may be of particular interest to those who follow vegetarian or vegan diets due to its amino acid and calcium contents. Unusual for a plant-based protein source, sesame has a mostly complete amino acid profile, missing only lysine. Sesame is rich in the amino acid methionine, which is often the missing amino acid in legume-based diets. Calcium is one of the predominant minerals found in sesame, along with manganese, phosphorus, and iron. One ounce (28 grams) of whole toasted sesame seeds contains approximately 28% of the daily value of calcium based on a 2,000-calorie diet. In comparison, one cup of nonfat dairy milk contains approximately 31% of the daily value of calcium. However, the bioavailability of the calcium content in plant foods is very different than that of animal-based products. Although the whole sesame seed contains a high amount of calcium, the degree to which the body is able to absorb this calcium is not well-studied.

Other constituents present in sesame include oxalic and phytic acids. These compounds may interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients. In addition, consuming high amounts of oxalates, which are derivatives of oxalic acid, may be problematic for individuals with a history of oxalate kidney stones.

While sesame has robust macronutrient and micronutrient profiles, other bioactive compounds present in the plant that have caught the attention of researchers. These compounds include phytosterols and a group of antioxidants known as lignans. Antioxidants are substances that can prevent or slow down the damage that reactive oxygen species (ROSs) can inflict on cells. Phytosterols possess similar chemical structures to cholesterol, which is not found in plants. When present in sufficient amounts in the diet, phytosterols have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood. The fat-soluble lignans (e.g., sesamin, sesaminol, sesamolinol, and sesamolin) are the most studied compounds in the sesame plant. Lignan glycosides, in which a sugar molecule is attached to a lignan, are also present in sesame, but are found only in the whole seed, and not in sesame oil. Although the lignan glycosides have no direct antioxidant role, these compounds within sesame seeds can be converted in the body to form sesaminol and thereby function as antioxidants.


Historical and Commercial Uses

The use of sesame as a food, medicine, and component of spiritual or ritual practices dates back more than 4,000 years in Egypt and the Middle East, spreading from these regions to India and Europe. In the Hindu tradition, the sesame seed represents immortality. In the Babylonian Empire (located in present-day Iraq; 18th century to 6th century BCE), sesame oil was used to make perfumes and medicine. Records reveal that ancient Egyptians also used sesame as a medicine, and the oil was used for ceremonial purification in 1500 BCE. Europeans first encountered sesame seeds when they were imported from India during the first century CE, and sesame seeds were brought to the United States from Africa in the 17th century.

Various preparations of the plant have been used for medicinal purposes. In Ayurveda, a traditional medicine system of India that has been practiced for millennia, powdered seeds were given orally in combination with a warm sitz bath containing a handful of bruised seeds for treatment of amenorrhea and dysmenorrhea. Topically, a poultice of seeds was applied to ulcers, burns, and scalds, and sesame seed paste was combined with ghee (clarified butter) to treat bleeding hemorrhoids. Sesame oil was commonly used as a base for perfume oils for anointing the body and hair and traditionally used as a hair wash to promote hair growth.

In traditional Chinese medicine, sesame is known as a yin tonic, which moistens dry tissues and increases body fluids. Due to these properties, the seeds were used to promote lactation in breastfeeding mothers. In Europe, the oil was rubbed onto eyelids or dropped into eyes for eye complaints and also used internally for treating gonorrhea. The leaves of the sesame plant were decocted and consumed to resolve bowel afflictions, such as dysentery and cholera.

In addition to its traditional medicinal uses, S. indicum continues to be an important food and lends itself to being prepared and used in a wide variety of ways. Grown predominately for sesame oil, the seeds themselves can be eaten raw or roasted.14When the seeds are hulled, they can be easily crushed into a flour or ground further into a paste. Hulled seeds are widely used in their ground form as a paste in Eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. In Europe and North America, the seeds are mainly used for bakery products, such as sesame seed buns.

In most cultures, the seeds have traditionally been roasted or baked before consumption or prior to oil extraction, a practice that enhances the sweet, nutty flavor and aroma of the seed and produces darker-colored oil. Traditionally, the sesame seeds are cold-pressed for oil. In European and North American cultures, a hot-pressed and refined oil are more highly desired, since this creates a colorless and neutral oil, which is better suited for cooking and use in salad dressing. The young leaves of the plant can be eaten in stews, a practice seen in Africa today. In Korea, the leaves are used to make a kind of wrap eaten with meats and other vegetables. The sesame cake (leftover plant material after the oil has been removed from the seeds) is used for livestock feed and can serve as a subsistence food in times of scarcity. In African and Asian cuisines, the seeds are used in both sweet and savory dishes. With globalization, many cultural foods have traveled from their continents of origin to become commonly consumed in the United States and elsewhere. For example, tahini, or ground sesame seed paste, has emerged from the Middle Eastern culinary tradition as a familiar grocery store item in the United States.

Modern Research

Current research investigating the potential efficacy of S. indicum and its constituents covers a wide range of applications. Research on sesame’s lignan content and inherent antioxidant potential is most prolific, specifically on the synergy of action of the lignans in combination with vitamin E. Additionally, there were a number of studies on S. indicum published in 2016, adding to the body of evidence on the efficacy of therapeutic use and effective dosage.

Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors and Serum Lipid Profile

Oxidative stress and inflammation play a large role in the development and progression of atherosclerosis. A cardioprotective diet and exercise are an important part of prevention and treatment. Two types of fats, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, are present in the sesame plant and have been reported to lower cholesterol. Other potential mechanisms for the cardioprotective effects of sesame have been described, and sesame oil may have multiple constituents that affect the atherogenic process in various ways.

The fat-soluble lignans in sesame may affect fat in the bloodstream and the ability of the liver to process fat, particularly triglycerides. A group of researchers cultivated a sesame variety that contained two times more sesamin and sesamolin than conventional sesame to observe the effect of these two compounds on health parameters. The results showed that consumption of these seeds compared to seeds of a conventional sesame variety effectively increased the activity of enzymes located in the liver and involved in fatty acid oxidation. This increase was correlated with a decrease in serum triglyceride levels. The researchers noted that it is unclear if these effects are solely a result of the difference in concentration in the fat-soluble lignans or if other compounds may be involved in the observed physiological activity of the seeds.

A 2016 systematic review examined scientific literature to discern the effect of dietary intake of sesame seed and its derivatives on the lipid profile and blood pressure of hypertensive and dyslipidemic individuals. Of the seven studies that fit the review criteria, most were not randomized, and those that were did not describe the blinding of participants or personnel. Five clinical trials on patients diagnosed with hypertension found significant results for the reduction in both systolic blood pressure (SBP) and/or diastolic blood pressure (DBP). Of the three studies that included a lipid profile, two found significant reductions in total cholesterol (TC) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-c) levels and one found a significant increase in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-c) concentrations in the sesame treatment groups.

The dosage and administration of sesame to medicated hypertensive patients varied across studies. Positive outcomes for SBP (reduction by approximately 3%) and DBP (reduction by approximately 2%) were noted with as little as 7.6 grams per day of encapsulated black sesame flour, the use of sesame oil for 45-60 days, or 60 grams of encapsulated sesamin taken for four weeks.

Two studies examining the use of sesame flour in individuals with dyslipidemia found that it positively impacted lipid profiles. The exact mechanisms are still being studied. The reviewers noted, however, that further research with low risk of bias is necessary to obtain more conclusive results since the seven clinical trials reviewed contained a high risk of bias.

Both sesame seed and sesame oil have been studied for their cardioprotective benefits. Daily supplementation with sesame oil was shown to increase flow-mediated dilation levels, suggestive of an improvement in the vascular function, after meals when compared to supplementation with corn (Zea mays, Poaceae) or olive (Olea europaea, Oleaceae) oils in hypertensive men receiving medication. Furthermore, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial showed supplementation with sesame paste ground from unhulled seeds improved lipid profiles and atherogenic lipid parameters in patients receiving treatment for type 2 diabetes. The researchers concluded that in addition to drug treatment, dietary modification using functional foods, such as sesame seeds, may have beneficial effects for the prevention of cardiovascular and diabetes complications. Additionally, a study using a substitution of 35 grams per day of sesame oil as the only edible oil for 45 days in hypertensive women resulted in significant decrease in serum TC, and SBP and DBP. However, this study was uncontrolled.

Neurodegenerative Conditions

While the underlying mechanisms remain unclear, sesame’s strong antioxidant capacity may be protective against neurodegenerative disorders. Antioxidant nutrients from food may play an important role in lessening the consequences of oxidative stress in cerebral ischemia (a type of stroke) and recirculation brain injury. Sesamin and sesamol have demonstrated the ability to elevate levels of alpha-tocopherol (a form of vitamin E) in the plasma, liver, and brain of rats, displaying an inhibitory effect on endogenous lipid peroxidation as well as oxidative DNA damage in rat plasma and liver and protective effects of hypoxia in neurons. Based on the strong antioxidant activities of sesame, it could be considered neuroprotective against cerebral ischemia and stroke, though further studies need to be conducted in support of this.


Consumer Considerations

Although not common, there is the potential for an allergic reaction upon consumption of sesame seeds or sesame oil. Since allergic reactions are mainly due to a protein found in the seed, there may be no reaction or less of a reaction to the oil, with the exception of cold-pressed oil. Cold-pressed oil may still contain varying amounts of protein.

Individuals who are predisposed to kidney stones or are chronically undernourished in calcium, vitamin D and phosphorus may exercise caution and consider total dietary intake of foods high in oxalic acid. Sesame seeds contain 1-2% oxalic acid, which may interfere with calcium, magnesium, and protein absorption in the body. Additionally, certain types of kidney stones are composed of oxalic acid. It is important to note that the hull of the seed contains the highest amount of oxalic acid. The presence of oxalic acid can be reduced significantly through processing of the seeds and in particular through sprouting the seeds prior to consumption. Cooking and toasting the seeds before consumption or pressing the seed for oil also can reduce levels of oxalic acid and maximize the bioavailability of sesame’s beneficial constituents. Additionally, some bioactive constituents of sesame are found in highest amounts in sesame oil produced from toasted or otherwise heated sesame seeds.

Nutrient Profile

Macronutrient Profile: (Per 1 tablespoon [approx. 9 grams] sesame seeds)

52 calories

1.6 g protein

2.11 g carbohydrate

4.47 g fat

Secondary Metabolites: (Per 1 tablespoon [approx. 9 grams] sesame seeds)

Very good source of:

Manganese: 0.22 mg (11% DV)

Good source of:

Calcium: 88 mg (8.8% DV)

Magnesium: 32 mg (8% DV)

Iron: 1.31 mg (7.2% DV)

Phosphorus: 57 mg (5.7% DV)

Also, provides:

Thiamin: 0.07 mg (4.7% DV)

Dietary Fiber: 1.1 g (4.4% DV)

Molybdenum: 2.66 mcg (3.6% DV)

Vitamin B6: 0.07 mg (3.5% DV)

Niacin: 0.41 mg (2.1% DV)

Folate: 9 mcg (2.3% DV)

Potassium: 42 mg (1.2% DV)

Riboflavin: 0.02 mg (1.2% DV)

Trace Amounts

Vitamin E: 0.02 mg (0.1% DV)

Vitamin A: 1 IU (0.02% DV)

DV = Daily Value as established by the US Food and Drug Administration, based on a 2,000-calorie diet.

Recipe: Sticky Sesame Bars

Courtesy of Camilla V. Saulsbury

Ingredients:

Bars:

  • Coconut or vegetable oil for greasing
  • 2 cups nuts (e.g., cashews, peanuts, pistachios, pecans)
  • 1 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds or poppy seeds
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar or honey
  • 1/3 cup natural, unsweetened nut or seed butter (e.g., tahini, sunflower, or peanut)
  • 2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil, warmed until melted (do not substitute with vegetable oil)
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

Chocolate Drizzle:

  • 2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil, warmed until melted
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar or honey
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened, natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)

Directions:

  1. Line an eight-inch square baking pan with foil or parchment paper and grease the pan with coconut oil or vegetable oil.
  2. Place the nuts, sesame seeds, and chia seeds in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the agave nectar, nut or seed butter, oil, vanilla, and salt. Process, using on/off pulses, until the mixture is blended and begins to stick together and clump on the sides of the bowl.
  3. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Place a large piece of parchment paper, wax paper, or plastic wrap (lightly greased with coconut or vegetable oil) atop the bar mixture and use it to spread and flatten the mixture evenly in the pan; leave the paper or plastic wrap to cover. Place the mixture in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  4. To prepare the chocolate drizzle: Mix the oil, agave nectar, and cocoa powder in a small bowl until blended. Remove the bar mixture from the freezer, uncover, and decoratively drizzle or spread with the chocolate mixture. Refrigerate for at least four hours or place in the freezer for one hour until the mixture is firm.
  5. Using the liner, lift the mixture from the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 20 bars. Store wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator for one week or freezer for up to three months.

Food as Medicine: Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus, Cucurbitaceae)

History and Traditional Use


Range and Habitat

The watermelon is the largest edible fruit grown in the United States: an annual trailing plant with fruits that can grow from 5-50 pounds and vines that can reach up to 20’ in length. Each fruit forms from a yellow flower, and the spherical or ovoid fruit is typically smooth and green or green with lighter banded stripes. The watermelon is native to the Kalahari Desert in Africa, and it thrives in well-draining, sandy soil. Currently, watermelons are cultivated all over the world, with Asia producing 60% of watermelons globally. The United States ranks fifth in global watermelon production. Forty-four states grow watermelons, including Texas, Florida, Georgia, and California, which collectively produce 2/3 of all the watermelons domestically.

Phytochemicals and Constituents

Watermelon contains an array of important vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, potassium, and beta-carotene. Watermelon also contains the important bioactive compounds citrulline and lycopene. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and anti-cancer agent. Watermelon’s vitamin C content may be linked to reducing blood pressure, as does its smaller amounts of vitamins B6 and E. The human body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which promotes healthy eyes, a strong immune system, and healthy skin. Vine fruits like watermelon are a good source of potassium, a crucial electrolyte for nerve and muscle function. Potassium is an essential nutrient as the body ages, as it decreases high blood pressure and reduces the risk of kidney stones, stroke, and bone density loss.

Citrulline is a precursor to the amino acid arginine and is involved in the process of removing nitrogen from the blood and eliminating it through urine. Arginine is a precursor for the synthesis of nitric oxide in the body, which is a vasodilator (blood vessel-widening agent). Conditions that benefit from vasodilation, such as cardiovascular diseases, erectile dysfunction, and headaches may benefit from increased arginine intake. Arginine also helps the body make protein, which boosts muscle growth, enhances wound healing, combats fat accumulation, and stimulates the immune system.

Though the tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is more well-known as a source for lycopene (and in fact, its name is derived from lycopersicum), lycopene is a carotenoid found in many red foods, including watermelon, papaya (Carica papaya), pink grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi), and red carrots (Daucus carota subsp. sativus). A powerful antioxidant, lycopene may help prevent heart disease and has shown a potent ability to protect the body from “free radicals,” which may play a role in the development of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and many cancers. Lycopene may also boost sperm counts and lower the risk of prostate cancer.

Historical and Commercial Uses

Though native to the African Kalahari desert, where the watermelon gourd was often used as a canteen, the cultivation of watermelon spread quickly, and other cultures adopted it as a beneficial, healing food. Ancient Egyptians used watermelon to treat reproductive problems such as erectile dysfunction and prostate inflammation. The peoples of Russia and Central Asia used watermelon as a diuretic and to cleanse the blood. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, watermelon is considered cooling and moistening, producing a diuretic effect, and commonly is used to treat thirst, edema, and inflammation of the kidney and urinary tracts.18 Because watermelon is 92% water, many traditional uses of watermelon overlap with current uses, including hydration, cleansing, and eliminating impurities. Since watermelon is digested relatively quickly, the folk traditions of the Papua New Guinea aborigines known as Onabasulu advised against eating watermelon and other juicy fruits after a heavy meal or if suffering from a stomachache.

African cuisine treats the watermelon as a vegetable and uses the entire fruit: seeds, rinds, and flesh. The seeds are eaten as snacks added to dishes or ground into flour for use in baked goods. The rind can be stir-fried, stewed, candied, pickled, or grilled. The flesh is eaten or juiced, but it can also be fermented into alcohol; in the southern part of Russia, the juice is combined with hops to make beer.

Modern Research

The traditional uses for watermelon as a medicine are beginning to gain scientific confirmation, particularly in regards to its applications against erectile dysfunction, dehydration, kidney disease, and anti-aging concerns. Watermelon’s antioxidant and nutrient content defend against many different conditions.

Current research shows that citrulline in watermelons has beneficial effects on the heart, dilating the blood vessels and improving blood flow. In one clinical study, obese participants with pre-high blood pressure or stage-one high blood pressure significantly reduced their ankle and brachial systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, mean arterial pressure, and carotid wave reflection with ingestion of citrulline from watermelons. A review of consumption of citrulline from watermelon demonstrated improvements in glycemic control and circulatory problems in diabetics, a reduction in cardiovascular risk factors, and increased levels of arginine, an essential amino acid. Because arginine is involved in maintaining the health of the reproductive, pulmonary, renal, gastrointestinal, hepatic, and immune systems, citrulline is of increasing interest in the realm of scientific study. Studies show that citrulline is more bioavailable in the body than arginine, making it a better candidate for arginine deficiency diseases such as renal carcinoma, chronic inflammatory diseases, or blood cell diseases like sickle cell anemia and malaria. Citrulline research also has shown promising results of becoming a biomarker for bowel problems of the small intestine as well as kidney failure.13

Lycopene’s powerful antioxidant properties have been shown to reduce the risks of prostate, lung, gastric, and colorectal cancers. However, due to its antioxidant effect, it seems to interfere with chemo and radiation therapy. In addition to being an antioxidant, lycopene has been shown to be heart-protective and lowers LDL cholesterol. In one study, lycopene ingestion showed a reduction in the risk of stroke, especially ischemic strokes in men. Finally, lycopene has been linked to a reduction in cardiovascular risks.

Nutrient Profile


Macronutrient Profile
(Per 1 cup diced watermelon [approx. 152 g]):

46 calories
1 g protein
11.5 g carbohydrate
0.2 g fat

Secondary Metabolites (Per 1 cup diced watermelon [approx. 152 g]):

Excellent source of:

Vitamin C: 12.3 mg (20.5% DV)
Vitamin A: 865 IU (17.3% DV)

Very good source of:

Potassium: 170 mg (4.9% DV)

Also provides:

Magnesium: 15 mg (3.8% DV)
Vitamin B-6: 0.07 mg (3.5% DV)
Thiamin: 0.05 mg (3.3% DV)
Vitamin E: 0.08 mg (3% DV)
Manganese: 0.06 mg (3% DV)
Dietary Fiber: 0.6 g (2.4% DV)
Iron: 0.4 mg (2.2% DV)
Phosphorus: 17 mg (1.7% DV)
Folate: 5 mcg (1.3% DV)
Calcium: 11 mg (1.1% DV)

DV = Daily Value as established by the US Food and Drug Administration, based on a 2,000 calorie diet.


Recipe: Pickled Watermelon Rinds

Adapted from Bon Appétit


For an equally delicious condiment without the wait, use these ingredients to make watermelon rind chutney: increase sugar to 1 ½ cups, water to 1 cup, and finely mince the ginger. Bring all ingredients to a boil in a large pan, then simmer for 45-60 minutes until the rind is translucent and tender and the liquid reduces and thickens. Remove whole spices before serving.

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs of watermelon
  • 1 serrano chili, thinly sliced, seeds removed if desired
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2-star anise pods
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar

Directions:

  1. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the tough green outer rind from watermelon; discard.
  2. Slice watermelon into 1”-thick slices. Cut away all but 1/4” of flesh from each slice; reserve flesh for another use. Cut rind into 1” pieces for roughly 4 cups of the rind.
  3. Bring chili, ginger, star anise, salt, peppercorns, sugar, vinegar, and 1/2 cup of water to a boil in a large, non-reactive saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt.
  4. Add watermelon rind. Reduce heat and simmer until just tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, setting a small lid or plate directly on top of rind to keep submerged in brine, if needed.
  5. Transfer rind and liquid to an airtight container; cover and chill at least 12 hours.

Food as Medicine: Mango (Mangifera indica, Anacardiaceae)

History and Traditional Use

Range and Habitat

Mangifera indica (Anacardiaceae) is a tropical tree that grows from 33 feet to 131 feet in height and produces large, oval-shaped fruits that are red and gold when ripe, though some cultivars are green or yellow.1 The smooth-edged leaves of the mango tree are reddish when young, becoming dark green and shiny as they mature. The tree produces small pinkish-white flowers that precede the fruit.2,3 The mango fruit is a drupe, or stone fruit, containing a large single seed surrounded by fleshy pulp and a thin, leathery skin.4 The mango tree begins to bear fruit four to six years after planting and continues to produce fruit for about 40 years.3,4 Trees older than 10 years tend toward alternate or biennial bearing, producing fruit every other year.5

While the most commonly used part of the plant is the fruit, the mango tree has a variety of traditional uses that make use of the roots, peel, stem bark, leaves, flowers, and seed kernels. These parts typically contain greater amounts of bioactive compounds, including mangiferin, than the fruit.4 Belonging to the same plant family as the cashew (Anacardium occidentale) and pistachio (Pistacia vera), the mango is native to India and Burma, and has been cultivated since 2000 BCE.2 The mango was introduced to Africa about 1,000 years ago and to tropical America in the 19th century.1,2 Wild fruits have a minimal resemblance to the cultivated mangos, having a much smaller size and unpleasant turpentine-like taste. Currently, mangos are grown in tropical and warm temperate climates.3 India remains the largest producer, growing 65% of the world’s mango crop.5

Phytochemicals and Constituents

The macro- and micronutrient composition and bioactive compounds present in M. indica contribute to its many health benefits. Mango fruits are a rich source of vitamins A, B and C. Mangos are also a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber.3 Soluble fiber can help prevent cardiovascular disease and improve gastrointestinal health.

Mango is a source of many pharmacologically and medically important chemicals, including mangiferin, mangiferonic acid, hydroxy mangiferin, flavonoids, phenolic acids, and carotenes.6 Different parts of the plant have different chemical compositions. The bark, for example, contains catechins, amino acids, and phenolic and triterpenoid compounds.7,8 Due to these constituents, mango bark extract has shown antioxidant, immune system-enhancing, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal activities, which correspond to many of mango’s traditional medicinal uses.7 The xanthone mangiferin is found in many different plants across the Anacardiaceae family and shows promising results in the areas of antitumor, anti-diabetic, and anti-microbial actions.

The health benefits of the fruit pulp are due to its high concentration of antioxidant nutrients and phytochemicals, such as carotenoids. Carotenoids play an important role in protective health mechanisms against some forms of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and macular degeneration, as well as improving immune health.9 Specifically, mangos are high in beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A. Mango also contains smaller amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids important for maintaining eye health and preventing macular degeneration. These phytochemicals are antioxidants, meaning that they slow or prevent the oxidative process, thereby preventing or repairing damage to cells in the body.10

The polyphenols that have been identified in the mango fruit include gallic acid, gallotannins, quercetin, isoquercetin, mangiferin, ellagic acid, and beta-glucogallin. These polyphenols have powerful antioxidant activity as well as other potentially therapeutic effects. Gallic acid, for example, is known to have anti-inflammatory and antitumor activities, while ellagic acid has been found to exhibit antimutagenic, antiviral, and antitumor effects.4

The most biologically active compound that has been studied in the mango tree is mangiferin. Mangiferin is synthesized by the plant as a chemical defense compound.6,11 Plant parts that contain the highest amounts of mangiferin include the leaves, stem bark, heartwood, and roots. Currently, researchers are investigating potential methods of processing mango bark and peel into a palatable ingredient or food additive. Magneferin (not to be confused with the previously mentioned mangiferin) is one of a number of enzymes present in mangos that improves digestion. Others include catechol oxidase and lactase.3

Historical and Commercial Uses

Mangiferaindicia has been used in Ayurveda, India’s primary system of traditional medicine, for more than 4,000 years. The mango was thought to have aphrodisiacal properties and is still viewed as sacred today.3A variety of the plant’s parts are used as a paste or powder for cleaning the teeth, and the juice of the mango is considered a restorative tonic, as well as a treatment for heat stroke.6 Numerous parts of the mango tree are used in Ayurvedic medicine as an antiseptic, an astringent to tone lax tissues, a laxative, a diuretic, and to increase sweating, promote digestion, and expel parasitic worms or other internal parasites.12 The seeds have been used as an astringent and as a treatment for asthma. Fumes from the burning leaves are used as an inhalant to relieve hiccups and sore throats.6 The bark is used as an astringent in diphtheria and rheumatism (disorders of the joints and connective tissues), and the gum was used in dressings for cracked feet and for scabies (an infestation of the skin by the human itch mite [Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis]).

Current Ayurvedic practices use various parts of the mango for different ailments. For diarrhea, mango leaves are pounded together and taken with rice water.13 For nosebleeds, the juice of the mango seed is placed into the nostrils. For an enlarged spleen, ripe mango juice is consumed with honey. To treat gonorrhea, mango bark is pounded and added to milk and sugar. In some tropical countries, mango is actually used as meat tenderizer, due to the power of the proteolytic enzymes that break down proteins.3In traditional ethnoveterinary medicine, all parts of the mango are used to treat abscesses, broken horns, rabid dog bites, tumors, snakebites, stings, heat stroke, miscarriage, bacterial illness, blisters and wounds in the mouth, inflammation of the inner ear, colic, diarrhea, liver disorders, excessive urination, tetanus, and asthma.14

Among the Tikunas, an indigenous people of Brazil, Colombia, and Peru, a mango leaf decoction was used as a contraceptive and abortifacient. Reportedly, taking a cupful on two successive days during menstruation acted as a contraceptive, and taking it for three days caused abortion.11,15

Mango fruit is processed at two stages of maturity. Green fruit is used to make chutney, pickles, curries, and dehydrated products like dried mango, amchoor (raw mango powder), and panna (green mango beverage). Ripe fruit is processed into canned and frozen slices, pulp, concentrate, juices, nectar, jam, purée, cereal flakes, toffee, and various dried products.4

Modern Research

Studies indicate that M. indica possesses myriad therapeutic properties, including antidiabetic, antioxidant, antiviral, cardiotonic, hypotensive, and anti-inflammatory.6 Each of the mango’s parts — fruit, pulp, peel, seed, leaves, flowers, and bark — can be used therapeutically.

A 2000 study found that mango stem bark extract showed a powerful scavenging activity of hydroxyl radicals and acted as a chelator of iron.6 Although iron is an essential mineral, it is toxic in excessive amounts. Iron chelators could be an important approach to lessen iron-induced oxidative damage and prevent iron accumulation in diseases in which accumulation is prevalent, such as hemochromatosis, a metabolic disorder in which the body absorbs too much iron, and thalassemia, a rare, inherited blood disorder caused by a lack of hemoglobin, which results in fewer healthy red blood cells.4 This same study found a significant inhibitory effect on the degradation of brain cell membranes in an animal model, and prevented DNA damage caused by some chemotherapy treatments.6,16

Polyphenolic compounds and related bioactivity are higher in the mango peel than the fruit, and higher still in the leaves and stem bark.4 The bark is one of the main parts of the tree used for medicinal purposes. A standardized aqueous extract of M. indica stem bark called Vimang (LABIOFAM Entrepreneurial Group; La Habana, Cuba) has been developed in Cuba. This extract has shown antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties and has been used in many countries for the treatment of heavy menstrual bleeding, diarrhea, syphilis, diabetes, scabies, cutaneous infections, and anemia.4,7

Much of the current research looks at extracts of mango bark or seed. There is a limited amount of literature that looks into the consumption of the mango fruit itself. However, a 2011 study looked at the consumption of freeze-dried mango fruit and its effects on weight loss and glucose tolerance, compared to hypolipidemic and hypoglycemic drugs, in mice fed a high-fat diet.17 In the study, consumption of freeze-dried mango prevented the increase in fat mass and the percentage of body fat. Compared with controls, mice given the freeze-dried mango had improved glucose tolerance and lowered insulin resistance.

Functional and medicinal properties of the non-fruit portions of the mango provide promising data for future uses of the plant, and may allow for less waste of the non-edible parts of the mango. The mango peel, for example, constitutes about 15-20% of the mango fruit and typically is discarded prior to consuming the fruit. In commercial processing, the discarded peels become a wasteful by-product.18 A 2015 study conducted chemical analysis and determination of the bioactive compounds in a flour made from green mango peel.19 The mango peel flour had 54 g of total dietary fiber per 100 g of dry sample, compared to 1.8 g of total dietary fiber in wheat flour. The mango peel flour also contained 21.7 mg/g of total phenolic contents and 22.4 mg/g of total flavonoid contents.

The results of this study suggest that the mango peel flour exhibited functional properties similar to wheat flour, and could serve as an acceptable substitute in baked goods and other flour-containing foods. Dietary fiber in mango peel has been shown as a favorable source of high-quality polysaccharides due to its high starch, cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, and pectin content combined with its low fat content.18 In vitrostarch studies suggest low glycemic responses from mango peel fiber, which suggests potential use for diabetic individuals.

Mango kernel oil has recently attracted attention due to its unsaturated fatty acid composition.18 Mango kernel oil has been widely researched for its function as an antioxidant and antimicrobial agent due to its high polyphenolic content.4 The major phenolic compounds in mango seed kernels are (in order of decreasing concentration): tannins, vanillin, coumarin, cinnamic acid, ferulic acid, caffeic acid, gallic acid, and mangiferin, all providing antioxidant protection.

Health Considerations

Possibly explained by its distant relation to poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix, Anacardiaceae) and poison ivy (T. radicans), mango peel may be irritating to the skin,3 particularly to people who are highly sensitive to these plants. This is due to the presence of alk(en)ylresorcinols, a mixture of substances that can cause contact dermatitis to those who are allergic or sensitive to it.20 Alk(en)ylresorcinol is similar to urushiol, the toxic resin that causes an itchy rash in those who come into contact with poison ivy. These allergens are more prevalent in the peel than the flesh. In one study, four patients developed hives and eczematous rash after exposure to mangos or mango trees. Children and other persons with food allergies should take caution when handling and consuming mango. Although allergy to mango is infrequent, mango has been identified as an allergy-provoking food in some individuals with other food allergies.


Nutrient Profile21

Macronutrient Profile: (Per 1 cup mango fruit)

99 calories
1.35 g protein
24.7 g carbohydrate
0.63 g fat

Secondary Metabolites: (Per 1 cup mango fruit)

Excellent source of:
Vitamin C: 60.1 mg (100.2% DV)
Vitamin A: 1,785 IU (35.7% DV)

Very good source of:
Folate: 71 mcg (17.75% DV)
Dietary Fiber: 2.6 g (10.4% DV)
Vitamin B6: 0.2 mg (10% DV)

Good source of:
Vitamin K: 6.9 mcg (8.63% DV)
Potassium: 277 mg (7.9% DV)
Vitamin E: 1.48 mg (7.33% DV)
Niacin: 1.1 mg (5.5% DV)

Also provides:
Magnesium: 16 mg (4% DV)
Riboflavin: 0.06 mg (3.53% DV)
Thiamin: 0.05 mg (3.33% DV)
Phosphorus: 23 mg (2.3% DV)
Calcium: 18 mg (1.8% DV)
Iron: 0.26 mg (1.44% DV)

DV = Daily Value as established by the US Food and Drug Administration, based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Recipe: Mango and Watermelon Salad

Adapted from Mango.org22

Ingredients:

  • 2 large, ripe mangos, peeled, pitted, and diced
  • 1 cup watermelon, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 cup fresh arugula, washed and dried
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Directions:

  1. Combine mango, watermelon, onion, pepper, tomato, and arugula in a large bowl. Toss to combine.

  2. Whisk together remaining ingredients and taste, adjusting seasoning if necessary. Drizzle dressing over the salad, toss to

    combine,

    and serve.

References

  1. Van Wyk B-E. Food Plants of the World. Portland, OR: Timber Press; 2006.
  2. The National Geographic Society. Edible: An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Food Plants. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society; 2008.
  3. Murray M, Pizzorno J, Pizzorno L. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, NY: Atria Books; 2005.
  4. Masibo M, He Q. Mango bioactive compounds and related nutraceutical properties: A review. Food Rev Int. 2009;25:346-370.
  5. Morton JF. Mango. In: Morton JF. Fruits of Warm Climates. Miami, FL: J.F. Morton; 1987:221-239.
  6. Shah KA, Patel MB, Patel RJ, Parmar PK. Mangifera indica (Mango). Pharmacogn Rev. 2010;4(7):42-48.
  7. Wauthoz N, Balde A, Balde ES, Damme MV, Duez P. Ethnopharmacology of Mangifera indica L. bark and pharmacological studies of its main c-glucosylxanthone, mangiferin. Int J Biomed Pharma Sci. 2007;1(2):112-119.
  8. Hamid K, Algahtani A, Kim MS, et al. Tetracyclic triterpenoids in herbal medicines and their activities in diabetes and its complications. Curr Top Med Chem. 2015;15(23):2406-2430.
  9. Hewavitharana AK, Tan ZW, Shimada R, Shaw PN, Flanagan BM. Between fruit variability of the bioactive compounds, B-carotene and mangiferin, in mango. Nutrition and Dietetics. 2013;70:158-163.
  10. Johnson EJ. The role of carotenoids in human health. Nutr Clin Care. 2002;5(2):56-65.
  11. Schultes RE, Raffauf RF. The Healing Forest: Medicinal and Toxic Plants of the Northwest Amazonia.Portland, OR: Dioscorides Press; 1990.
  12. Johnson EJ. The role of carotenoids in human health. Nutr Clin Care. 2002;5(2):56-65.
  13. Amra (Mangifera indica) National R&D Facility for Rasayana website. Available here. Accessed May 19, 2016.
  14. Williamson EM. Major Herbs of Ayurveda. London, UK: Elsevier Science Limited; 2002.
  15. Duke JA, Vasquez R. Amazonian Ethnobotanical Dictionary. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1994.
  16. Martinez G, Delgado R, Perez G, Garrido G, Nunez Selles AJ, Leon OS. Evaluation of the in-vitroantioxidant activity of Mangifera indica L: extract (Vimang). Phytother Res. 2000;14:424–7.
  17. Lucas EA, Li W, Peterson SK, et.al. Mango modulates body fat and plasma glucose and lipids in mice fed a high-fat diet. Brit J Nutr. 2011;106:1495-1505.
  18. Tiwari BK, Brunton NP, Brennan CS. Handbook of Plant Food Phytochemicals: Sources, Stability and Extraction. West Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd; 2013.
  19. Abidin NSA, Mohamad SN, Jaafar MN. Chemical composition, antioxidant activity and functional properties of mango (Mangifera indica L. var Perlis Sunshine) peel flour. Appl Mech Mater. 2015(754-755):1065-1070.
  20. Knödler M, Reisenhauer K, Schieber A, Carle R. Quantitative determination of allergenic 5-Alk(en)ylresorcinols in mango (Mangifera indica L.) peel, pulp, and fruit products by high-performance liquid chromatography. J Agric Food Chem. 2009;57:3639-3644.
  21. Basic Report, 09176, Mangos, raw. Agricultural Research Service, USDA website. Available here. Accessed May 19, 2016.
  22. National Mango Board. Mango and watermelon salad. Mango.org website. Available here. Accessed May 18, 2016.