You can bite into an apple to eat it, but you probably don't eat a mango the same way. The peel of a mango fruit is tough, fibrous, and bitter-tasting. Yet, what if you do eat the peel? Is it good for you? Will it hurt you?
Although mango skin contains many healthful compounds, you might wish to skip the peel if you are sensitized to urushiol, the active chemical in poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Some people get dermatitis from handling or eating mangoes. In more extreme cases, exposure can cause difficulty breathing. The peel contains more urushiol than the fruit, so it's more likely to produce a reaction.
Even if you have never had a reaction from touching poison ivy or eating mango skin, you need to be aware of the risk. You could have been exposed to urushiol-containing plants many times or all your life and suddenly become sensitive.
The other potential health risk from eating mango peel comes from pesticides. Since most people, at least in the United States, tend to remove the skin of the fruit, the fruit is often sprayed. If you wish to eat the skin, your best bet is to eat organic mangoes. Otherwise, be sure to wash the fruit before eating it to minimize pesticide residue.
Although mango peel causes problems for people sensitized to urushiol, the skin is rich in mangiferin, norathyriol, and resveratrol, powerful antioxidants that might confer protection against cancer and other diseases.
Mangoes are high in fiber-especially if you eat the peel-as well as vitamin A and vitamin C. A 2008 study conducted by Oklahoma State University found eating mangoes might help control blood sugar and cholesterol and reduce body fat. The team found that eating mangoes reduces levels of the hormone leptin, a chemical that regulates energy consumption and storage and helps regulate appetite.
The potential weight loss benefits are due primarily to compounds found in the skin of the mango, not the fleshy fruit. Research conducted by the University of Queensland School of Pharmacy found that mango peel extract inhibited adipogenesis, or fat cell formation. Although there are many different types of mangoes, two varieties scored particularly well with respect to fat inhibition: Nam Doc Mai and Irwin.
Peel extract from the Kensington Pride variety had the opposite effect, actually promoting adipogenesis. The researchers noticed that the effects were similar to those seen from resveratrol, a well-known antioxidant found in red wine and grapes.
- Taing, Meng-Wong et al. "Mango fruit peel and flesh extracts affect adipogenesis in 3T3-L1 cells." Food & Function.
- NCSI Research Finds Health Benefits in Mangos. Oklahoma State University Department of Nutritional Sciences.