Who wouldn’t want to take in extra antioxidants with every bite? When it comes to the skin of mangoes, it turns out it’s a little more complicated than that.
So much can be said about mangoes. They taste delicious, add much nourishment to your diet, and—these days—you can buy them from every decent grocery store. But here’s a good one for you: are you supposed to peel them, or can you eat them with the skin?
Whichever way you look at it, this is a good question. And as with all good questions, the answer is both a “yes” and a “no.” To help you get to the right answer for you, let’s take a look at what you need to know.
Mango skin is generally edible and has been shown to be a rich source of the antioxidant mangiferin. However, you should be careful when eating it, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. Mango skin also contains urushiol, an allergen that can cause dermatitis in some people.
Mango Skin Is Good For You
A study conducted at several Korean universities concluded that mango skins are a source of various antioxidants and can serve as a source of phenols, which can improve the body’s ability to recognize and fight cancer cells.
And we’re not talking about a tiny amount of beneficial compounds, either. In the same study, the peel of the mango was found to have stronger antioxidant and anticancer properties than the pulp.
An article published in the online journal Lipids in Health and Disease points to the antioxidant, antimicrobial, antidiabetic, antiallergic, anticancer, hypocholesterolemic, and immunomodulatory properties of mangiferin, an antioxidant found in abundance in mango skin.
But Beware: It Can Cause a Rash
Ever wondered what mangoes and poison ivy have in common?
The oily mixture of organic compounds known as urushiol. Not everyone knows that mangoes and poison ivy come from the same plant family, the cashew family (as the name implies, cashews and pistachios also belong to this plant family).
It turns out that eating the skin of mangoes—especially if the mangoes in question are abundant in urushiols and you are particularly sensitive to them—can cause itchy skin and a rash known as “contact dermatitis.”
Urushiol is mainly found in the sap of the mango tree. However, it can also be found in high concentrations in the skin and the areas of the fruit near the skin, according to Los Angeles, CA, allergy specialist Dr. Alan Khadavi.
So, Should You Eat Mango Skin?
There are two sides to the answer.
First, there’s the question of taste. Some say mango skin is an acquired taste because it’s tart when the fruit is young and gets bitter as the fruit matures.
When the mango is unripe, its skin is still green and tender. As the fruit ripens, the skin becomes tough, turns yellow, orange, red, and/or purple, and tastes more on the bitter side.
But whether you peel the skin off mangoes or eat them with the skin on is not just a matter of preference—it’s really a cultural thing.
If you grew up in a culture where the mango peel is edible or used as an ingredient, as we will see in a moment, it only comes natural for you to eat it. And if you didn’t, the first thing that comes to mind when you take a mango out of the fridge is to remove the peel so you can eat it.
In Living Wages Around the World: Manual for Measurement, economists Richard Anker and Martha Anker highlight that Kenyans eat mangoes whole. Why throw a part of the fruit away when it’s really a source of valuable nutrients for the body? In contrast, most of the rest of the world peels the skin.
And in The Wonders of Nutrition: Roadmaps to Recovery, pediatrician Ang Poon Liat writes that the Thais eat a raw, green mango salad that resembles papaya salad. The salad, a good recipe for which is given by Darlene Schmidt of The Spruce Eats, is prepared with shredded coconut, green mangoes, bean sprouts, cilantro, spring onions, chilies, peanuts, and cooked chicken or shrimp.
Okay, we’ve established that mango skin can be really good for you, even though it isn’t necessarily the tastiest thing on earth. But we’ve also established that eating it can make your skin itchy and, in extreme cases, cause a rash. So if you do want to eat it, eat it in small bites and tread lightly.