Mangoes are a delicious tropical fruit that are enjoyed around the world. However, many people following low-carb or ketogenic diets may wonder if mangoes can be included as part of their eating plan. This article will examine if mangoes can be part of a low-carb diet by looking at their carb content, glycemic index, and potential health benefits. Quick answer: Mangoes do contain carbohydrates and natural sugar, so they are not considered a low-carb food. However, mangoes can be incorporated into a low-carb diet in moderation and when accounted for in daily carb intake. Enjoying mangoes occasionally may provide important nutrients and satisfaction when craving sweeter foods.
What are Mangoes?
Mangoes are a sweet, tropical stone fruit that grow on evergreen trees originally native to South and Southeast Asia. There are many different varieties of mangoes that range in shape, size, color, flavor, texture, and nutritional profile. Some common types include:
- Haden – Bright red skin, sweet and fiber-rich flesh
- Ataulfo – Small, oval shape with golden yellow skin and soft flesh
- Francis – Large, oval shape with bright yellow skin
- Keitt – Green skin that ripens to yellow, very sweet flesh
- Kent – Greenish-yellow skin, rich and spicy flesh
Mangoes can be enjoyed fresh or used to make juices, smoothies, desserts, salsas, chutneys and more. They have a sweet, tropical flavor with notes of peach, pineapple and apricot. Mangoes contain a large, flat seed in the center that is typically not eaten. One mango weighs approximately 336 grams or 12 ounces.
Nutrition Facts of Mangoes
When examining if a food is low in carbohydrates, it’s important to look at the nutrition facts:
Per 1 cup diced mango (165 grams)
Mangoes are high in natural sugar with about 24 grams per cup. They contain 28 grams total carbohydrates per cup.
On a standard 2,000 calorie diet, the recommended daily intake of carbohydrates is between 225-325 grams. That means one cup of mango would provide approximately 8-12% of your total daily carbohydrate intake.
The total carbohydrates and high sugar content mean mangoes are not a low carb food choice. However, the amount of net carbohydrates is lowered slightly by the 2.6 grams of fiber per cup.
Glycemic Index of Mangoes
The glycemic index (GI) measures how quickly a food causes increases in blood sugar. Low GI foods (55 or less) are digested and absorbed slower, causing a more gradual rise in blood sugar. High GI foods (70 or more) are digested quickly and lead to spikes in blood sugar.
Mangoes have a moderate glycemic index of 51. This means they will cause a more gradual rise in blood sugar compared to high GI foods like white bread or rice. The fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals in mangoes help slow down digestion.
This moderate glycemic response means mangoes may be a better fruit choice for low carb diets compared to high GI options like pineapple, watermelon, or dried fruits.
However, portion size will still be important when watching carbohydrate intake. Consuming large amounts of even moderate GI foods can affect blood sugar regulation. Spreading mango into smaller portions throughout the day is best for controlling blood sugar on a low-carb eating plan.
Potential Health Benefits
While mangoes should be enjoyed in moderation on a low-carb diet, they can provide many beneficial nutrients and compounds:
Vitamins & Minerals
Mangoes are high in vitamin C, providing 76% of the Reference Daily Intake in just one cup. They also contain decent amounts of folate, vitamin A, copper, and potassium. The vitamins and minerals in mangoes support immune function, bone health, vision, and more.
With 2.6 grams of fiber per cup, mangoes can help improve digestive health and satisfaction after eating. The fiber in mangoes can also help slow absorption of sugars into the bloodstream.
Mangoes contain certain plant compounds and polyphenols that have antioxidant properties. These include quercetin, astragalin, fisetin, gallic acid, and methylgallat. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress in the body.
Mangoes contain enzymes like amylase and lactase that aid in digestion. The enzyme bromelain found in mangoes has anti-inflammatory effects that may benefit conditions like arthritis.
So while mangoes are not low enough in carbs to be considered a staple food on low-carb diets, enjoying them occasionally may provide important health and nutritional benefits.
Incorporating Mangoes into a Low-Carb Diet
Here are some tips for incorporating mangoes into a low-carb eating plan:
– Limit mango to about 1/2 – 1 cup portion per day and account for the carbohydrates
– Combine mango with lower carb foods like plain Greek yogurt or cottage cheese
– Add small amounts of mango to a salad with greens, chicken, avocado and vinaigrette
– Blend mango into a smoothie with coconut milk, protein powder, and healthy fats
– Mix diced mango into salsa, slaws, or chili for a flavor pop
– Freeze mango chunks to use instead of ice cream for a cool, sweet treat
– Dehydrate mangoes into chips or add to trail mixes in small amounts
– Use mango sparingly to top full-fat yogurt, oatmeal, chia pudding, or coconut milk yogurt
– Puree mango into a chutney to accompany curry dishes or baked chicken
– Grill mango slices or kebabs along with meat or tofu as part of a dish
The key is sticking within your allowed daily carb range and being mindful of portion sizes. When eaten in moderation, mangoes can be incorporated into an otherwise low-carb way of eating.
Mango Alternatives for Low-Carb Diets
If you want to limit mangoes or prefer an option with less sugar, some alternatives include:
Berries like strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries have only around 15 grams net carbs per cup. They offer antioxidants without as much sugar.
Honeydew, cantaloupe, and watermelon have less sugar and carbs compared to mango. Watermelon has just 11 grams net carbs per cup.
With only 15 grams net carbs per cup, starfruit (or carambola) may be a more low-carb friendly tropical option.
Both coconut meat and coconut milk contain medium chain triglycerides that may support ketones. Unsweetened coconut has just 5 grams net carbs per cup.
Adding lemon or lime juice and zest can provide bright flavor without added carbs. They contain only about 3 grams net carbs per fruit.
Avocados have 2 grams net carbs per serving and provide healthy fats. Mash some avocado for a creamy, low-carb substitution.
So if you are monitoring carbs closely, these fruits can typically be enjoyed more freely as part of a low-carb eating plan.
The Bottom Line
Mangoes are not considered a low-carb food, with 28 grams total carbohydrates and 24 grams sugar per cup. However, enjoying mangoes occasionally in proper portions can be part of an overall low-carb diet. Mangoes provide important nutrients and compounds that support health, and they can satisfy a craving for something sweet.
When eaten in moderation and accounted for, mangoes can fit into a low-carb lifestyle. Keep portions around 1/2 – 1 cup per day and pair mangoes with low-carb foods like proteins, healthy fats, and non-starchy vegetables. Consider lower sugar fruits like berries if you want a regular part of your diet.
While mangoes are not off limits, being mindful of carb counts and portion sizes is key. This allows you to reap the nutritional benefits of mangoes while maintaining low carbohydrate intake.