Many of my clients with PCOS have been told to avoid specific fruits. Usually, tropical fruits like mango and pineapple are mentioned because of the claim that they’re high in sugar.
As a dietitian, I see my clients feeling great about choosing fruit for a snack, and then someone comes along saying that particular fruit is “too high in sugar”. It’s frustrating!
I also can’t ignore how more often than not, the fruits that they’re told to avoid are the ones we see the most in Latin American food.
If you’ve been confused by messages like this one, this blog post is for you.
We’ll talk about if mango is actually too high in sugar, how it can benefit PCOS, and ways to incorporate mango into a PCOS-friendly meal plan.
Let’s jump in!
What is PCOS?
PCOS is a hormonal imbalance that occurs in the ovaries. PCOS is common; up to 15% of women have PCOS.
This condition is one of the leading causes of infertility, and is associated with insulin resistance.
Nutritional Value of Mangoes
Mangoes, like most fruits, are a rich source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
A 1-cup serving of mango provides* (1):
- 25 g Carbohydrates
- 2.6 g Fiber (10% daily value)
- 277 mg Potassium (10% daily value)
- 60 mg Vitamin C (80% daily value)
- 0.2 mg Vitamin B6 (15% daily value)
- 0.9 mg Vitamin E (6% daily value)
(*estimated daily values are based off the average needs for an adult woman)
Health Benefits of Mango for PCOS
We know mangoes are a healthy fruit, but is mango good for PCOS patients?
One factor that can contribute to PCOS is oxidative stress (damage to cells and tissues by free radicals) (2). Women with PCOS tend to have higher markers of such damage and lower levels of antioxidants (plant compounds that can fight oxidative stress).
For this reason, antioxidants may be especially beneficial for people with PCOS (3).
This is likely due to women with PCOS needing and using more vitamin C to combat oxidative stress, rather than not eating enough vitamin C.
As we saw above, mangoes are a great source of Vitamin C! Mangoes are also high in other antioxidants like Vitamin A and quercetin (6).
Like oxidative stress, inflammation tends to be higher in women with PCOS (7).
This is why anti-inflammatory foods are so important to include in a PCOS-friendly diet, and mango can help with that!
Vitamin C helps fight inflammation, in addition to oxidation. But that’s not the only anti-inflammatory compound found in mangoes!
The most common reason people with PCOS have been told to avoid mango is because of the carbohydrate and sugar content.
This is because it’s common for people with PCOS to have insulin resistance (meaning cells don’t respond well to insulin, leading to high blood sugar and insulin levels).
Because of this, it’s common to advise PCOS patients to avoid high-sugar or high-carbohydrate foods.
If you have PCOS, you may have also heard about a low-glycemic index diet. The recommendation here is to eat foods that don’t raise your blood sugar as much.
However, the truth is more complex than this. While a lower glycemic diet can be beneficial for PCOS, it’s not the only diet that can help PCOS (10, 11) . Additionally, it may be more important to think about the total glycemic load of your entire meal than the glycemic index of any one food.
In short, while mangoes do have carbohydrates and sugar, they can still be part of a PCOS-friendly diet. This can be achieved by building an overall balanced plate with a variety of foods (more on that below).
How to eat
Mangoes are a source of carbohydrates and sugar. But this doesn’t make them unhealthy. Healthy carbs are carbs that are also fiber sources, and mangoes provide almost 3 grams of fiber in a serving!
But mangoes alone don’t make a complete plate. Mangoes are already providing carbohydrates and fiber to your meal, so you’ll also want to add some protein, fat, and maybe even some non-starchy vegetables.
Here are some example meals that combine mango with protein and fat (and sometimes vegetables):
- Fish tacos with avocado and mango salsa
- Greek yogurt bowl with chopped mango
- Protein smoothie: mango, milk, baby spinach, and protein powder
- Chicken burrito bowl with grilled mango
Another way you can enjoy the benefits of mango without the potential impact on your blood sugar levels is to pay attention to serving size.
There is no one recommended serving size of mango for everyone. Everyone’s body and tolerance for carbohydrates is different. However, if you’re not sure, a ¾ cup serving of mango is a good place to start.
I recommend you consult with your personal dietitian to get a better sense of the best serving size for you.
While you can simply eat mango plain if that’s what you wish, here are some simple recipes using mango:
The most important thing to remember is that there are no foods you need to completely eliminate in PCOS, especially fruits.
Mango is a great source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds like fiber and Vitamin C, which can be beneficial for PCOS.
It’s easy to build PCOS-friendly meals including mango by adding other food groups like protein, fat, and vegetables to your plate.
Understanding food groups can make planning PCOS-friendly meals so much easier. That’s why I created a resource that helps Latinas plan PCOS-friendly meals using their favorite heritage foods.
Check out my free PCOS Food List for Latinas below!