Everyone knows what a mango is, but have you ever heard of a mangosteen? You’re forgiven if you haven’t, as this Southeast Asian fruit was banned in the U.S. until October 2007 because it was though to harbor Asian fruit flies. Thankfully, however, this health-boosting fruit is no longer on the ban list, and that’s a good thing because it’s been shown to have some pretty amazing benefits.
Also known as the “queen of fruits,” mangosteen has been used to naturally treat a wide variety of health concerns for centuries by the people of Southeast Asia. Benefits include being high in fiber yet low in calories, as well as having a good serving of vitamin C.
It’s always been popular in Southeast Asia, but why has it been gaining popularity around the world and is now commonly sold as a health supplement? Well, we now know it not only contains an impressive array of essential vitamins and minerals, but it also contains a group of phytochemicals called xanthones.
Research shows that this tropical fruit can boost the immune system, decrease inflammation and even fight cancer. One Brazilian study even showed that an extract of mangosteen had both antimicrobial and anti-tumor abilities and therefore has therapeutic potential in treating infectious diseases as well as cancer. (1)
7 Amazing Mangosteen Benefits
1. Fights Cancer
Mangosteens have been the focus of many anticancer studies, and results have been very positive to date support their standing as cancer-fighting foods. The mangosteen fruit itself is said to contain at least 20 known xanthones, and the majority of those are found in the fruit wall or pericarp. Findings from research conducted in 2008 by the Gifu International Institute of Biotechnology in Japan showed that one xanthone from mangosteen in particular, known as alpha-Mangostin, was found to have a cancer-preventive effect on animal subjects. This study concluded that xanthones should be used as an agent for cancer prevention and as cancer treatment in combination with other therapies. (2)
A 2012 study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine also showed that the xanthone extracts had anti-colon cancer effects in vitro and in vivo, while another study conducted by the Department of Pharmacy Practice at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy indicated the mangosteen can successfully slow the progress of prostate cancer. (3, 4)
The cancer-fighting evidence doesn’t end there. A study published in 2016 in the International Journal of Oncology looked at the anticancer activity of mangosteen’s alpha-mangostin on human breast cancer cells. The research indicated that α-mangostin induced programmed cell death of cancer cells, and it was concluded that α-mangostin may be used as a food supplement as well as a potential therapeutic compound for breast cancer. (5)
Skin cancers are often resistant to conventional chemotherapy, but mangosteen has shown ability to naturally fight cancers of the skin. One study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology examined the anti-skin cancer properties of crude ethanol extract of mangosteen pericarp on human squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. The mangosteen extract showed strong anti-skin cancer effects on both skin cancer cell lines, showing its potential as skin cancer natural treatment. (6)
Xanthones from mangosteen extracts have also been shown to be natural chemopreventive agents and have potential as anticancer drugs. Xanthones from the pericarp, whole fruit, heartwood and leaf of mangosteen are known to possess a wide spectrum of pharmacologic properties, including antioxidant, anti-tumor, anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral activities. The ability of xanthones to both prevent and treat cancer have been demonstrated in different stages of cancer formation, including initiation, promotion and progression. The xanthones have also shown their ability to control cancer cell division and growth, programmed cell death, inflammation, and cancer metastasis. (7)
2. Combats Inflammation and Allergies
Scientific research has shown that extracts of mangosteen have both anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory properties. One study specifically showed that these extracts worked better at inhibiting pro-allergy prostaglandin than an anti-allergy drug used in Japan. The extracts proved to be potent and successful inhibitors of the release of histamine and prostaglandin, which are both associated with inflammation in the human body as well as allergies. (8) Alpha- and gamma-mangostins are two specific bioactive substances found in mangosteen that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. (9)
3. Lowers Blood Sugar
Mangosteen can be a helpful way to prevent and keep diabetes under control because it helps maintain normal blood sugar levels. It has been shown to act as an alpha-amylase inhibitor, which means that it inhibits enzymes that cause starches to break down into glucose A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that the fruit contains compounds that were found to be comparable to that of acarbose, a prescription drug used for type 2 diabetes symptoms. (10)
Mangosteen’s blood sugar-lowering ability is said to come from its tannic acid and even more so from its oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPCs). OPCs are naturally occurring plant metabolites that are widely available in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, flowers and bark. In addition to being good for blood sugar, OPCs are primarily known for their antioxidant activity. They’ve also been reported to demonstrate antibacterial, antiviral, anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic and vasodilatory actions. (11)
4. Improves Acne
Mangosteen has been shown to be an effective home remedy for acne. One study out of Thailand compared mangosteen to other plants and determined that it possessed the most significant antioxidant activity and reduced the production of reactive oxygen species, two factors that affect the growth of acne. Garcinia mangostana was not only highly effective at scavenging free radicals, but it was also able to suppress the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines that contribute to acne formation. (12)
5. Boosts Heart Health
Increased oxidative stress and a deficit in antioxidants are two factors that are believed to play a role in heart attack occurrence. Oxidative stress is essentially an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects through neutralization by antioxidants.
A study conducted by the Centre for Advanced Studies in Botany at the University of Madras in India on animal subjects showed the cardioprotective effect of alpha-mangostin, a xanthone derivative from mangosteen. The fact that mangosteen is high in xanthones, which are extremely powerful antioxidants, may be helpful in reducing heart attack risk. (13)
6. Bolsters Immunity
Looking to fend off colds and flus or just generally boost your immune system? Then mangosteen is definitely a fruit to start eating. It’s packed with xanthones, which support many of vital functions of the body, including immune health. It’s also a good source of vitamin C, which helps scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals that can cause illness. Vitamin C also has been shown to stimulate both the production and function of leukocytes, the white blood cells that protect the body against both infectious disease and foreign invaders. (14)
7. Aids Digestion
The high-fiber food, this fruit makes an excellent source for digestive health. Consuming fresh mangosteen fruit can help ward off constipation and all of the digestive distress that goes along with this common health concern. By consuming the fiber found in this tasty fruit, you also increase your intake of prebiotics, which help probiotics flourish inside your intestines. When you take of care of your digestive system, you can help the health of your entire body so don’t underestimate the importance of consuming fiber-rich foods like mangosteen on a daily basis. (15)
Mangosteen Plant Origin and Nutrition Facts
What is a mangosteen? Mangosteen, or Garcinia mangostana, is a tropical tree from the Clusiaceae family, which is native to Southeast Asia. This tree produces tart yet sweet fruit that’s deep purple when ripe. Under favorable conditions, the slow-growing mangosteen tree can reach a height of 31 feet, and individual trees have been reported to yield more than 1,000 fruits in a season!
The tree itself has thick, dark green, glossy leaves and large, rose-pink flowers. These trees generally don’t grow well outside of the tropics. The fruits are the size of a small orange, round or flattened on the ends. Mangosteens have a thick, hard, deep red rind surrounding snow-white flesh, which is in segments resembling those of a mandarin orange.
The purple mangosteen, known simply as mangosteen, is a fruit easy to love with its sweet and tangy taste. What does it taste like exactly? It has a similar flavor to lychee fruit but is sweeter and so delicate that it melts in your mouth like ice cream.
One serving size (100 grams) of fresh mangosteen contains about: (16)
- 63 calories
- 15.6 grams carbohydrates
- 0.5 gram protein
- 0.4 gram fat
- 5.1 gram fiber
- 7.2 milligrams vitamin C (12 percent DV)
- 0.36 milligram iron (2 percent DV)
- 50 IU vitamin A (1 percent DV)
- 10 milligrams calcium (1 percent DV)
Mangosteen History and Interesting Facts
Highly valued for its juicy, delicate texture and slightly astringent flavor, the mangosteen has been cultivated in Java, Sumatra, Indochina and the southern Philippines from antiquity. It’s a common dooryard tree in Indonesia, and in Myanmar (Burma), it’s called men-gu.
Seedlings take eight to 15 years to bear fruit, and the trees usually produce good crops only in alternate years. The number of petals on the bottom of a mangosteen indicates how many sections it contains inside.
The mangosteen is said to have made its introduction into the Western Hemisphere when it was first grown in English greenhouses in 1855. The mangosteen then went on to became established in several of the West Indian Islands (most notably Jamaica) and later on the mainland in Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama.
In the 1800s, Queen Victoria is said to have offered knighthood to anyone who brought her fresh mangosteens from Asia.
Long illegal in the U.S. due to the belief that they harbored the Asian fruit fly, mangosteens are no longer contraband. The ban was lifted in October 2007.
How to Pick, Open and Use Mangosteen
Sadly, fresh mangosteens aren’t always readily available in the U.S., but if you’re going to find them, your best bet is an Asian market. It’s easier to find this unique fruit frozen or canned in syrup (yuck!). You can also order fresh mangosteen online, but it’s a bit pricey.
When you do have the option to pick whole, fresh fruits, opt for those with a firm, deep purple outer rind, which means it’s ripe. Optimal mangosteens have healthy-looking green caps and a glossy shine on their outer skins. Avoid mangosteens that have cracks with juices oozing out or hardened beads of yellow resin. If you open a mangosteen and it has a yellow section, it will taste very bitter. You ideally want aril sections inside that are opaque white and firm, not yellowish or translucent.
These tropical fruits are not difficult to open. Simply score the outer rind with a serrated knife along the center line of the fruit, trying not to slice through to the pulp. Next, twist off the top half and the edible sections of the fruit are ready for eating inside. Be careful not to let any juice from the purple rind stain your clothes because it can be difficult to wash off.
Mangosteen is also readily available at health stores and online as a super fruit supplement in various forms, including capsule, powder and liquid mangosteen juice. One variety of the juice called XANGO® Juice is composed of the whole mangosteen fruit plus other fruit juices. According to the company website, XANGO® Juice is said to improve intestinal health, immune function and joint health.
If mangosteen isn’t eaten raw or in juice form, then it’s most commonly added to smoothie recipes for a strong punch of nutritional benefits. If you’re opting for the juice then you could juice the white inner sections of the fruit yourself or buy the juice pre-made. You could also try using fresh mangosteen in savory dishes.
I highly suggest trying one of these super healthy and refreshing recipes:
- Mangosteen Cucumber Smoothie
- Mangosteen Apple Smoothie
- Strawberry Mangosteen Smoothie
- Bounce Back Smoothie — this one contains mangosteen powder, goji berry powder and camu camu powder
Mangosteen fruit segments also go well with other fresh fruits like like papaya, watermelon, pineapple and grapes. A fruit salad combining all or some of these fruits makes for a very tasty and very healthy dessert.
Potential Side Effects and Caution
If you’re eating fresh mangosteen fruit, just be aware that some sections might have hard, bitter seeds that you’ll need to spit out.
Always talk with your doctor before using any super fruit supplement if you have health concerns. Taking mangosteen might increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders. Due to its possible ability to slow blood clotting, you should stop taking mangosteen two weeks before any surgery.
If you’re pregnant or breast-feeding, there has not been a lot of reliable information to say whether using mangosteen as a supplement is completely safe or not, so stay on the safe side and avoid supplemental forms of this tropical fruit.
- This Southeast Asian fruit was banned in the U.S. until October 2007 because it was though to harbor Asian fruit flies. Thankfully, however, this health-boosting fruit is no longer on the ban list, and that’s a good thing because it’s been shown to have some pretty amazing benefits.
- Mangosteens have been shown to fight cancer, combat inflammation and allergies, lower blood sugar, improve acne, boost heart health, bolster immunity, and aid digestion.
- Avoid mangosteens that have cracks with juices oozing out or hardened beads of yellow resin. If you open a mangosteen and it has a yellow section, it will taste very bitter. You ideally want aril sections inside that are opaque white and firm, not yellowish or translucent.
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