How to grow mamey?

How to Grow a Mamey Tree AKA Sapote


If you’ve never heard of the mamey fruit, you’re not alone! This tropical fruit is not well known in North America, but it is a very popular tree especially in the Caribbean. The mamey fruit, also known as mamey sapote, or just sapote, is a round, brown fruit that is about 4-8 inches across. It’s extremely aromatic with an orange colored flesh that tastes like an apricot or raspberry. To me personally, the mamey fruit tastes more like a sweet potato!

The tree looks a lot like a magnolia tree and can reach up to 75 feet in height. Looking to learn how to grow a mamey tree? If so, you need to live in a tropical or near tropical region in order for this tree to grow! The mamey fruit cannot sustain cold temperatures and will die off quickly if exposed to cold.

Additionally, the mamey fruit does not travel well either, and that is the reason you probably won’t see it in stores either! But next time you head South, do ask the locals where you could get your hands on a mamey fruit or sapote – you won’t regret trying this exotic fruit!

Mamey Fruit: Where Does it Come From and What is It?

Mamey fruits are native to the areas of the Caribbean, Central America, Northern South America, and the West Indies. Surprisingly, the mamey tree is rarely planted and grown for cultivation, but is rather just planted for landscape purposes. It is usually just found growing naturally along the sides of the roads in the Caribbean.

Mamey trees, Mammea Americana, is also sometimes called Sapote or Mammee, Mamey de Santo Domingo, Abricote, and Abricot d’Amerique. It is part of the Gutifferae family and related to the mangosteen. The mamey fruit is also sometimes easily confused with the sapote or mamey colorado, called just mamey in Cuba, or with the African mamey, M. Africana.

These trees are usually grown as an ornamental evergreen or to protect against the wind and provide shade. You will usually see mamey trees as ornamental trees in Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Although it is sporadically cultivated in French Guiana, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Surinam, Guyana, and Northern Brazil. According to the USDA, mamey seeds were brought from the Bahamas to the United States, more specifically Southern Florida in 1919.

The flesh of the mamey fruit is usually eaten raw, added to salads, boiled and/or cooked with sugar or syrup, and can even be made into wine. Additional uses of the mamey fruit include ice cream, sherbet, preserves, drinks, pies, tarts, and cakes.

The mamey fruit is usually an oblong shaped fruit that is round, and about 4-8 inches in length…similar to an avocado or a sweet potato it physically appearance. The skin is leathery and will usually ripen once off the tree.

The mamey tree closely resembles a magnolia tree and can reach heights of up to 75 feet. Its dark and dense foliage is around 8 inches long and 4 inches wide. The tree will usually bloom 4 to 6 very fragrant, white petal blooms and orange stems. The flowers of the mamey tree can be male, female, or hermaphrodite, and and be on the same or different tree. Flowers of the mamey fruit can bloom during and after fruiting.

How to Grow a Mamey Tree – Gardening Guide

Growing Mamey:

  • As mentioned above, if you’re interested in growing mamey trees, you need to live in a tropical climate.
  • You can also grow a mamey tree in a greenhouse. Do keep in mind that it grows quite tall so you’ll need lots of room.
  • The mamey tree is not too picky about the kind of soil you plant it in. Seeds must be propagated though.
  • The seeds will take about two months to germinate.
  • Cuttings or graftings can be used as well.
  • Water the seedling on a regular basis and make sure it’s in a sunny spot.
  • As long as your mamey tree is in a sunny and warm spot, it doesn’t need much care.
  • The tree will take about 6-10 years to bear fruit.

Harvesting Mamey:

  • The mamey fruit is ready for harvest at different times, depending on where you live.
  • For example, in Barbados, the mamey fruit is ready for harvest in April. In the Bahamas, it is ready for harvest in May through July.
  • The fruit is ripe when a yellowing of the skin appears.

So now that you know how to grow a mamey tree, it’s time to plant!

Happy Planting!


Scientific name
Pouteria sapota (Jacq.) H.E. Moore & Stearn
Common names
Sapota, zapote, zapote colorado, zapote mamey, lava-zapote, zapotillo, mamey sapote, mamee sapote, mamee zapote, mamey colorado, mamey rojo, mammee or mammee apple or red sapote. In El Salvador, it is known as zapote grande, in Colombia as zapote de carne; in Cuba, it is mamey, which tends to confuse it with Mammea americana L., a quite different fruit widely known by that name. The usual name in Panama is mamey de la tierra; in Haiti, sapotier jaune d’oeuf, or grand sapotillier; in Guadeloupe, sapote à creme; in Martinique, grosse sapote; in Jamaica, it is marmalade fruit or marmalade plum; in Nicaragua, it may be called guaicume; in Mexico, chachaas or chachalhaas or tezonzapote; in Malaya and the Philippines, chico-mamei, or chico-mamey 3
P. mammosa (L.) Cronquist; Lucuma mammosa Gaertn.; Achradelpha mammosa Cook; Vitellaria mammosa Radlk.; Calocarpum mammosum Pierre; C. sapota Merrill; Sideroxylon sapota Jacq. 3
Green sapote P. viridis Cronq.; sapodilla Manilkara zapota; satin leaf Chrysophyllum oliviforme; caimito C. cainito; abiu P. caimito
Mexico and Central America lowlands 5
USDA hardiness zones
Fruit; landscape specimen
40 ft (12.2 m) in Florida; may exceed 60 feet (18.3 m) in more tropical regions 5
Large spreading canopy
Irregular; spreading and open
Plant habit
Large, erect to spreading trees; thick central trunk; few large limbs 5
Growth rate
Short, stout trunk; thick branches; severed twigs exude sticky latex
Pruning requirement
After harvest, trees should be pruned keeping the tree 12-15 ft (3.7-4.6 m)
Large, up to 12 in. (30.5 cm) long, 4in. (10.2 cm) wide; underside is lighter green or brownish; clustered at the end of small branches 5
Small, perfect, whitish, almost sessile flowers are produced abundantly along small branches 1/2-2 in. (1.3-5.1 cm), and tend to cluster towards the ends of the stems 5
Large berry, ovoid to ellipsoid; 3-8 in. (7.6-20.3 cm); pulp salmon pink to red, soft, smooth; skin thick, woody, russet brown scruffy surface; will take a year to mature 4
May through October depending on cultivar
USDA Nutrient Content pdf
Light requirement
Full sun
Soil tolerances
Grows well in a wide variety of well-drained soils, from heavy clays to the limestone and sandy soils of Florida 5
pH preference
Prefer a pH of about 6.0-7.0 but they have been known to tolerate quite high alkaline soils up to 8.4 1
Drought tolerance
Intolerant of prolonged drought; even a short dry spell may induce shedding of leaves
Aerosol salt tolerance
Can take a little salt wind, but should not be planted on open exposed areas close to the
ocean 3
Cold tolerance
Young specimens are highly cold-sensitive; mature trees can withstand 28° F (-2.2° C)
Plant spacing
20-30 ft (6.1-9.1 m)
Invasive potential
Not a problem species (un-documented)
Pest resistance
Few insects attack the tree, sugarcane rootstalk borer is a potential threat; anthracnose is not usually an important problem in Florida 5
Known hazard
The milky sap of the tree is highly irritant to the eyes and caustic and vesicant on the skin; the leaves are reportedly poisonous 5
Reading Material
Mamey Sapote Growing in the Florida Home Landscape, University of Florida pdf 9 pages
Sapote, Fruits of Warm Climates
Sapote, Neglected Crops
The Mamey Sapote in Florida, Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia
Cultivation of the Mamey Sapote and Green Sapote, Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia
Mamey Sapote, Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia
The Mamey Sapote in South Florida, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
The word “sapote” is believed to have been derived from the Aztec “tzapotl”, a general term applied to all soft, sweet fruits. 3
Mamey sapote (Pouteria sapota) is native to the seasonally dry forests of Mexico and Central America. It was widely distributed in Central America before Columbus and introduced to the Caribbean, South America, and Asia. Mamey sapote has been grown in South Florida since the mid-1800 and of all tropical fruits; mamey is the one that represents the nostalgia for Cubans. Exiled Cubans longed for a steady supply of mamey and are willing to buy it at any price. 4
Mamey sapotes have been grown or cultivated in Central America, Mexico, northern South America, and the West Indies for centuries. The first recorded introduction into southern Florida was during the mid-1880s. 5
Importance: The mamey sapote is an important fruit in Miami-Dade, Florida (US), Mexico, Central America, and in the West Indies—including the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. In the state of Florida, Cuban Americans and Central Americans have helped to establish a small but viable industry. Except for the Americas, this very attractive and excellent fruit is not well-known, probably because its short-lived seeds may have discouraged intercontinental transport in colonial times. Recently, there is increasing interest in this fruit in other countries (e.g., Australia, China, Israel, Philippines, Vietnam, Spain, Venezuela). 5
The small white flowers appear in the fall by the thousands, encircling the mature wood of the branches. The first two or three annual blooms to appear usually result in no fruit set. 9
The flowers just stick up above the bark and are fairly perfect in that they have male and female parts. They have five sepals, five petals, five stamenoids and a single pistil with five carpels. 1

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Flowering habit v1

The leaves are large, up to 12 inches (30.5 cm) long and 4 inches (10.2 cm) wide, simple, and obovate to oblanceolate in shape. The underside is lighter green or brownish and pubescent (hairy) when young but becomes glabrous (smooth) when mature. The leaves are clustered at the ends of the small branches. Depending on the cultivar (variety) and recent crop load, trees will drop most of the leaves in late winter or spring, but develop new leaves rapidly. 5
The fruit skin is rough and dark-brown, the flesh is orange to deep-red, sweet, creamy, and has a cherry-almond-like flavor. The fruit is high in vitamin A and it is considered a good source of potassium. 8
Fruit are borne directly on the thick twigs and branches of the canopy (Fig. 3). The fruit is a large, shaped like a football, varying in length from 6-9 inches depending of the cultivar. The skin is thick and woody with a russet brown scruffy surface. The pulp of a mature fruit is salmon pink to red, soft and smooth in texture. The flavor is a sweet, almond like, unique flavor. The fruit will weigh from 1 to 6 pounds. 4 Normally, the fruit contains a single, large, elliptical seed but it may have up to four. The seed has a shiny, hard, dark brown surface with a light brown scar (hilum) on the ventral side. Seeds may crack and sprout in over-mature fruits. Fruit weight ranges from 0.75 to 6.0 lb (0.3-2.7 kg). 5
The mamey sapote is usually eaten fresh by hand or to make milkshakes or ice cream. It is also excellent for use in jellies, pastes and conserves. 4
An individual fruit takes more than a year to mature on the tree. 4

Fig. 6 Fig. 7 Fig. 8

Varieties, USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program
Characteristics of Mamey Sapote Cultivars for Florida, University of Florida

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Three crops on the tree v2

In Florida, the bloom season may be in summer, fall, and winter depending on the cultivar (variety). Because of this, each cultivar has its own main maturity season (Table 1). For example, ‘Pantin’ matures most of its crop in July and August with some fruit maturing before or after these months. ‘Magana’, on the other hand, matures its fruit in March and April with some fruit maturing before or after these months. Other cultivars will mature fruit in the winter, thus allowing for year-round harvest. Trees may have flowers, immature fruit and mature fruit all at the same time. It takes from 13 to 24 months from flowering to fruit maturity. 5
The largest fruits will ripen first, obviously, and the common method of determining whether they are ripe is to scratch the shoulder of the fruit. If the flesh underneath is green, do not pick, but if the flesh is turning pink or salmon-coloured, you can pick it and it will remain hard for a few days then ripen quite successfully. You can tell when the fruit is ripe when it becomes soft and a beautiful aroma, similar to almonds and marzipans, comes from it. The crop that flowered at the same time will also ripen almost at the same time, so it is not necessary to scratch each individual fruit. Just harvest the whole particular crop when you determine the fruit is ripe enough. 1

Since different cultivars of mamey sapote have different peak bearing dates, and all stages may be found on the same tree, harvest may occur largely year-round, except in March. 10
Fruits are not harvested from trees in active vegetative growth (a state called “primavera”), because they will never ripen completely. 3

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Harvesting v3

Sapote seeds lose viability quickly and must be planted soon after removal from the fruit. They normally germinate in 2 to 4 weeks. Removal of the hard outer coat will speed germination. The seeds must be planted with the more pointed end upward and protruding 1/2 in (1.25 cm) above the soil in order to assure good form in the seedling. Rodents are attracted to the seeds and cause considerable losses in Cuba. 3
A seedling will bear anytime from 4 to 12 years and a grafted plant generally from 2 years on. It also depends on the variety. ‘Magana’ will bear at less than 2 years from the grafted time and the Pantin often takes 4 to 5 years. 1
Grafted trees grow more slowly than seedlings and do not grow as tall, which is a distinct advantage in harvesting. 3
Mamey Sapote Propagation, University of Florida
Cultural Calendar for Production of Mature Trees in the Home Landscape, University of Florida
The mamey sapote grows well in a wide variety of welldrained soils, from heavy clays to the limestone and sandy soils of Florida. Mamey sapote are intolerant of constantly wet or flooded soil conditions. The wet soil conditions decrease the oxygen content in the soil, causing roots to die which weakens the tree. In addition, weakened roots are more susceptible to attack by root rotting fungi (e.g., Pythium spp.). 5
Planting should be done just prior to the rainy season for good root development.
Cold Protection
Mamey sapote trees in the home landscape may be provided some limited protection from freezing by being planted in the warmest area of the landscape and/or being planted within 30 ft (9.1 m) of a building or adjacent overhanging tree. 5
Each year after harvest, trees shoud be pruned, removing the upright branches and keeping the tree 6 to 8 feet tall. 4
Grafted mamey sapote trees may have one or more leaders (main trunks) with narrow, V-shaped crotch angles. The strongest and best situated leader should be encouraged to grow by removing all other leaders when the tree is first planted, or preferably in the nursery. In addition, mamey sapote trees have a tendency to produce three to four branches close to one another on the trunk. When this occurs, it is advisable to remove some of them so that the trees will develop a good framework of strong branches. Maintenance pruning of mature trees involves removal of narrow-angled (V-shaped) main branches which tend to split with heavy fruit loads. Wide-angled branches should be selected instead. Maintenance pruning of mature trees to remove dead or diseased branches and to limit tree size should be done periodically. Trees kept to a height of 12 to 15 feet (3.7-4.6 m) or less are easier to care for and are less susceptible to severe wind damage than trees allowed to grow tall. 5

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Video: 5:57
Pruning v4
Video: 1:34
Pruning v5

Addition of plant mulch to the soil surface will improve water-holding capacity, nutrient retention and availability to soil structure. Fertilization is best done with three applications per year – March, July and September – with an 8-3-9 application or other fruit tree formulation. 4
Fertilizer schedule seeMamey Sapote Growing in the Florida Home Landscapepdf 9 pages

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Video: 1:12
Fertilizing v6
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Iron application v7

Adequate soil moisture is essential, especially during the first year of development. The young mamey sapote tree should be watered immediately after planting and every other day for the first 4 to 6 weeks unless there is sufficient rainfall. Mature trees should be watered one to two times per week with 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water during periods of insufficient rainfall.
Watering during flowering, fruit set, and early fruit development is most likely important for setting fruit. 5

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Watering v8

Sapote leaves and roots are attacked by the West Indian sugar cane root borer, Diaprepes abbreviatus, in Puerto Rico. The red spider mite, Tetranychus bimaculatus, may infest
the leaves. 3
The fungus, Colletotrichum gloeosporioides, causes anthracnose on the leaves and fruit stalks in rainy seasons and causes fruits to fall prematurely. Leafspot resulting from attack by the fungus Phyllosticta sapotae occurs in Cuba and the Bahamas but seldom in Puerto Rico. In addition, black leaf spot (Phyllachora sp.) and root rot (Pythium sp.) may occur in Florida. 3
Food Uses
The mamey sapote is usually eaten in preparations where the fresh or frozen pulp is mixed with other ingredients to make milkshakes or ice cream. It also may be eaten fresh directly from the fruit by cutting it lengthwise and removing the seed. It is also excellent for use in jellies, pastes, and conserves. 5
Because of its interesting taste and texture, the mamey sapote fruit is rapidly gaining in popularity for cooking purposes. Additionally, mamey sapote is high in vitamins A and C, as well as in potassium. It is also an excellent source of dietary fiber. The famous delicious milkshakes from the Caribbean are prepared from mamey sapote. 4
Mamey Sapote Recipes, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Virtual Herbarium
Mamey Sapote Recipes, Taste Florida’s Tropics

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How to eat the fruit v9

Medicinal Uses
The seed kernel oil is used as a skin ointment and as a hair dressing that is believed to stop falling hair. In 1970, clinical tests at the University of California at Los Angeles failed to reveal any hair-growth promoting activity but confirmed that the oil of sapote seed is effective in stopping hair-fall caused by seborrhoeic dermatitis.

The oil is said to be diuretic and is also employed as a sedative in eye and ear ailments. 6
Other Uses
Early in the 19th Century, the seeds were used in Costa Rica to iron starched fine linen. The seed kernel yields 45 to 60% of a white, semi-solid, vaseline-like oil which is edible when freshly extracted and refined. It is sometimes used in soap and considered to have a greater potential in the soap industry, in cosmetics and pharmaceutical products. It was used in olden times to fix the colors on painted gourds and other articles of handicraft. The seeds have served as a source of Noyeau scent in perfumery. The nectar of the flowers is gathered by honeybees. 3
De la Maza, in 1893, reported that the seed has stupefying properties, and this may be due to its HCN content. One is cautioned not to rub the eyes after handling the green fruit because of the sap exuding from the cut or broken stalk. The milky sap of the tree is highly irritant to the eyes and caustic and vesicant on the skin. The leaves are reportedly poisonous. 3
Further Reading
Cost and Return Estimates of a Mamey Sapote Grove in South Florida, University of Florida pdf 6 pages
Mamey Sapote from Florida, University of Florida pdf
The Sapote, Manual of Tropical and Subtropical Fruits
Pouteria sapota, Agroforesty Database
Mamey Sapote in Puerto Rico, Tropical Fruit News, RFCI
List of Growers and Vendors

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This fruit blog examines the mamey (pronounced mah-may) fruit, offspring of the mamey zapote tree. The tree is a large, ornamental evergreen that matures at 60 to 140 feet, and produces the fruit shown here. These fruits are a dull brown on the outside, utterly nondescript in appearance, growing from 4 to 10 inches (10-25 centimeters) in length and 3-5 inches (8-12 centimeters) in width. However, the fuzzy, rough brown exterior hides a jewel within, for the edible fruit is a beautiful, rich orange in color. You can tell its ripe if the skin is slightly soft to the touch. But that isn’t usually necessary, as these fruits are often displayed cut open in an ornamental zig zag pattern reminiscent of a tulip flower. Also, sellers will often nick the fruit near the stem so that potential buyers can see that the interior is not green but appropriately pink and thus ripe.

When mamey is in season, men will appear with cartloads of them set up on the street corner here in Sayulita, with a few cut open in that unmistakable zig zag pattern to show off their color and ripeness. Mamey time.

You can eat this fruit fresh and raw, in fruit salad, or you can turn it into ice cream, milkshakes, smoothies, or fruit bars. Many Mexican cooks use it in cake and muffin batter, and it is said to make a fine mousse as well. You can also make mamey marmalade. Rumor has it there are aphrodisiac qualities, although we couldn’t find any evidence to back this up.

What about flavor? As always, when tasting new fruits, one ends up falling back on comparisons—in this case, to pumpkin, peach, cherry, even sweet potato. All hinted at, but really, like most fruit, the mamey has its own distinct taste.

In the middle lies a large, shiny black seed, which in turn can be peeled, revealing a yellow kernel. This kernel can be split, and in doing so, an odor faintly reminiscent of almonds is released.

I’ve noticed this odor around many fruit pits, and as it turns out, the source of that distinct, almond aroma is cyanide, the notoriously toxic poison. Sounds scary, but the minute quantities present in mamey pits can easily be neutralized by boiling the pits. In parts of Mexico, these pits are called pixtlis, and after being boiled with herbs and smoked, they are used to flavor mole. These pits have been used for flavoring since Aztec times, when it was used in chocolate drinks, and today, in Oaxaca, you’ll find it in tejate, the cacao drink served at markets and fairs.

On the healthy side, mamey is a good source of vitamins C, A, and B6 as well as iron, riboflavin, magnesium, and copper. Mameys do grow in Florida, but coming from the northwest, I had never seen or tasted this fruit until I spent some time in Mexico.

A minor note of caution: you should not cook with the mamey pits sold in bags at herb or medicinal stalls in Mexican markets. Those pits are meant to be grated and added to shampoo, for it is said that mamey pits will also make thinning hair grow thicker and more curly. The pits meant for kitchen use are sliced, strung together, and sold in necklace form.

5 Impressive Benefits of Mamey Sapote

Mamey sapote may not be a fruit that you come across very often, but you shouldn’t ignore its health benefits, including its ability to improve heart health, aid in weight loss efforts and strengthen the immune system, among others.

What is Mamey Sapote?

If you have ever traveled to Mexico or Central America, and seen large ornamental evergreen trees with long, brown “berries”, then you have probably seen a mamey sapote tree. With the scientific name Pouteria sapota, these trees are cultivated in Mexico and other neighboring islands, and the fruits have become staples in many Latin American diets. In fact, you can find these fruits in various parts of the United States as well, primarily in the south. These berries can be up to 10 inches long and 4-5 inches wide, and the interior fruit is orange or pink, with a creamy consistency. The taste and texture are unique, something like a cross between a pumpkin, peach, sweet potato and cantaloupe. This fruit, which is technically a berry, can be eaten in many forms, either raw, or mixed into milkshakes, and can also be used to produce ice cream or jelly.

While this fruit isn’t widely available in many parts of the world, if you happen to be traveling in these areas, or are close to an exotic import store/Latin American grocer, then you should certainly give mamey sapote a try. The incredible blend of nutrients within this fruit makes it very important and beneficial for human health. The profile of mamey sapote includes vitamins B, C, and E, as well as potassium, manganese and dietary fiber, among other antioxidants and trace minerals that serve our bodies in many ways.

Mamey sapote is Miami’s best kept secret. Photo Credit:

Health Benefits of Mamey Sapote

Let’s take a closer look at some of these impressive health benefits.

Improves Heart Health

There are many reasons why mamey sapote is widely considered a heart-healthy food. To begin with, this fruit has a high concentration of potassium, which is a vasodilator and is able to effectively lower blood pressure. This reduces strain on the heart and can prevent heart attacks, stroke, and atherosclerosis. Secondly, the fruit’s high fiber content can reduce the levels of overall cholesterol in the body, further lessening the risk of cardiovascular complications. The vitamin E and C found in the fruit can also protect the heart from oxidative stress and weakened blood vessels, respectively. All in all, everything about mamey sapote can protect our heart in some way, so it is highly recommended for those at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

Boosts Immunity

Research has shown that mamey sapote is very good at improving immune system function. This is partially due to the complex blend of nutrients that our body needs to function properly, as well as powerful antioxidants and vitamins that directly strengthen our body’s immune response. The carotenoids and other antioxidants can eliminate foreign pathogens and make it more difficult for infections to take hold, and can also help prevent chronic diseases.

Promotes Weight Loss

The dietary fiber content in mamey sapote is high enough that it can create a feeling of fullness, so you’re less likely to snack between meals and take on excess calories. Furthermore, the minerals and antioxidants in mamey sapote can help improve the metabolism, so passive burning of calories happens more often, and you will find it easier to work out and see measurable results in terms of your weight loss goals.

Improves Bone Mineral Density

There are many important minerals found in mamey sapote, including copper, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and iron. As we age, our bone mineral density begins to diminish, making us more susceptible to broken bones, accidents, and general weakness. This cycle of infirmity and bone mineral loss can be rapid and brutal, but increasing your intake of minerals that can counter those effects is rather easy, and a mamey sapote is an excellent option for boosting your bone strength.

Stabilizes Mood

Many different factors can cause mental distress or anxiety, but your nervous system is almost always involved. Research has shown that certain vitamins and minerals found in mamey sapote, such as vitamin E, potassium and carotenoids, can soothe anxiety and worry by optimizing the function of the nervous system. If you suffer from depression, mood swings, or other mental issues, improving your hormone levels and nervous system function should be your first step toward improvement. The nutrient-dense fruit of the mamey sapote tree can help in both of those areas.

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