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Mandarin oranges, also called tangerines, originated in China and are grown abundantly in parts of Asia. U.S. growers, primarily in Florida and California, have also been producing them since the late 1800s. They are sweet, brightly-colored and nutritious, but one of the reasons for their popularity is that they are easier to peel than many other types of orange. Mandarin oranges provide antioxidant vitamins and flavanones that may protect you from illness.
Mandarin oranges can add flavor and texture to your meals without adding inches to your waistline. One large mandarin orange has only 64 calories, but it gives you a gram of protein, 2 grams of fiber, virtually no fat and 13 grams of natural sugar. You can use mandarin oranges in place of less healthy ingredients. For example, chop some orange slices and put them on your salad in place of a fatty dressing, or add them to your smoothies as a natural sweetener.
Mandarin oranges, like all citrus fruit, are rich in antioxidants. A large mandarin orange provides 32 milligrams of vitamin C, about half your recommended daily intake. It also has 41 micrograms of vitamin A, giving you about one-sixth of your daily requirement for that antioxidant. Vitamin C helps your body absorb other nutrients, such as iron, from the food you eat, and both vitamins C and A fight free radicals that damage your cells and cause illness and premature aging.
Eating mandarin oranges may reduce your risk of developing diabetes. Mandarin oranges contain flavonoids, plant pigments with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Every 100 grams of a mandarin orange contains 8 milligrams of hesperetin and 10 milligrams of naringenin, flavonoids from the flavanone family. Researchers from a study published in "Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications" in 2011 note that hesperetin and naringenin inhibit tumor necrosis factor-alpha, an inflammatory agent associated with insulin resistance.
Canned Mandarin Oranges
Fresh mandarin oranges are much more nutritious than their canned counterparts. Canned mandarin oranges often are packed in a sweet syrup, bringing the sugar content of a one-cup serving to 40 grams. A cup of canned mandarins has 154 calories and is lower in protein and fiber than fresh mandarin oranges. Mandarin oranges packed in juice, rather than syrup, are a little healthier but still inferior to fresh. Juice-packed mandarins have 92 calories and 22 grams of sugar.