Tangerines are a type of mandarin, the second-largest cultivated citrus fruit after oranges (1).
Like oranges, tangerines are orange in color — although some varieties may have shades of green or red. However, they’re a bit smaller and less round and are easier to peel by hand. They also have a sweeter taste.
Both the flesh and peel are highly nutritious. You can enjoy tangerines as a snack on the go, blend them into a refreshing juice or smoothie, or use them to make a sweet jam or salad dressing.
Here are 9 surprising health benefits of tangerines.
1. Packed with nutrients
Despite their small size compared with other citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits, tangerines are nutrient- and water-rich — in fact, they’re about 85% water.
Here’s the nutrient profile of 1 medium (88-gram) tangerine:
- Calories: 47
- Carbs: 12 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Protein: 0.7 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Vitamin C: 26% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin A: 3% of the DV
- Potassium: 3% of the DV
As you can see, tangerines are a great source of vitamin C — the nutrient that’s arguably behind most of the tangerines’ health benefits.
Tangerines are also one of the most concentrated sources of beta-cryptoxanthin, an antioxidant that is converted to vitamin A in the body and is behind tangerines’ and other fruits’ orange color.
Additionally, tangerines provide potassium and B complex vitamins, namely B1, B6, and B9, or thiamine, pyridoxine, and folate, respectively.
Summary: Tangerines are water-rich fruits packed with vitamin C and antioxidants. They’re also good sources of other vitamins and minerals, such as potassium and B complex vitamins.
2. High in antioxidants
Antioxidants protect your body by neutralizing the damaging effects of oxidative stress, which is caused by the accumulation of free radicals. These harmful molecules are involved in the development of chronic conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, and cancer.
Tangerines — including their peels — are rich sources of antioxidants such as vitamin C and beta-cryptoxanthin and flavonoids such as naringin, hesperidin, tangeretin, and nobiletin.
Vitamin C’s antioxidant capacity is known for its beneficial effects on skin and heart health, as well as for its cancer-fighting properties.
Research has linked flavonoids with numerous health benefits, including brain-protective effects and reduced risk of chronic conditions.
Summary: Tangerines and their peels are rich sources of antioxidants such as vitamin C and flavonoids, which protect against numerous diseases.
3. Immunity boosters
Vitamin C in tangerines may help protect your immune system from viruses and bacteria by acting upon T cells, a type of white blood cells that protect your body.
Research shows that the vitamin influences T cells’ development and function and blocks pathways that lead to their death. Therefore, it helps you maintain a healthy level of these cells to fight off infections.
In addition, vitamin C enhances phagocytes — immune cells that ingest bacteria and other harmful compounds — and microbial killing, which also strengthens your immune response.
For example, studies have linked the intake of 1–2 grams of vitamin C per day with reduced severity and duration of the common cold.
It may also help reduce the severity of allergic reactions — a quality that has also been attributed to hesperidin and naringenin, two of the antioxidants present in tangerine peel.
Summary: Eating tangerines may benefit your immune system because they contain lots of vitamin C. This vitamin strengthens your body’s ability to defend itself against viruses and bacteria.
4. May support brain health
Antioxidants in tangerines, such as vitamin C and nobiletin, may protect against chronic brain disorders such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
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For instance, research has linked an increased free radical count with the development of schizophrenia. Vitamin C’s antioxidant capacity may protect against free radical-induced damage in the brain.
Additionally, animal studies suggest that nobiletin from tangerine peel may help reduce negative effects on the brain in Alzheimer’s disease, such as memory loss.
Nobiletin may protect brain cells from beta-amyloid accumulation and toxicity, which is associated with the onset of the disease.
As for tangerines’ effects on Parkinson’s disease, their nobiletin content seems to improve motor impairments in mice by protecting dopamine-producing cells in the brain. Damage to those cells leads to the progression of the disease.
However, while the research seems promising, human studies are lacking.
Summary: Antioxidants in tangerines, such as vitamin C and nobiletin, may protect brain cells from the damage associated with schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. However, more research on humans is still needed.
5. Could help improve skin appearance
Adding tangerines to your diet may promote healthy skin due to vitamin C’s effect on collagen production.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It gives structure, strength, and stability to connective tissues, including your skin.
As you age, the amount of collagen in your body decreases. However, vitamin C promotes collagen synthesis, which improves wound healing and reduces signs of aging, such as wrinkling.
What’s more, vitamin C’s antioxidant properties may reduce signs of aging by slowing free radical-induced damage to the skin.
Summary: Tangerines’ vitamin C content may promote collagen synthesis, which improves wound healing and reduces signs of aging.
Tangerines may aid weight loss by increasing your daily fiber intake.
Suggested read: 10 science-based health benefits of grapefruit
Citrus fruits, including tangerines, provide insoluble fiber — the kind that doesn’t ferment in the intestine — such as cellulose and lignin.
This type of fiber enhances feelings of fullness by slowing down the transit of food through your digestive tract. This in turn helps regulate your appetite, which may promote weight loss.
What’s more, research shows that people with higher fiber intakes are better able to maintain their body weight or prevent weight regain compared with those who consume less fiber.
In addition, one test-tube study found that nobiletin prevented fat accumulation in fat cells and significantly increased activated protein kinase (AMPK) activity. AMPK is a protein that regulates cellular energy balance, which may counteract the formation of new fat cells.
Summary: Consuming tangerines may help you increase your fiber intake, which may promote weight loss and help prevent weight regain.
7. May support heart health
Antioxidants in tangerines, such as vitamin C, tangeretin, and nobiletin, may promote heart health.
Human and animal studies show that vitamin C may reduce risk factors for heart disease by reducing blood pressure and platelet aggregation, improving blood vessel function, and lowering blood triglyceride and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
Similarly, test-tube studies suggest that tangeretin and nobiletin may help lower total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which reduces the risk of atherosclerosis — a narrowing of the arteries caused by the buildup of plaque.
Atherosclerosis is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
Summary: Tangerines provide antioxidants that may help reduce risk factors for heart disease.
8. It may have anticancer properties
The antioxidants in tangerines may confer cancer-fighting properties.
Vitamin C may prevent tumor growth and spread, promote wound healing after surgery and enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy while also reducing its toxicity.
Studies have found that people with cancer tend to have vitamin C deficiency and that vitamin C supplementation may improve outcomes for people with terminal cancer. However, research in humans is still inconclusive.
Flavonoids in citrus fruits are associated with a reduced risk of some cancers, including gastric, breast, colon, and lung cancer.
Still, keep in mind that most studies used high doses of the vitamins or compounds found in tangerines, which is not the same as adding tangerines to your diet. Thus, further research is still needed.
Summary: Antioxidants in tangerines may have anticancer properties. However, further research is needed to investigate the effects of tangerines themselves.
9. Easy to add to your diet
Despite being less popular than other citrus fruits, tangerines are very versatile.
Here are some ideas that may help you add tangerines to your diet:
- Peel and cut their segments in half and add them to your salads.
- Grate the peels and add them to dressings, drinks, or cocktails.
- Squeeze them for an antioxidant-rich tangerine juice.
- Make a fresh tangerine salsa to enjoy with fish or chicken.
- Add them to yogurt or chia pudding for a nutritious breakfast or snack.
Whole, raw tangerines don’t need to be refrigerated. However, if you want to peel them ahead of time, make sure to store the peeled tangerines in a container in your fridge.
Summary: Tangerines are versatile and can be added to numerous dishes, from breakfasts to desserts and cocktails.
Tangerines are a nutrient-rich citrus fruit that may provide numerous benefits to your health.
They’re packed with antioxidants, which may support immunity, provide cancer-fighting properties, and improve brain, skin, and heart health.
Tangerines are also sweet and refreshing and can be enjoyed in numerous dishes.