Dr. Robert Cook - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Robert Cook

Are Tangerines Bad For You?

Also Known As: Mandarin oranges



Short answer

Tangerines are not bad for you; they are nutritious, offering vitamin C, fiber, and other key nutrients. While they contain natural sugars, the fiber content moderates sugar absorption. Proper washing can reduce pesticide concerns, and moderate consumption can be part of a balanced diet. They may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals, but overall, tangerines contribute positively to dietary health when eaten responsibly.



Long answer

Nutritional Content of Tangerines and Daily Recommendations

Tangerines, those small and juicy relatives of oranges, are not just refreshing; they pack a punch in terms of nutritional value. In essence, tangerines are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber, which aligns with daily nutritional guidelines. Here is a breakdown of the key nutrients found in these citrus fruits:

  • Vitamin C: Tangerines are famous for their vitamin C content. Just one medium-sized tangerine can provide about 26.7 mg of vitamin C, which constitutes around 30% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) for adults.
  • Vitamin A: They also have a notable amount of vitamin A, important for immune function and vision. A tangerine has approximately 14% of the RDI for vitamin A.
  • Fiber: Tangerines offer dietary fiber, with about 2 grams per fruit, aiding in digestion and helping to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Potassium: With about 166 mg of potassium, tangerines contribute to maintaining proper heart function and fluid balance.
  • Folate (Vitamin B9): Essential for DNA synthesis and repair, tangerines provide about 16 micrograms of folate per fruit.

It's worth mentioning that the dietary fiber in tangerines is particularly helpful in achieving the recommended daily intake for adults, which is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men, according to the Institute of Medicine.

Apart from the key nutrients listed, tangerines also contain smaller amounts of calcium, magnesium, and vitamins B1, B2, and B3. They are naturally low in calories, with one medium tangerine containing about 50 calories, making them a smart choice for calorie-conscious individuals.

While tangerines have natural sugars, the fiber content helps to regulate the body's response to this sugar, making it a healthy choice for most people when consumed in moderation. Those with specific health conditions, such as diabetes, should keep track of their fruit sugar intake as part of their overall dietary management and consult with their healthcare provider.

Nutrient Amount per Medium Tangerine % Daily Recommended Intake
Vitamin C 26.7 mg 30%
Vitamin A 14% 14%
Fiber 2 g Adults: 8% (Women), 5.3% (Men)
Potassium 166 mg 3.5%
Folate (B9) 16 micrograms 4%

In regard to daily recommendations, incorporating a variety of fruits, including tangerines, can help meet and balance nutritional needs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends adults consume 1.5-2 cups of fruit per day as part of a healthy eating pattern. Tangerines, given their nutritional profile, can certainly contribute to meeting these recommendations.

It's essential for consumers to consider the entirety of their dietary intake and lifestyle when determining how tangerines fit into their nutrition plan. However, based on the nutrient composition alone, tangerines provide substantial health benefits that complement a balanced diet and should not be viewed as "bad" for healthy individuals when consumed responsibly.

Sugar Content and Glycemic Index of Tangerines

Tangerines, like all fruits, naturally contain sugar. This sugar is primarily in the form of fructose, which can have differing effects on blood sugar levels when compared to sucrose or glucose. It's essential to understand the composition and impact of the sugar content in tangerines to determine their role in a balanced diet.

The average medium-sized tangerine (about 88 grams) contains approximately 12 grams of sugar. While this amount might raise flags for individuals monitoring their sugar intake, context is crucial. The sugar in tangerines is accompanied by dietary fiber—about 1.6 grams per medium fruit—which helps moderate the release of sugar into the bloodstream and contributes to a feeling of fullness, potentially aiding in weight management.

Regarding the glycemic index (GI), which measures how quickly foods raise blood sugar levels after eating, tangerines have a moderate score. They typically fall into the range of 42 to 52 on the GI scale. A low GI food has a score of 55 or less, medium GI foods score between 56 and 69, and high GI foods score 70 or above. The moderate GI of tangerines means that they cause a more gradual increase in blood sugar levels compared to high-GI foods. This characteristic may make them a suitable option for individuals seeking to manage blood glucose levels, like those with diabetes or insulin resistance.

Furthermore, the glycemic load (GL)—which takes into account the carbohydrate content in a serving of food and how it affects blood sugar—of a tangerine is relatively low, around 4 to 5. This low GL implies that consuming tangerines will not result in a significant spike in blood sugar levels when eaten in moderation.

It is, however, important for individuals with diabetes or those following a low-sugar diet to consider the cumulative effect of consuming multiple servings of fruit or sugary foods. Dietary guidelines generally recommend that the majority of one's daily fruit intake should come from whole fruits rather than fruit juices, as whole fruits retain their natural fiber, which mitigates the impact of sugar on blood glucose levels.

While the sugar content in tangerines does not make them unhealthy, mindful consumption is key, particularly for those with sugar sensitivities or specific dietary goals. As with any food, moderation is essential. Incorporate tangerines into a varied diet rich in whole foods to ensure a balanced intake of nutrients.

Lastly, let's not forget the importance of consulting with a healthcare provider or a nutritionist for personalized dietary advice, especially for those with underlying health conditions or special nutritional requirements.

Potential Allergenic Compounds in Tangerines

For most individuals, tangerines are a nutritious and delicious fruit, rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. However, for some, there may be natural compounds within tangerines that can provoke allergic reactions. These reactions, although uncommon, can range from mild to severe depending on the individual's sensitivity.

One of the primary allergenic compounds in tangerines is known as 'profilin'. Profilin is a type of protein that can also be found in other fruits and is responsible for causing cross-reactivity allergic symptoms in people with birch pollen allergies, a condition referred to as Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS). Symptoms associated with OAS often include itching or tingling in the mouth, lips, throat, or ears when consuming the offending fruit.

Here's a breakdown of potential allergenic compounds and related components found in tangerines:

  • Profilin: A plant protein which can trigger OAS in individuals sensitive to birch pollen.
  • Lipid Transfer Proteins (LTP): These proteins can be highly allergenic and are resistant to cooking and digestion, potentially causing systemic reactions.
  • Salicylates: Naturally occurring chemical compounds that may provoke reactions in people with salicylate sensitivity or intolerance.

Beyond these compounds, it's also worth mentioning that citrus fruits like tangerines contain compounds known as furanocoumarins. While not allergenic, furanocoumarins can enhance the sensitivity of the skin to ultraviolet (UV) light, leading to a condition called phytophotodermatitis—a risk to consider if consuming large amounts of tangerines before sun exposure.

Furthermore, individuals who are allergic to other citrus fruits may also react to tangerines, due to cross-reactivity where similar proteins cause an allergic response.

The identification of allergenic compounds in tangerines is backed by scientific research, such as:

  • A study conducted by the European Food Safety Authority which provides insights into profilin as an allergen (DOI: 10.2903/j.efsa.2010.1801).
  • Research in the Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology explaining the role of lipid transfer proteins in fruit allergies (PMID: 12872658).

It's important for individuals who suspect they may have an allergy to tangerines or other citrus fruits to consult with an allergist for accurate testing and diagnosis.

Pesticides on Tangerines and Washing Practices

The subject of pesticides on tangerines is an important aspect of determining whether this fruit poses any health risks. Tangerines, like many citrus fruits, are often sprayed with pesticides to control pests and diseases during cultivation. Consuming these chemicals, even in small quantities, can pose health risks. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the use of pesticides on food crops, and the levels deemed safe are based on rigorous scientific testing. However, concerns remain about potential health effects of long-term exposure to pesticide residue, particularly for vulnerable populations such as children and pregnant women.

It's been observed in several studies how pesticides can potentially affect human health. According to a study published in 'Environmental Health Perspectives', low-level pesticide exposure is associated with a risk of developmental problems in children. Other research suggests a possible link between certain pesticide residues and endocrine disruption. While the scientific community continues to debate the extent of these risks, consumers are increasingly interested in minimizing their pesticide exposure.

To mitigate the intake of pesticides through tangerines, proper washing practices should be adopted. The FDA recommends thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables under running water to remove any residues. For firmer fruits like tangerines, it's beneficial to scrub them with a produce brush. Here are some practical steps:

  • Rinse tangerines under cold running tap water before eating, cutting, or cooking.
  • Even if you plan to peel the fruit, it's important to wash it first to prevent dirt and bacteria from transferring from the knife onto the fruit.
  • Using a clean produce brush can help remove pesticides and other substances from the surface of tangerines.
  • Dry tangerines with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further minimize any residues that might remain on the skin.

Besides these conventional washing methods, scientific explorations have examined alternative wash solutions. A publication in the 'Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry' evaluated the effectiveness of commercial and homemade washing agents in removing pesticide residues. Findings suggest that solutions containing baking soda might be particularly effective. However, no washing method can remove 100% of pesticide residue, and some consumers opt for organic tangerines, which are grown without synthetic pesticides, as a precautionary measure.

In summary, while the level of pesticides found on conventionally grown tangerines can be a concern, the implementation of careful washing procedures can significantly reduce the intake of these substances. Being cognizant of washing methods is especially important for those worried about pesticide exposures, and opting for organic options may also be considered.

Incorporating Tangerines into a Balanced Diet

Integrating tangerines into a balanced diet can offer numerous health benefits due to their rich nutrient content. These citrus fruits are a good source of vitamin C, fiber, and several other important vitamins and minerals. Understanding the role of tangerines in your overall dietary pattern is crucial to maximizing their positive effects while mitigating any potential downsides.

Portion Size and Frequency: Like any fruit, tangerines can contribute to excessive sugar intake if consumed in large quantities. Here’s how you can enjoy tangerines without overdoing it:

  • Limit your consumption to one or two medium-sized tangerines per day.
  • Consider them as a part of your daily fruit intake, which should be diversified to include a variety of fruits.

Combining with Other Foods: To create a more balanced snack or meal, combine tangerines with other foods:

  • Pair a tangerine with a handful of nuts for a snack that includes healthy fats and protein.
  • Include tangerine segments in salads to increase your intake of greens while adding a citrusy zest.

Monitor Blood Sugar Levels: For individuals with diabetes or those monitoring their blood sugar levels, it's essential to consider the glycemic index:

  • Tangerines have a moderate glycemic index, which means they can cause a more gradual increase in blood sugar levels compared to high-glycemic fruits.
  • Balance tangerine consumption with other low-glycemic foods throughout the day to maintain stable blood sugar levels.

Nutritional Synergy: The nutrients in tangerines can work synergistically with those in other foods:

  • Vitamin C in tangerines can enhance iron absorption from plant sources when consumed together, for example, by drinking tangerine juice with a spinach salad.
  • The flavonoids in tangerines are believed to exhibit greater bioactivity when combined with the healthy fats found in avocado or olive oil.

It’s important to remember that balance, variety, and moderation are key components of a healthy diet. Tangerines, like all fruits, should be a part of a dietary pattern that includes a wide range of nutrients from different food sources. By strategically incorporating tangerines into your meals and snacks, you can enjoy the taste and health benefits they offer without unwanted side effects.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, tangerines can be a smart addition to a diet for weight management. They are low in calories, providing approximately 50 calories per medium fruit, and contain dietary fiber that helps promote a feeling of fullness. Moderating your portions is key, as their naturally occurring sugars can add up if consumed in large quantities.

Pregnant women can enjoy tangerines as they provide essential nutrients like folate, which is important for fetal development. However, they should be cautious of pesticide residues, opting for organic tangerines when possible, and ensuring the fruit is washed thoroughly to minimize exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.

Tangerines can contribute to skin health due to their vitamin C content, which is essential for collagen production and may help in the prevention of skin aging. However, be cautious with sun exposure after consuming large amounts of tangerines, as they contain compounds that can increase UV sensitivity, leading to phytophotodermatitis.

Individuals with diabetes can include tangerines in their diet by monitoring portion sizes and considering the fruit's moderate glycemic index. Balancing tangerine consumption with other low-glycemic foods and tracking their overall daily fruit sugar intake is essential for maintaining stable blood glucose levels.

Ask a question about Tangerines and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Ingredients to be aware of

  • natural sugars
  • pesticide residues
  • profilin
  • lipid transfer proteins (ltp)
  • salicylates
  • furanocoumarins


  • source of vitamin c
  • source of vitamin a
  • dietary fiber
  • contains potassium
  • supplies folate
  • low in calories
  • may aid in weight management
  • moderate glycemic index
  • offers various vitamins and minerals

Healthier alternatives

  • diversify fruit intake
  • organic tangerines
  • consuming with a variety of other foods

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-21-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-21-2023

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