Tangerines are citrus fruits with segmented, juicy flesh and a sweet but tangy flavor. Normally commercially available November through April, tangerines come in many varieties, including clementines, tangelos and honey tangerines. For best taste and quality, tangerines.org recommends selecting tangerines with glossy, deep orange skins that feel heavy for their size. Naturally low in calories, yet high in fiber and vitamin C, tangerines are a healthy dietary choice.
Tangerines, like all citrus fruits, are an excellent source of vitamin C. The U.S. Department of Agriculture lists one medium tangerine as containing 29.1 mg--nearly 50 percent of the recommended daily value--of this essential antioxidant vitamin. The World's Healthiest Foods website notes that Vitamin C's anti-inflammatory effects can help it alleviate such diseases as asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Vitamin C also prevents the oxidation of cholesterol and can help prevent it sticking to artery walls, thereby helping to prevent heart attack and stroke. Vitamin C scavenges free radicals, which may help to prevent many cancers, particularly cancer of the colon.
Although there are only 50 calories in a medium-sized tangerine, this healthful citrus fruit has more to offer than just plentiful amounts of vitamin C. Tangerines are also good sources of B-1, or thiamine, which your body needs for the production of energy and the proper functioning of muscles and nerves. Tangerines also contain modest amounts of other B-complex vitamins. The USDA states that a medium-sized tangerine contains 063 mg of thiamin, or vitamin B-1; .039 mg of riboflavin, or vitamin B-2; .410 mg of niacin, or vitamin B-3; and .235 mg of pantothenic acid, or vitamin B-5. The same tangerine also contains 17 mcg of folate. The National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements says folate is necessary to make RNA and DNA and helps in production of red blood cells.
It is in supplying beneficial carotenoids that tangerines really shine. A medium-sized tangerine provides 0.169 mg of beta-carotene, a highly pigmented organic compound with antioxidant properties. According to the World's Healthiest Foods website, tangerines--along with oranges, pumpkins and papayas--are particularly rich in another carotenoid, beta-cryptoxanthin. The USDA notes that a medium tangerine provides a whopping 444 mg. Some scientific research suggests that beta-cryptoxanthin may lower lung cancer risk. In a clinical study conducted by Yuan and colleagues and published in the September 2003 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, researchers found a 27 percent reduction in lung cancer risk among adults who consumed foods rich in beta-cryptoxanthins.
Vitamin A content is where tangerines outstrip their close cousins, the orange. One tangerine, according to the USDA, contains 742 IU of vitamin A--more than double the amount of a medium-sized orange, which offers only 295 IU. According to MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia, vitamin A is needed for good vision and helps maintain healthy teeth and bones.