The tangerine, a variety of mandarin orange, takes its name from the city of Tangier in Morocco, where it was originally imported from China. These pocket-size citrus fruits make a convenient snack, a healthy dessert or a flavorful ingredient in summer salads. Because of their fructose and fiber content, tangerines and most other fresh fruits won’t undermine your efforts to manage your blood sugar, according to the American Diabetes Association, or ADA.
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The Glycemic Index Foundation, which developed a method for testing the effects of carbohydrate-containing foods on blood sugar levels, has not tested the effects of tangerines. Foods that contain carbohydrates receive a score from one to 100 on the glycemic index, or GI, based on how much your blood sugar increases after you eat them. Fresh oranges, a citrus fruit comparable to tangerines, have a GI value ranging from 31 to 51, with most test values in the 30s or 40s. A number of factors can affect the GI of a fruit, including how ripe it is when you eat it, the ADA notes. However, the overall effect of fresh citrus fruits on your blood sugar is low.
Low in calories as well as in their GI value, tangerines help you meet your daily requirements for several important nutrients. A medium tangerine has 47 calories, 12g of carbohydrates and 24 mg of vitamin C, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This amount of vitamin C represents 32 percent of the recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, of this vitamin for women and 27 percent of the RDA for men. A medium tangerine also contains 599 IU, or international units, of vitamin A, 136 mcg of beta-carotene and 146 mg of potassium.
To avoid extra sugar and calories, the ADA advises that you eat fresh fruit rather than canned fruit or fruit juice whenever possible. The GI value of orange juice ranges from 46 to 54, which indicates that it has a stronger effect on blood sugar than a fresh tangerine. Canned mandarin oranges in juice have a GI value of 47. When buying canned fruit, read the nutritional facts label to check for added sugar.
Managing Blood Sugar
Most fresh fruits do not cause significant increases in your blood sugar, the ADA notes. The ADA promotes fruit as a source of vitamins, minerals and complex carbohydrates. Like other citrus fruits, tangerines are rich in soluble fiber, a type of fiber that becomes viscous during digestion and increases the absorption time of the nutrients in the foods you eat. Foods high in soluble fiber have a low effect on blood sugar, according to the Glycemic Index Foundation, which means they provide fuel for your activities without causing fluctuations in your energy level.
Tangerines are rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant nutrient that may offer protection against the cellular damage caused by carcinogenic substances. Vitamin C also boosts your ability to fight infection and helps your body produce collagen, a basic building material in bones and connective tissues. At a 2004 meeting of the American Chemical Society, researchers reported that the phytonutrients, or beneficial plant-based compounds, in tangerines may help to lower cholesterol and prevent some forms of cancer.