Orange vs. Mandarin Orange — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison
Oranges are two times richer in vitamin C compared to mandarin oranges. They also have negligibly fewer calories, fats, and carbohydrates and slightly more protein and fiber than mandarins.
Mandarin oranges visually differ from oranges by their size and shape, being smaller and less round. As part of the Citrus genus, both fruits are rich in phytochemicals such as flavonoids and carotenoids, because of which they express cardioprotective, antidiabetic, and anti-cancer qualities.
Overall, oranges win in the nutrition category; however, both fruits have various health benefits, and at the end of the day, the choice greatly depends on personal preference.
Table of contents
Oranges and mandarin oranges may seem like two different sizes of the same fruit. Belonging to the same Rutaceae family and Citrus genus, they do have a lot in common; however, they have their differences too.
It is assumed that orange (also called sweet orange) is a hybrid between pomelo and mandarins. The first mention of sweet orange in history was recorded in Chinese literature in 314 BC (1). Sweet oranges are the most popular type of citrus in the world.
Mandarin oranges visually differ from oranges by their size and shape, being smaller and less round. The taste is often sweeter than that of an orange. As the ancestor of sweet oranges, mandarins have naturally been around for longer.
Sweet orange usually has a thick rind, and inside, there is the white and bitter mesocarp, whereas the rind of mandarin orange is much thinner, and the lesser amount of mesocarp makes it much easier to peel. The endocarp of both fruits is separated into segments. Mandarin oranges contain much fewer seeds as opposed to sweet oranges.
People often use the words mandarin, tangerine, clementine, and satsuma interchangeably. However, tangerines, clementines, and satsumas are all varieties of mandarin oranges. Tangerines are bright orange and less sweet. Clementines are the most common type of mandarin oranges in stores; they are very sweet and easy to peel. Satsumas are also sweet and easy to peel; however, they are also easy to damage (2).
One medium-sized serving of mandarin orange is about 88 grams, while one medium-sized serving of an orange is about 131 grams.
To make the comparison easy, we will refer to the 100-gram serving sizes in this article. Keep in mind that our graphics are given for a 300-gram serving for better visual comparison.
Macronutrients and Calories
Both oranges and mandarin oranges have similar macronutrient composition, with negligible differences in the amount of contents.
Mandarin oranges contain negligibly more fats and carbs, sugars in particular, and slightly more calories. A 100-gram serving of a mandarine orange provides 53 calories, while a similar serving of oranges provides 47 calories. Oranges, on the other hand, have slightly higher levels of protein and fiber. Both foods do not contain cholesterol.
Oranges contain all the essential amino acids, whereas mandarin oranges entirely lack the essential amino acid methionine.
Orange would be the right choice between these two citrus fruits during low-carb, low-fat, or low-calorie diets.
One cannot definitively say whether oranges or mandarin oranges have more vitamins.
Oranges contain double the amount of vitamin C that mandarin oranges have.
A 100-gram serving of oranges provides 53.2mg of vitamin C, while a similar serving of mandarin oranges provides 26.7mg. Hence, both are great sources of vitamin C, which is essential for immune system function.
Although the amounts of other vitamins present in a single serving of both oranges are almost negligible, when comparing the two, oranges are slightly richer in vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B5, and vitamin B9 (folate). On the other hand, mandarin oranges contain a higher concentration of vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B3, and vitamin B6. But again, the amount of these vitamins in a single serving is minimal.
Both do not contain vitamin D, vitamin K, and vitamin B12.
A single serving of oranges and mandarin oranges contains no significant levels of any minerals.
However, if we compare the minimal amounts present in each food, oranges are a little higher in calcium and potassium. However, mandarin oranges contain larger amounts of iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. Both fruits contain similar amounts of copper and zinc. Oranges do not contain sodium, whereas mandarin oranges do, although, again, these levels of sodium and any other above-mentioned minerals in both oranges are negligible.
The glycemic index is a rating system used for foods containing carbohydrates. Mandarin oranges have a slightly higher glycemic index; however, both fruits be classified as low glycemic index foods.
Raw oranges from Canada have an average glycemic index of 40, while mandarin segments, canned in juice, have a glycemic index of 47 (3, 4)
One way to understand the acidity of foods is through their potential renal acid load (PRAL) value, which shows how much acid or base the given food produces inside the organism.
Based on Potential Renal Acid Load (PRAL), oranges are a little more alkaline-forming.
Both oranges and mandarin oranges have been proven to have a positive association with the prevention of cardiovascular diseases due to their high contents of phytochemicals.
Evidence suggests that fruits in the Citrus genus significantly reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease risk, including myocardial infarction, dyslipidemia, and coronary artery pathology, due to the high content of flavonoids. The potential mechanism of action may be related to the intracellular pathways involved in direct cardiovascular and cardiometabolic effects mediated by naringenin, hesperetin, and eriodictyol or their glycosylated derivatives (5).
Citrus flavonoids scavenge free radicals, resulting in reduced oxidative stress, improved glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, modulated lipid metabolism and adipocyte differentiation, suppressed apoptosis, and improved endothelial dysfunction. Citrus flavonoids also modulate several signaling pathways controlling inflammation and other processes.
Last but not least, citrus flavonoids have been found to modulate different signaling pathways involved in adiposity and adipocyte differentiation and hence, could be of significant value for the development of antiobesity agents (6).
Compounds called carotenoids are what gives citrus fruits their bright orange and yellow coloring. Satsumas are rich in a specific type of carotenoid called β-cryptoxanthin. Due to this, they have been observed to lower cardiovascular disease risk. However, additional supplementation of β-cryptoxanthin to satsuma juice did not show improved results (7).
Citrus contains a minimal amount of salt, otherwise called sodium chloride and is also high in potassium. This high-potassium to low-sodium ratio makes citrus fruits favorable for people with high blood pressure (8). Oranges contain more potassium and less sodium when compared to mandarin oranges, making them the better choice for people struggling with hypertension.
As mentioned earlier, citrus fruits, such as oranges and mandarins, generally have low glycemic indices. Nevertheless, the glycemic index of mandarin oranges is slightly higher than that of sweet oranges.
Studies in experimental diabetes models demonstrate the efficacy of citrus flavonoids in improving glucose tolerance, increasing insulin secretion and sensitivity, and decreasing insulin resistance. These flavonoids may also reduce hepatic glucose output and intestinal glucose absorption, enhance peripheral glucose uptake, suppress inflammation, and modulate the activity of enzymes and transporters involved in glucose and lipid metabolism (6).
Long-term supplementation with flavanones has been observed to reduce glycemia and insulinemia in diabetic or insulin-resistant animals fed a high-fat diet. Additionally, glucose tolerance was improved. Revealing the insulin-like property of naringenin has further demonstrated the ability of naringenin and hesperidin to reduce the specific receptor expression and glucokinase activity, which is a key enzyme involved in glucose use. Another flavonoid that mandarins are rich in is the poly-methoxy flavone called tangeretin. In diabetic rats, tangeretin significantly reduced plasma glucose levels and increased insulin secretion, enhancing complex glucose metabolism (5).
One study identified a moderate inverse association between plasma vitamin C and fasting glucose and body mass index in adult subjects across the glycaemic spectrum. However, this relationship may be due to the depletion of vitamin C due to oxidative stress and inflammation resulting from dysglycemia, overweight/obesity, and smoking rather than lower dietary intakes. Further research is necessary to decide whether vitamin C supplementation through fruits can lead to a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus or complications related to metabolic syndrome and diabetes (9).
There are many studies concerning the consumption of citrus fruits and the risk of cancer. The most studied cancer associated with citrus is stomach cancer, with most studies displaying protective qualities of citrus fruits on gastric cancer. One study showed that the consumption of citrus fruits protects the organism from non-cardia gastric cancer but not from cardia gastric cancer (8).
Overall, the greatest protection for increased citrus consumption appears to be for esophageal, oropharyngeal/ laryngeal (mouth, larynx, and pharynx), and stomach cancer. For these cancers, those studies showing a protective effect of citrus fruits showed risk reductions of 40-50% (8).
Some studies have also shown increased citrus consumption to lead to a decreased risk of breast, endometrial, gallbladder and kidney, urothelial, and thyroid cancers (8).
Citrus fruits can contain various allergens. These include lipid transfer proteins, profilin, and pectin or, in case of contact dermatitis, limonene.
Citrus allergies often have cross-reactivity among other fruits and plants, such as pollen, apples, peaches, and others (10, 11).
Citrus allergy symptoms appear after eating or drinking something made with raw citrus fruits and include oral allergy syndrome, which is itching, swelling, burning, or redness of the mouth area. In rare cases, a citrus allergy can cause anaphylaxis. In people allergic to limonene, symptoms occur after touching the citrus and manifest as contact dermatitis (12).
It is important to differentiate a citrus allergy from sensitivity to citric acid. People can experience adverse effects from citric acid; however, it does not cause an immune response in the human organism (13).
Juice or Whole Fruit
Which is the healthier choice: the citrus or the fruit made from the citrus?
Processed orange and mandarin juices tend to be higher in carbohydrates due to the added sugars, so the whole fruit is the better choice if you watch your sugar intake. However, one research showed that whole fresh fruit, 100% fruit juice, and sweetened fruit juice did not significantly affect the blood glucose levels in non-diabetic individuals (14).
A study has found that the levels of carotenoids and vitamin C are slightly lowered during the processing of oranges into juice. At the same time, it also improves the absorption of carotenoids and vitamin C, making it more bioavailable to the human organism (15).
- What’s The Difference Between Oranges, Mandarins, Satsumas, Clementines, Tangerines?
- The Health Benefits of Citrus Fruits
Fat Type Comparison
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Sugar|
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in Glycemic Index|
|Lower in Cholesterol||Equal|
|Lower in price||Equal|
|Rich in minerals||Equal|
|Rich in vitamins||Equal|
All nutrients comparison - raw data values
|Vitamin A RAE||34µg||11µg|
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Glycemic Index diet|
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Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
All the values for which the sources are not specified explicitly are taken from FDA’s Food Central. The exact link to the food presented on this page can be found below.
- Mandarin orange - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169105/nutrients
- Orange - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169097/nutrients
All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000-calorie diets.