Orange vs Mandarin orange - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison
Oranges and mandarin oranges seem like two different sizes of the same thing. Belonging to the same Rutaceae family and Citrus genus they definitely have a lot in common, however they have their differences too.
It is assumed that an orange is a hybrid between pomelo and mandarins. The first mention of a 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. Being the ancestor of sweet oranges, mandarins have naturally been around for a longer period of time.
Sweet orange usually has a thick rind and inside, there is the white and bitter mesocarp, whereas the rind of a 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 different types of mandarin oranges. Tangerines are bright orange and less sweet. Clementines are the most common type of mandarin oranges in stores, very sweet and easy to peel. Satsumas are also sweet and very easy to peel, however they are also easy to damage (2).
Mandarin oranges contain more fats and carbs, sugars in particular, and naturally more calories. Oranges, on the other hand, have a higher level of protein and fiber. Both foods do not contain cholesterol.
Oranges contain all the essential amino acids, whereas mandarin oranges completely lack the essential amino acid methionine.
Mandarin oranges have a slightly higher glycemic index, however they both fall under the category of low glycemic index foods.
Based on Potential Renal Acid Load (PRAL) oranges are a little more alkaline.
During a low carb, low fats or low calorie diets, orange would be the right choice among these two citrus fruits.
One cannot definitively say whether oranges or mandarin oranges have more vitamins.
Oranges contain double the amount of vitamin C that mandarin oranges have. They are also richer in vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and vitamin B5.
Mandarin oranges, on the other hand, contain a higher concentration of vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B3 and vitamin B6.
Both are relatively equal in the amounts of vitamin B2 and do not contain vitamin D, vitamin K, vitamins B12 and B9 (folic acid).
Oranges are a little higher in calcium and potassium. However, mandarin oranges contain larger amounts of iron, magnesium and phosphorus. Oranges do not contain sodium, whereas mandarin oranges do.
Both fruits contain a similar amount of copper and zinc.
Both oranges and mandarin oranges have been proven to have a positive association with 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 (3).
Citrus flavonoids scavenge free radicals, reducing oxidative stress, improve glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, modulate lipid metabolism and adipocyte differentiation, suppress apoptosis, and improve endothelial dysfunction. Citrus flavonoids also modulate several signaling pathways controlling inflammation and other processes such as NF-κ. 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 (4).
Compounds called carotenoids are what give citrus fruits their bright orange and yellow colouring. Satsumas are rich in a specific type of carotenoids called β-cryptoxanthin. Due to this, they have been observed to lower cardiovascular disease risk by lowering brachial-ankle pulse velocity. However additional supplementation of β-cryptoxanthin to satsuma juice did not show improved results (5).
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 favourable for people with high blood pressure (6). Oranges contain more potassium and less sodium when compared to mandarin oranges, making it the better choice for people struggling with hypertension.
Citrus fruits, such as oranges and mandarins, generally have low glycemic indices, however the glycemic index of mandarin oranges are slightly higher than that of sweet oranges.
Studies in experimental diabetes models demonstrate the efficacy of citrus flavonoids to improve glucose tolerance, increase insulin secretion and sensitivity, decrease insulin resistance, reduce hepatic glucose output and intestinal glucose absorption, enhance peripheral glucose uptake, suppress inflammation, and modulate activity of enzymes and transporters involved in glucose and lipid metabolism (4).
Long term supplementation with flavanones has been observed to reduce glycaemia and insulinaemia 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 PPAR-γ (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ) expression and glucokinase activity, which is a key enzyme involved in the glucose use. Another flavonoid that mandarins are rich in is the poly-methoxy flavone called tangeretin. In diabetic rats, tangeretin significantly reduced the plasma glucose levels, while it also increased the insulin secretion, enhancing complex glucose metabolism (3).
One study has identified a moderate inverse association between plasma vitamin C and both fasting glucose and BMI 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, so further research is necessary to whether supplementation of vitamin C through fruits can lead to a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus or complications related to metabolic syndrome and diabetes (7).
There are many studies in relation to consumption of citrus fruits and the risk of cancer. The most studied cancer in association with citrus is stomach cancer, with most studies displaying protective qualities of citrus fruits on gastric cancer. One study showed that consumption of citrus fruits protects the organism from non-cardia stomach cancer, but not from cancer of the stomach’s cardia.
Overall, the greatest protection for increased citrus consumption appears to be for oesophageal, oro-phayngeal/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% (6).
Some studies have also shown increased citrus consumption to lead to a decreased risk of breast, endometrial, gallbladder and kidney, urothelial and thyroid cancers (6).
Citrus fruits can contain various allergens. These include lipid transfer proteins, profilin and pectin or, in case of contact dermatitis, limonene.
Allergies to citrus often have cross reactivity among other fruits and plants, such as pollen, apples (8), peaches (9), and others.
Citrus allergy symptoms appear after eating or drinking something that was made with raw citrus fruits and include oral allergy syndrome, that is itching, swelling, burning or redness of the mouth area. In rare cases a citrus allergy can cause anaphylaxis. In people who are allergic to limonene symptoms occur after touching the citrus and manifest as contact dermatitis (10).
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 (11).
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 are watching your sugar intake. However one research showed that whole fresh fruit, 100% fruit juice, and sweetened fruit juice did not have a significant effect on the blood glucose levels in non-diabetic individuals (12).
A study has found that while processing orange into the juice slightly lowers its levels of carotenoids and vitamin C, at the same time it also improves the absorption of carotenoids and vitamin C, making it more bioavailable to the human organism (13).
In summary, oranges have less calories, fats and carbohydrates but more protein and fiber, in comparison to mandarins. Oranges are also richer in vitamin C, vitamins B1, B2 and B5, whereas mandarins contain higher concentrations of vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B3 and vitamin B6. Mandarins are higher in iron, magnesium and phosphorus, while oranges contain more calcium and potassium.
Both fruits, as part of the Citrus genus, are rich in phytochemicals such as flavonoids and carotenoids, because of which they express cardioprotective, antidiabetic and anticancer qualities.
Overall oranges win with their nutrition, however both fruits have various health benefits and at the end of the day the choice greatly depends on the personal preference.
Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores
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|
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low glycemic index diet|
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All nutrients comparison - raw data values