Mandarins, tangerines, and clementines are often confused. However, each fruit has unique traits and slightly different nutritional profiles.
Tradition and availability have led to clementines (and mandarins and tangerines) to become a popular fruit in the weeks leading to Christmas. If you’re anything like me you could eat these orange fruits by the dozen. But are they good for you? Here’s a look at the difference amongst these fruits and if they are a healthy treat.
Clementines vs. Mandarins vs. Tangerines
The mandarin is a small relative of the common orange. As its name suggests, it originates from China. Tangerines and clementines are varietals of mandarins.
Tangerines are larger. The fruit is largely grown in North Africa and was largely exported through the port of Tangier, which is where it gained its name.
Clementines are smaller and seedless. They’re a hybrid of a Mediterranean Citrus ×delicious (a hybrid fruit itself) and a sweet orange. A French missionary in Algeria named, Marie-Clément Rodier, created it in 1902. This is also where the fruit gets its name.
Looking at an even 100g per fruit there are some marked differences.
Vitamin C is one of the biggest differences. Clementines take it home with 48.8mg per 100g. That’s 81% of your daily value. Tangerines have 44%, while mandarins only have 32%.
Another difference is vitamin A. Tangerines have 14% of your daily value, mandarins have 4%, and clementines don’t contain any vitamin A whatsoever.
Clementines are also lower in sugar. This hybrid fruit contains 9.2g of sugar for every 100g. Both tangerines and mandarins have 10.6g per 100g.
All three have similar levels of dietary fibre, and trace amounts of vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and pantothenic Acid. They also have low levels of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese.
So are any of these fruits worth the high sugar content?
Mandarin varietals are highly rich in carotenes. They are also rich in β-cryptoxanthin and phytoene. This makes sense because these are the pigments that bring the bright colour to the fruit. Carotenoids also function as antioxidants in the body. They are largely beneficial for retinal health.
Clementines are a significant source of vitamin C. Its cousins a little less so, but most people are not getting enough of this important immune booster.
They’re also a decent source of fibre. This fibre is good for your digestive tract. It helps feces hold water and keeps it from blocking up in your intestinal tract.
Overall clementines, mandarins, and tangerines are an okay fruit to have in your diet. Be mindful of how many you eat because of the high sugar levels. Also, the fibre and vitamin C levels can cause a flushing of your digestive system, resulting in an upset stomach.