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3 compelling health benefits of tangerines

3 compelling health benefits of tangerines

Tangerines – a variety of mandarin orange – are a naturally sweet and satisfying snack.  As most people are aware, these succulent fruits are an excellent source of vitamin C, or ascorbic acid.  Due to a long-ago evolutionary glitch, we humans no longer manufacture this life-sustaining nutrient in our bodies - so it is important that we get it through diet or supplementation.

But the benefits of tangerines go beyond providing essential vitamin C.  If you were to say, “OK, tangerines, what else ya got?” the answer might surprise you.  Each tangerine features hundreds of bioactive compounds, all with their own tongue-twisting scientific names - and their own impressive health benefits.  Let’s look at three of the unexpected benefits of eating tangerines.

Tangerines support a healthy immune system

Researchers say that constituents of tangerines can help support and enhance the action of the immune system, which protects the body from pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.  In a 2021 review published in Frontiers in Immunology, scientists credited antioxidants in tangerines - including hesperidin, narirutin, naringen and naringinen - with supporting T-cells, B-cells, phagocytes and other important cells needed for immune health.  Hesperidin and naringenin, in particular, may help to regulate the immune system and reduce the severity of allergic reactions.

But the benefits don’t end there. In addition, each tangerine packs about 14 micrograms of folate, or vitamin B9.  Folate is needed for cell division, protein synthesis and tissue growth - and can help sustain the integrity of important barriers to infection (such as skin and mucous membranes).

Of course, vitamin C in tangerines has immune system-promoting abilities of its own.  It is believed to shorten the duration and severity of colds - and the recent review sheds light on why this may be so. 

The researchers reported that vitamin C has been shown to enhance phagocytosis - the act by which immune cells engulf and “gobble up” pathogens - along with strengthening natural killer cell activity and ramping up the production of antibodies that fight off infection.

Tangerine constituents may help “cool down” harmful inflammation

Vitamin C in tangerines can help quench chronic inflammation, which researchers say can trigger a plethora of diseases, including arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, allergy and asthma.  (Systemic long-term inflammation is also involved in heart disease, cognitive decline, cancers and aging). 

Once again, the antioxidants in tangerines work as a team along with vitamin C to promote health.  Scientists say that hesperidin, narirutin, naringen and naringinen in tangerines are anti-inflammatory as well as antioxidative, with naringenin showing particular promise.  In one study, naringenin decreased the expression of cyclooxygenase-2, or COX-2, a common culprit in excessive inflammation.

Support heart health with tangerines

High in dietary fiber, potassium, folate and vitamin C, tangerines have the “right stuff” to support heart health.  Vitamin C reduces risk factors for heart disease by decreasing the tendency of blood platelets to clump together, thereby discouraging blood clots. 

In addition, vitamin C is believed to improve arterial health, lower fats (triglycerides) in the blood and decrease levels of unhealthy LDL cholesterol.  And, potassium in tangerines contributes to a healthy heart and circulatory system by helping to regulate blood pressure.  Finally, the insoluble fiber in tangerines may provide a feeling of satiety, or fullness, thereby helping to regulate appetite and promote normal weight.

Spark up recipes with convenient, versatile tangerines

Tangerines have a milder, sweeter taste than their larger cousins in the citrus family.  And, their looser, pebbly skin makes them easy to “unzip” and break into convenient sections.

Add tangerine segments to salads, or give tangerines a starring role in a fresh citrus salsa by mixing with olive oil, red onion and chopped fresh tomatoes.  You can also use tangerines as you would lemons - to brighten up recipes for seafood, chicken or beef - or to add flavor to a smoothie, sparkling drink or punch.

At about 50 calories, a medium-sized tangerine delivers a very reasonable 47 calories, along with 2 grams of fiber and 0.7 grams of plant-based protein.  Tangerines are also liquid-rich, meaning that they can help you stay hydrated - always a “plus” for overall health.

Cooling, refreshing and delicious, these cheerful orange fruits are packed with nutrition and beneficial compounds.  Tangerines make a fabulous addition to your healthy diet.

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