Compared to the more widely consumed navel and Valencia varieties, mandarin oranges are somewhat smaller, noticeably sweeter and considerably easier to peel. Although the terms “mandarin” and “tangerine” are often used interchangeably, tangerines are actually a type of mandarin orange. The usually seedless clementine orange is another kind of mandarin. All orange varieties -- including mandarins -- are considered good sources of dietary fiber.
Mandarin oranges qualify as a good source of fiber because a typical serving supplies at least 10 percent of the daily recommended value. One cup of fresh mandarin orange sections -- about the equivalent of two average-sized fruits -- provides just over 100 calories and 3.5 grams of fiber, or 14 percent of the daily value. For just under 130 calories, a serving of two large-sized mandarins delivers 4.4 grams of fiber, or about 18 percent of the daily value. Smaller mandarins have a significant amount of fiber relative to the number of calories they contain. For just 40 calories, one small mandarin orange provides 1.4 grams of fiber.
Insoluble fiber accounts for about 60 percent of the fiber in a navel orange, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Because mandarins have less pith, however, they’re somewhat lower in insoluble fiber than larger citrus varieties. Insoluble fiber binds with water to help sweep material through your intestinal tract more efficiently, which supports digestive health. It also promotes regularity by making stools larger, softer and easier to pass.
Roughly half of the fiber in mandarins is soluble, the type that dissolves in water to form a sticky, gel-like substance. Soluble fiber slows the rate at which digested food leaves your stomach, which helps keep hunger at bay and your blood sugar in check. Like most citrus fruits, mandarin oranges are also a good source of pectin, a soluble fiber that’s especially effective for reducing high cholesterol levels.
Even though mandarins are a good source of fiber, larger oranges deliver more fiber -- and fewer calories -- per ounce. According to the USDA, oranges are about 12 percent lower in calories and 25 percent higher in fiber than mandarins. Most Americans, however, consume citrus in the form of orange juice rather than whole oranges or mandarins. While orange juice and mandarin juice are both high in vitamin C and potassium, neither retains a significant amount of the whole fruit’s fiber. An 8-ounce glass of freshly squeezed orange or mandarin juice has about 110 calories and half a gram of fiber.
Dietary guidelines recommend that most women through the age of 50 should get about 25 grams of fiber each day. Adequate intake standards suggest getting at least 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories you consume, meaning that a daily fiber intake of 25 grams is appropriate for women who get about 1,800 calories a day. If your energy needs are significantly higher or lower, you should adjust your fiber intake accordingly.
Replacing your morning glass of orange juice with two whole mandarins is a simple way to boost your daily fiber intake. Mandarins are also an ideal on-the-go snack because you can peel and divide them without creating a sticky mess. Their relative lack of pith and small size makes them a good choice for fresh fruit salads and green salads alike. To get the most fiber from mandarins, opt for the fresh variety whenever possible. When using the canned variety, select those that have been packed in juice. Mandarins packed in light syrup are about 30 percent higher in sugar -- and 60 percent lower in fiber -- than the fresh fruit.
- Agriculture Marketing Resource Center: Citrus Profile
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Tangerines (Mandarin Oranges), Raw
- USDA National Agriculture Library: Individual Sugars, Soluble, and Insoluble Dietary Fiber Contents of 70 High Consumption Foods
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Oranges, Raw, All Commercial Varieties
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Orange Juice, Raw
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Tangerine Juice, Raw
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Tangerines (Mandarin Oranges), Canned, Light Syrup Pack
- Wellness Foods A to Z; Sheldon Margen, M.D., et al.
Based just outside Chicago, Meg Campbell has worked in the fitness industry since 1997. She’s been writing health-related articles since 2010, focusing primarily on diet and nutrition. Campbell divides her time between her hometown and Buenos Aires, Argentina.