Thursday, March 4, 2010

"Real" Food vs. "Fake" Food: Canned Mandarin Oranges, anyone?!?

I like eating clementines and tangerines because they are easy to peel and taste sweeter than other oranges. However, because these fruits are not available year round, a little costly, and tend to spoil faster than I can eat them, I often buy canned mandarin oranges (especially during school season because I don’t have as much time to grocery shop).
“Mandarin oranges” is a term that applies to an entire group of citrus fruits (1). Therefore, canned mandarin oranges are peeled clementines, tangerines, and other varieties of the citrus family soaked in syrup. In comparing taste, the processed orange pieces are a lot sweeter than the real ones. This is because mandarin oranges are canned with sugar, water, and citric acid (2). The looks of both versions of fruits are very pretty. However, the canned orange pieces have a brighter orange look to them than the real orange pieces. Because mandarin oranges go through a long process of getting canned, they are washed and cleaned several times. As a result, mandarin oranges lose most of their fragrant smell and real citrusy taste.

According to an article by, the canning process of fruits and vegetables locks in nutrients and freshness. In some cases, canned fruits and vegetables are even considered to have more nutrients than fresh or frozen ones. I find this a little bizarre because I thought canned fruits and vegetables are never as nutritious as fresh ones due to important nutrient loss in the course of production. This article is interesting, but it contradicts my views. I think it’s always best to consume fruits and vegetables fresh because one voids all the preservatives and additives found in canned goods. For instance, canned mandarin oranges are preserved in a lot of sugar. Per one cup serving, there are 39 grams of sugar and 153 calories (3). One fresh mandarin orange, on the other hand, has only 103 calories (4). It’s no doubt that most of the calories in canned mandarin oranges come from natural sugars. Some essential vitamins, such as vitamin A and C are also found in a one cup serving of mandarin oranges. Other nutrients, in small numbers, that are also found in mandarin oranges are protein, iron, calcium and dietary fiber. The amount of nutrients in each is 2 grams or less (3).

Though they’re not as nutritious as fresh oranges, canned mandarin oranges offer me convenience and are less costly. When late spring and early summer approaches, which clementines and tangerines will be cheaper in prices, I’ll start buying the “real” oranges. For now, though, canned mandarin oranges are a good substitute.




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