Health Benefits & Nutrition Facts of Ugli Fruit

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Despite its strange name, ugli fruit is becoming increasingly popular due to its inherent health benefits, unique flavor, and unmistakable appearance. Before adding ugli fruit to your fruit diet, it is important to understand how it can benefit you and the best ways to prepare this tropical treat.

What is Ugli Fruit?

Ugli fruit is scientifically known as Citrus reticulata x Citrus paradisi  [1]and is an unusual hybrid of the tangerine, orange, and grapefruit. This fruit was first discovered growing wild in Jamaica, where it may have naturally hybridized, and has been cultivated there ever since. It is also commonly grown in Australia and New Zealand, where it has been naturalized. The name “ugli” is derived from the appearance of this citrus fruit, which is undeniably ugly. The outer rind is pocked and wrinkled, with splotches of different colors while it is ripening, including yellow, green and eventually orange. Despite the unpleasant appearance, the orange flesh inside of this fruit is sweet and closely resembling a tangerine.

Ugli fruit is regularly found and cultivated throughout the Caribbean, and is exported to the United States and Europe, but is rarely found in other markets, with the exception of specialty or exotic fruit markets. When this fruit is opened, it resembles an orange in the sectioned partitions, but the inner skin is thicker and more papery than its famous cousin. You will most commonly find this fruit in salads and stir-fries, although it can also be eaten raw. This tropical fruit also has a similar smell to oranges, both in the rind and when opened. Its growing popularity is due to its unique and impressive nutritional profile, as well as its potential applications for human health.

Close-up of a peeled and unpeeled ugli fruit.

The juicy ugli. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Ugli Fruit Nutrition Facts

Ugli fruit has a significant level of vitamin C, apart from offering the flavor of your favorite citrus fruit. It also has a notable amount of dietary fiber. The fruit boasts a moderate amount of protein, calcium, iron, and vitamin A. Ugli fruit is also surprisingly low in calories and has a relatively low level of sugar for citrus fruit. [2]

Health Benefits of Ugli Fruit

Some of the most important health benefits of ugli fruit include its ability to help in weight loss, beautify the skin, support the immune system, lower blood pressure, strengthen bones, and improve vision.

Promotes Weight Loss

This fruit has an extremely low number of calories, only 45 in the average-sized fruit, which makes it ideal for those trying to lose weight. Ugli fruit will fill you up with fiber, but not compromise your calorie goals, helping to prevent overeating and snacking between meals. [3]

Skin Care

With a rich supply of flavonols, catechins, and other antioxidants, this fruit is an excellent remedy for skin inflammation and other conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea. The antioxidants are also able to improve the appearance of the skin, minimize wrinkles, and clear up age spots or blemishes. Additionally, the active ingredients can help stimulate the growth of new skin cells and tighten up skin elasticity. [4]

Improves Vision

The significant levels of vitamin A found in this fruit are good indicators for eye health, as vitamin A has been directly linked to reduced oxidative stress in the retina. This can slow the progressions of macular degeneration and delay the onset of cataracts as we age. [5]

Controls Cholesterol

The level of dietary fiber in ugli fruit can also help reduce overall cholesterol levels, balancing your HDL and LDL levels, which can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. [6]

Promotes Growth

The impressive concentration of vitamin C found in ugli fruit helps in the production of collagen around the body. Given collagen is required for every cell, tissue and blood vessel, an abundant amount (like that found in this fruit) will help promote growth, repair, and normal development. [7]

Improves Bone Health

There are a number of essential minerals in ugli fruit that can aid in bone mineral density and lower your chances of developing osteoporosis at an early age. [8]

Aids Digestion

Dietary fiber is present in most fruits and vegetables, and the same is true for ugli fruit. Each fruit boasts high dietary fiber content and can help optimize your digestive processes and reduce symptoms of constipation, bloating, cramping, and diarrhea. [9]

Boosts Immunity

With more than 70% of your daily vitamin C requirement in every fruit, ugli fruit can boost the immune system and help promote the production of white blood cells. [10] [11]

Increases Circulation

Although the level of iron in ugli fruit is relatively low, it can still increase the production of red blood cells in the body, which will avoid the symptoms of anemia and increase oxygenation to various parts of the body. [12]

Anticancer Potential

Packed with dietary fiber, and antioxidants such as vitamin C, the ugli fruit might help reduce the risk of cancer, amongst the other benefits it offers. The flavonoids and other phenolic compounds present in citrus fruits could also help in the fighting against certain cancers, more research is required on the matter. [13] [14]

How to Eat Ugli Fruit?

Ugli fruit is relatively simple to eat, you can either slice it open or peel off the rind, revealing the inner fruit with a layer of thin, fibrous material over it. This papery outer covering tends to be thicker than of oranges and other citrus fruits, so you may want to remove it before eating the fruit.

Ugli fruit can also be eaten like a grapefruit when it is sliced in half, using a spoon to scoop out the juicy flesh from each section. You can also put ugli fruit in a juicer or add it to desserts and other smoothies and shakes.

How to Select & Store Ugli Fruit?

Ugli fruit can grow quite large, but for the denser and sweeter fruits, look for one with 4-5 inches in diameter. If you are planning on eating or using the fruit right away, find a fruit that has more orange spots than yellow or green ones, and avoid a fruit that has brown spots. The exterior rind of the fruit should not be soft. You can store ugli fruit at the room temperature, where it should last for up to a week before becoming bitter and unpleasant to eat. In the refrigerator, an ugli fruit will stay fresh for up to two weeks. Protection Status
About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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