You may have read headlines comparing moringa to a miracle tree or labeling it as the newest superfood and wondered, “Should I give it a try?” Same here. So I figured if I was going to educate myself about it, why not take you along on my fact-finding journey?
What Exactly Is Moringa Anyway?
Let’s start with the basics. Moringacae is a genus of the plant kingdom, and its most heavily cultivated species is Moringa oleifera. This tree is native to Southeast Asia, but has since spread around the southern hemisphere. It is quite spectacular as a food crop because it is fast-growing and drought resistant, and has foliage that is quite nutritious.
It is somewhat amazing that all parts of the Moringa tree appear to have beneficial properties, not just for us, but for humanity. The leaves and pods are a source of nutrition and medicine. Its bark, gum, flowers and roots are utilized as medicine. And the seeds are used for cooking oil, cosmetics, lubricant, medicine and water purification.
Several websites mentioned that in 2008, the U. S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) named the Moringa oleifera tree the “Plant of the Year,” though I was not able to confirm that claim. But it was the subject of the NIH Record’s “mystery plant challenge” that year, where it was described as the “source of potentially important medicines,” having “the potential to help reverse multiple major environmental problems and provide for many unmet human needs.” (Source)
In fact, the Sixth National Moringa Congress had its first International Symposium on Moringa in November 2015! “The four-day symposium and congress brought together about 300 junior and senior scientists from around the world to share and discuss the latest advances in research and development for moringa … and to promote the sustainability of its production, processing, utilization, marketing and trade as well as consumption for health and vitality, industry profitability and global competitiveness.”
The Nutritional Breakdown of Moringa
Moringa leaves are packed with nutrition. For example, check out this interesting factoid I came across.
Gram for gram, fresh moringa leaves contain:
• 2 times the PROTEIN of yogurt
• 3 times the POTASSIUM of bananas
• 4 times the CALCIUM of milk
• 4 times the VITAMIN A of carrots
• 7 times the VITAMIN C of oranges
Gram for gram, dried leaves (which are most concentrated) contain:
• 9 times the PROTEIN of yogurt
• 10 times the VITAMIN A of carrots
• 15 times the POTASSIUM of bananas
• 17 times the CALCIUM of milk
• 25 times the IRON of spinach
All of these nutrients are beneficial for maintaining good health. Protein is obviously a necessity for sustaining life and bodily functions (and this protein contains all of the essential amino acids). Potassium supports brain and nerve function, and calcium helps us maintain our bone strength. Vitamin A supports our vision, skin, immune system and so much more. Vitamin C is the most well-known antioxidant, and helps us with our immune system, collagen production and brain health.
These leaves also contain vitamins B1, B2 and B3, chromium, copper, fiber, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc. Other beneficial compounds found in the foliage include chlorophyll, carotenoids, plant sterols, omega oils, cytokinins, flavonoids, lutein and more.
Considerable efforts are being put into the use of moringa in the developing world — just where the tree grows best — to address some of their major problems, including malnutrition, impure water, deforestation and poverty. Imagine the potential for saving millions of lives!
Potential Benefits of Moringa
In addition to its nutritional benefits, moringa leaves have been used in traditional medicine for centuries for a variety of health issues (300 in ayurveda alone). Research by the modern scientific community is uncovering their potential health benefits, much of which is supporting the traditional uses. As of the beginning of 2016, there have been more than 300 clinical studies conducted on Moringa oleifera that show its ability to alleviate symptoms of many health issues. In one study, published on PubMed.gov, moringa leaf extract demonstrated some therapeutic effectiveness related to antioxidant activity, and tissue swelling and irritation.
Its 40+ antioxidants work to prevent free radicals from damaging our healthy cells. These substances inhibit oxidation of other molecules in the body.
Also of note are its 46 “anti-inflammatory” compounds. They promote a healthy internal response in the body, mainly related to tissue swelling and irritation.
Human studies continue on this newly acknowledged superfood.
How to Incorporate Moringa into Your Diet
While these beneficial leaves can be eaten fresh or dried, the sourcing for fresh foliage can be limited here in the United States. Even the dried leaves can be hard to come by in some areas.
To help people who are interested in trying this superfood, Natural Healthy Concepts carries several supplement products, including:
Moringa Super Food by Bio Nutrition
This dietary supplement delivers 5,000mg of moringa leaf extract per vegetarian capsule.
Moringa Leaf Powder by Organic India
This herbal supplement comes in powder form and provides 1g of certified organic moringa leaf powder per serving.
Moringa Leaf Extract by Solaray
This natural supplement offers 450mg of moringa leaf extract per vegetarian capsule.
So, there you have it! We’ve reached the end of our fact-finding journey ― for now anyway.
I hope you are able to make a more informed choice having learned more about this nutritious antioxidant.
Considering its potentially colossal benefits for humanity, moringa certainly deserves more attention in the United States.
What are your thoughts? Please share them in the comments section below!