What is Moringa?
Moringa is a type of ‘superfood’ that is quickly making a real name for itself among the aisles of health stores and supermarkets. It shares its name with the genus that it belongs to, but its scientific name is Moringa oleifera. There are actually 13 different species that belong to the same family, Moringaceae, ranging from little herbs to full-sized trees.
Moringa oleifera, or moringa, originally grew as a native tree on the southern foothills of the Himalayas in western India. It has since been widely cultivated, and now grows across Asia in both tropical and subtropical areas. It is also a multipurpose tree, as people can reap the different health benefits that are associated with consuming different parts of the tree. Most people consume either the leaves that grow on the tree or the fruit that it produces.
On an annual basis, around 1.1 to 1.3 tonnes of the fruit that grows on Moringa oleiferaare produced in India, the largest producer of moringa. It can be quite difficult to get hold of this fruit in western countries, with most people turning to moringa powder instead, which is made by grinding the leaves of the tree.
Scientists have spent a long time studying the health benefits that can come with consuming moringa, due to how numerous they actually are.
The Origin of Moringa
In the modern age, we are taught that newer automatically equates to better, which is why most people advertise superfoods as a ‘brilliant new idea’, that has somehow just been found. The reality is quite different, as moringa has been used for generations in traditional medicine. Herbalists found uses for the bark, sap, and roots of the tree, as well as the leaves, seeds, and flowers that are still commonly consumed today.
The overall use of moringa for the medicinal properties that it holds is not limited to one culture or one geographical location. It was valued by the Ancient Egyptians, the Greeks, and even the Romans. Moringa oil was treasured in Ancient Egypt, with the Egyptians using it to protect their skin from the harsh existence in such a hot environment. The Greeks also found that it could be used as a medication, and introduced it to the Romans.
In fact, the use of moringa goes back even further, as Ancient Indian writings from as far back as 150 B.C. make references to the plant. Ayurvedic medicine is a type of medicine that has its roots in India. Moringa is one of the many herbs that are referenced in texts that still exist today, with the practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine believing that it had more than 300 successful applications with regards to healing ailments and diseases.
Health Benefits of Moringa
Moringa has been the topic of a number of different scientific studies, covering a broad range of different ailments and diseases. We do know that moringa has the ability to reduce blood sugar levels and cholesterol and that it can have an anti-inflammatory effect within the body. It has also been linked to a number of dangerous illnesses, as a potential treatment.
Scientists have been considering whether or not moringa trees could be used to combat malnutrition in developing countries. This is because moringa trees thrive in arid and semiarid environments, where other plants would simply die. Moringa leaves are versatile and nutritious and could be used to provide essential nutrients and minerals to both infants and nursing mothers.
Moringa trees would also be a fantastic idea for combating malnutrition due to the rate that they grow at, and the rate that they produce fruit at. In Southern India, they can be harvested bi-annually, and they take less than a year to reach their full size. This also means that moringa would be able to boost food security in developing countries.
Luckily, moringa is something that everyone could benefit from consuming, regardless of where they are from. It consists of 25% plant protein, with all 9 of the essential amino acids. It is also a rich source of iron, something that scientists are currently looking into as a potential way to combat iron deficiency.
The Downside of Moringa
The consumption of moringa (either the leaves or the fruit) is generally considered to be completely safe among both scientists and medical professionals. You should always consult your doctor before adding any superfood to your diet, simply for peace of mind.
It is worth noting that you should avoid consuming the bark or roots of the moringa tree. Luckily these would be almost impossible to purchase in most countries. You have to avoid these because they have components that contain chemicals that appear to be toxic after they have been consumed.
Nutritional Value of Moringa
In approximately 100g of Moringa oleiferaleaf (raw), you will find:
|Pantothenic acid||0.125mg||Vitamin B||1.2mg|
The leaves of the moringa tree are ideal because they are the most nutrient rich part of the plant. They contain a significant amount of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are essential for the body. The leaves themselves are relatively easy to use, you simply cook them the way you would cook spinach. You can then either eat them like that or grind them to create a powder that can be used in a sauce.
In approximately 100g of Moringa oleifera pods (raw), you will find:
|Pantothenic acid||0.62mg||Vitamin B||0.12mg|
These immature seed pods are more commonly known as ‘drumsticks’. It would be hard to find them in a Western country, but they are commonly consumed across the whole of South Asia. Most people cook them in a curry until they are soft, and they are still relatively high in vitamins after they have been cooked.
5 Best Health Benefits of Moringa
1. Moringa can be used to fight two different types of cancer.
Out of all of the illnesses that scientific studies focus on, cancer almost always tops the list. Moringa has been proven to have the ability to act as a potential anti-cancer agent. In a clinical trial, the leaves were shown to have beneficial properties that directly affected both breast and cancer cells, so research is still ongoing(1). The study itself actually looked into the bark and seeds of moringa, as well as the leaves, and both the leaves and the bark performed well, showing remarkable anti-cancer properties.
2. Moringa is rich in antioxidants.
Most people hear the word antioxidant and they know that it means that something is good for them, but they don’t necessarily understand why. Antioxidants are compounds that work against the free radicals in our bodies, a byproduct of oxidation. Free radicals are actually a single electron running havoc in our bodies, trying to find another electron. High levels of this can cause oxidative stress, which contributes to a large number of diseases(2). The leaves of moringa trees have been found to have several antioxidant compounds(3).
3. Moringa has the ability to protect the body against arsenic toxicity.
Arsenic toxicity is a large problem in the developing world, as it has led to the contamination of both food and water. For example, rice can contain high levels of arsenic. The scary thing about arsenic toxicity is that the effects are not immediately visible, as long-term exposure is what causes problems. Exposure to arsenic could increase the overall risk of developing cancer(4). Several studies have successfully shown that the leaves of the moringa tree can protect a person against some of the effects of long-term arsenic toxicity(5).
4. Moringa could reduce inflammation within the body.
Everyone can benefit from anti-inflammatory properties, which is why so many of us take anti-inflammatory medication on an annual basis. The antioxidant levels present in the leaves of the moringa tree are high and can be directly linked to reducing inflammation. The leaves also contain a product known as quercetin, which is occasionally used as a natural antihistamine as it has the ability to stabilize histamine production within the body. This means that consuming moringa can reduce the inflammation that is commonly associated with chronic diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease(6).
5. Moringa can be promote a healthy liver.
Our liver is one of the most important, and often most overlooked, organs that can be found within our body. It is responsible for filtering all of the toxins from our blood, a task that would result in serious illness were it not performed properly. This means that it is vital to maintain a healthy level of enzymes within our liver. One study successfully found that moringa oil can restore liver enzymes(7). This could eliminate a large number of problems, especially in people who have a pre-existing liver condition.
How do you use moringa?
You just have to glance at South Asian cuisine to know just how versatile moringa can be as a food type, as it has numerous different applications in cooking throughout the regions that it is distributed in. Some people use the seed pods as a type of vegetable, adding them to soups, curries, and other dishes.
The leaves of the moringa tree are also edible and highly nutritious. They can be used in a number of different ways, and they are popular in Filipino cuisine. They can also be finely chopped to be used as a garnish for vegetable dishes.
Most people in western countries will purchase moringa powder, which is made from naturally dried moringa leaves. The powder tastes similar to spinach and it can be easily added to smoothies or juice.
If you do not like the taste of spinach, then you could always try a moringa supplement. Most supplements are taken once a day, but you do need to ensure that there are no additional ingredients within your product.
What should you think about when you buy moringa?
One thing that you should always make sure you look for when buying any product that is marketed as a ‘superfood’ is that the product is 100% organic. An organic certification means that you can make sure that certain standards were met during the cultivation and harvesting of the moringa in your product, it also means that no dangerous pesticides will have been used.
It can be incredibly difficult to get raw moringa leaves or fruit unless you happen to live in a country where the tree is commonly grown and harvested. This is simply because the product is extremely perishable. This means that most people in western countries settle for either a supplement or a standard 100% moringa powder product.
When purchasing a supplement or powder you need to make sure that your product does contain 100% moringa, as some manufacturers will have added additional ingredients to the products that they sell. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that you will not see as many benefits as other people would while consuming moringa.
You should always research the brand before purchasing a product, to make sure that no ingredients have been added. This happens a lot with products that are targeted towards people that would like to lose weight, as they often add caffeine to the mixture to suppress hunger.
Is Moringa Really a Superfood?
It can be difficult to define a superfood. Some people would consider it to be a food that has a high nutritional profile with a small number of calories, while other people would consider a superfood to be a food type that has a lot of medicinal properties once it has been consumed. Moringa is unique, as it would fit perfectly into both of those categories.
It is rich in nutrients, antioxidants, and a number of different beneficial compounds. It has been the subject of a number of different scientific tests and it has proved its worth among scientists in the medical field. People in both the undeveloped world and the developed world can benefit from adding moringa to their diet.
Moringa has been successfully linked to the treatment of both breast and colon cancer, it has also been linked to numerous diseases and ailments due to the way that it can target the free radicals that play havoc in our bodies. It can even potentially be used to combat malnutrition in developing countries, growing in even the most challenging of environments.
There is no questioning whether or not moringa is a superfood, as it has existed among the medical community for thousands of years. The properties that moringa contains can be beneficial for any person to consume, regardless of the type of life that they live.