What is Moringa?
Touted as the ‘Miracle Tree’ and used for hundreds of years in Ayurvedic Medicine, the Moringa Tree, or Moringa Oleifera (its scientific name), is a leafy green tree native to India and now indigenous to many regions in Africa, South East Asia, The Caribbean and South America. The Moringa tree has several names in different parts of the world including its common name of “horseradish tree”, since its roots have a similar, bitter taste to horseradish root when raw.
The leaves are considered the most nutritious part and are most often used in supplements and powders.
What is Moringa Good For?
The Moringa tree is acclaimed for its variety of health benefits, from its seeds that are said to purify water by binding to impurities and separating them out, through to the oils that can be extracted and used in skincare to help with inflammation, acne and wrinkles. However, there is limited evidence for these claims and more research with higher quality trials need to be conducted.
Nutrient-wise, the leaves are a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals and amino acids and have been reported to boost energy, despite being caffeine free.
A paper published in the journal Ecology of Food and Nutrition found that gram for gram Moringa leaves have:
- 7 x more vitamin C than oranges
- 3 x as much iron as spinach
- More calcium than dairy milk
- More vitamin A than carrots
- More potassium than bananas
- More protein than yogurt
Moringa has also been found to contain Flavonoids such as Quercetin. Quercetin is often used as a natural antihistamine, due to its ability to stabilise the production of histamine in the body. And if that wasn’t enough, a 2017 study has suggested that the anti-inflammatory effects of Moringa seed extract are more potent than those provided by Curcumin, the active component in Turmeric! Turmeric Lattes watch out…
Is It Really A Superfood?
Well firstly, when looking at the nutrient values of foods and spices, it's more complicated than just comparing them like for like. Although the above is technically true, we need to think about what “gram for gram” really means. Moringa leaves are fairly lightweight, with 100 grams of fresh Moringa leaves amounting to five cups worth. This is substantially more than most people could consume in one sitting – even the most ardent of health enthusiasts! Therefore, although the Moringa leaf may contain more protein than yogurt, gram for gram, 100g of yogurt is only half a cup, compared to five cups of raw leaves.
And let’s talk about iron. While Moringa leaves do contain a pronounced concentration of iron, certain studies have suggested that its bioavailability is actually rather low. This is due to its high content of phytic acid, which not only inhibits the absorption of iron from the Moringa leaves but from other components of your diet as well. If you already suffer from low iron levels or anaemia, you should consider the amount of Moringa you are eating and only consume Moringa separately from any other iron-containing foods.
Dried Moringa leaves are said to have higher calcium levels than dairy products, but they also contain substantial quantities of oxalic acid. Oxalic acid interferes with the absorption of certain minerals including calcium and when consumed with fibre (i.e leaves!), oxalic acid can further reduce absorption of minerals.
How Long Does It Take Moringa To Start Working?
Moringa powders are now readily available in health food stores across the UK and are perfectly safe to consume. The fantastic benefit of using Moringa in a powder form is that the concentration levels and bioavailability of the nutrients are much higher, avoiding the need to chomp down three plates of raw leaves at every meal time.
Just 10g (2-3 teaspoons, versus ½ a cup of leaves) will give you 30% of your RDA of iron, nine essential amino acids, 20% of your RDA of vitamin A and a good serving of fibre.
If you can get a hold of the fresh leaves, swap them in place for spinach for a versatile flavour and nutritional boost. Remember that not everything we consume needs to be because of the richness of its nutrients. Experiment and enjoy using Moringa and share your thoughts with us!
1. Moringa Latte
3. Fresh Leaf Moringa Dahl
4. Moringa Porridge
By Clarissa Lenherr