There’s a superfood that’s about to be huge that you should know about: Moringa. Get to know the facts on what makes this rare plant so special, and how it can make an impact on the fight against malnutrition.
Moringa is a tree that grows extraordinarily fast in environments where most other plants can’t survive. These are dry, semi-arid places like Darfur and southern Ethiopia, in addition to tropical climates. But this isn’t what makes moringa so special. It has a astounding nutritional profile particularly because top researchers validated the widely recognized, remarkable claims about the nutrient density of the plant.
What makes moringa a superfood?
Moringa is a rare plant containing all nine essential amino acids, an impressive amino acid profile found in animal foods. The vitamin and mineral content is equally remarkable, with high quantities of vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and calcium. The plant leaves are bursting with antioxidants and a wide variety of polyphenols, phenolic acids. There are even flavonoids and glucosinolates that provide a plethora of positive effects. Research shows that these substances may help to lower blood sugar, regulate blood pressure and cholesterol and act as antiulcer, antitumor and anti-inflammatory agents.
One tablespoon of moringa leaf powder is like a multivitamin in natural form, containing:
- 2 g protein
- 110 percent RDA Vitamin A
- 16 percent RDA calcium
- 28 percent RDA Vitamin E
- 85 percent RDA Riboflavin
- 48 percent RDA Vitamin C
- 10 percent RDA Iron
Where can I find moringa?
While moringa isn’t a household name in the U.S., health foods distributors are beginning to stock it as more consumers become aware of the benefits of this plant. Kuli Kuli, started by a former Peace Corps volunteer created moringa-based products including bars, powder and energy drinks. The founder first learned about moringa while serving in Africa. You can find this grassy and earthy tasting moringa powder Online stores and Whole Foods.
Another company that sources high quality moringa is A Healthy Leaf . Using the powder is easy and there’s plenty of room for creativity. Many people like to mix it into their smoothies, or stir a tablespoon into oatmeal for an extra nutritional boost. If you’re able to try the leaves, they’re delicate and flavorful, reminiscent of spinach with slightly more bitterness and complexity. Given the increasing awareness and consumer interest, it’s only a matter of time before it’s available in the U.S..
Making a positive impact on malnutrition
While I worked in humanitarian aid in Khartoum, Sudan a few years ago, I had the opportunity to plant moringa seedlings in my garden so I could pick the leaves and put them in salads, smoothies and omelets. Even in the dry climate of Khartoum, the seedlings flourished and were over 10 feet tall within four months. The project I was working on was treating malnutrition in Darfur. There, we encouraged local farmers to increase production of fruits and vegetables. I asked my staff to include moringa in the seed basket we provided to the farmers. It helped us mitigate and prevent the chronic malnutrition epidemic the region faces.
Other organizations and donors are beginning to catch on to the benefits of moringa, too. It has the potential to make a massive impact in countries that bear the burden of malnutrition, where 3 million deaths in children under five years old are due to lack of adequate calories and protein. With recent discussion about the importance of protein in treatment of malnutrition, one primary barrier that is always cited is the high cost of “good” protein, i.e., animal protein.
With the leaves containing 30% protein and the ability to grow quickly even in harsh environments, moringa is truly a unique plant that can be a significant part of the solution.
Mascha Davis, MPH, RDN is a Los Angeles-based private practice dietitian who shares her love of health and wellness through a unique global perspective. From world-class U.S. medical centers to rural villages in Africa, Mascha has dedicated herself to traveling the world, spreading her love of healthy living through both her humanitarian work and private practice. Learn more about Mascha at Nomadista Nutrition.