In recent years it seems many a plant, vegetable, and fruit has been branded with the title of ‘superfood’ – moving it from traditional, regional food to blog post centerpiece.
We know of everything from spirulina and wheatgrass, to acai and goji berries. Of course, there are also the more practical choices that have been repeated to us as important for vitality and health by nutritionists (and probably our parents) ad nauseum for ages: green tea, cacao, blueberries, turmeric, ginger, olive oil, salmon…the list goes on!
Outside of the health food blogosphere, it seems that there is little buzz about moringa and its many nutritional benefits – boasting an impressive array of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, phenols, and amino acids.
Traditionally native to Northwestern India, moringa is cultivated throughout tropical parts of the world (including Hawaii) and typically marketed as a health food or supplement for a broader public, despite being a regular dietary staple in the diets of many in India, Africa, the Philippines, Hawaii and Southeast Asia. A traditional cooking staple for many just so happens to be a ‘miracle’ food.
So, what makes moringa so special or different from any other leafy green vegetable?
Moringa for starters, contains a complete amino acid profile – containing all the amino acids naturally that our body needs to function properly and effectively. It is also extremely rich in nutrients and minerals, providing a high amount of iron, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin E, calcium, and potassium. The amount of vitamin C contained in moringa is higher than that of oranges, the iron content higher than that of spinach, and the vitamin E content higher than most nuts or seeds!
It also naturally contains numerous beneficial phytochemical and flavonoid compounds like beta-carotene, quercetin, gallic acid, moringine, catechin, cinnamic acid, ellagic acid, niazimicin, and countless others.
This combination of numerous vitamins, minerals, amino acids, plant sterols, flavonoids, alkaloids, carotenoids, and phenolic compounds in a whole food package is what makes moringa the ‘miracle’ food it has been described as for thousands of years. It seems like only now the general public is catching on.
Research demonstrates that, in total, moringa contains all 9 essential amino acids (18 amino acids total), over 40 different types of antioxidants, over 30 anti-inflammatory compounds, and 92 different bioavailable nutrients.
There are a number of studies pointing toward the healing properties of moringa from these various compounds – moringa seems to be protective against cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension and stroke risk, and inflammation associated with oxidative stress. It has also been traditionally used to treat a variety of ailments and medical conditions, both internally and topically.
One of the most impressive benefits of moringa may be the potent anti-cancer properties. This is believed to be linked to one of the bioactive compounds in moringa called ‘isothiocyanates.’ Several clinical studies indicate moringa’s anti-cancer ability on cancer cells including colon, liver, lung, pancreas, and prostate. Many of the other compounds in moringa have also been studied for their anti-cancer benefit. Further lab tests indicated effectiveness at stopping cancer cell growth and promoting cancer cell death (while not killing normal cells, or impacting normal cell function).
The other health-related and immune system related benefits of moringa are numerous. Moringa has been shown to help reverse oxidation in the liver – a handful of studies show moringa as protective against liver damage, including alcohol induced liver damage, along with reducing liver fibrosis, restoring liver enzymes, and reducing inflammation.
Moringa suppresses inflammatory enzymes, and reduces inflammation in cells. It can act as a potent anti-inflammatory, comparable to the likes of turmeric – much more well known for many of the same anti-inflammatory benefits. Inflammation is the general marker of most disease and what can aggravate or initiate the start of many diseases and chronic health conditions. Moringa demonstrates an extraordinarily high level of antioxidant activity.
Not only is moringa being used (and researched) for its anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory benefits, but it also seems to improve age related cognitive decline and protect against Alzheimer’s, dementia and boost levels of dopamine and serotonin.
It makes sense with all these touted benefits on immune system health and inflammation, that moringa is also beneficial for cardiovascular health. Moringa seems to help reduce hypertension and can improve blood glucose levels – in one study, taking 50g of moringa powder along with a high carbohydrate meal reduced blood glucose levels by over 20%. Specific compounds in moringa – called terpenoids may even help the pancreas naturally produce more insulin.
While known as quite safe for consumption, there is still the recommendation to consult with a doctor, nutritionist or naturopath before use if pregnant or breastfeeding. As well, in those with liver or kidney damage, monitoring is recommended. Moringa leaves can reduce blood pressure and can have a thinning effect on the blood, so those already on prescription medication for blood clotting should also consult a professional before use.
Already known as a superfood and healing plant across the world, used for thousands of years medicinally (and as a dietary staple of many cultures) with increasing ease of access…it’s a no-brainer to try incorporating moringa into your supplements, daily smoothie, or diet.