With the steady rise of ailments like congenital heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancers, along with a decreased trust in pharmaceutical solutions to systemic health problems, it should come as no surprise that folks continue to scour planet earth for natural ways to fight them. Adaptogens like ginseng and reishi, and other nutrient- and antioxidant-packed “superfoods” like kale, bee pollen, chia seeds and matcha, have pushed their way into our daily diets, all with the promise to make us healthier, happier people.
Moringa oleifera, a bright green powder and herbal supplement, produced from the leaves of a small yet durable tree, is one of the more recent additions to that ever-growing grocery list of uber-health foods. Some have clocked moringa as one of the world’s most nutritious plants; cheap to produce and “healthier than kale”, there are murmurs (led largely by brands and PR reps) that moringa could be poised to change the way the world eats, improving health on a global scale.
A rep for one leading brand, Kuli Kuli, notes recent SPINS data which exposes moringa as the fastest growing ingredient within the 66 million dollar green supplement category; overtaking matcha and quickly catching up to chlorophyll, spirulina, and wheatgrass.
But what is moringa? Where does it come from? And should we all be eating it, like…all day, every day?
Healthier Than Kale?! What Even Is Moringa?
Moringa oleifera is a plant native to the sub-Himalayan regions of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, but also cultivated in other parts of Asia as well as South and Central America. The sturdy tree, also known as the “drumstick tree” or “horseradish tree,” can be grown fast and in relatively harsh conditions, including sandy soil. The moringa leaves, seeds, seed pods, root, and even bark can be processed into powders and oils, all long thought to provide a wealth of health benefits. The most commonly used form of moringa oleifera is as a fine green powder, similar in production and appearance to matcha (green tea), made from dehydrated moringa leaves. Moringa powder, along with oils and other moringa-based products, are sold in health stores and online retailers and can be consumed in any number of ways, culinary or otherwise.
What are the Health Benefits of Moringa?
The majority of moringa’s healthful properties are found within the leaves, which are the most widely used in medicinal applications and processed into easy-to-use powders. Moringa is said to be a rich source of minerals and vitamins, like vitamin C, iron, calcium, magnesium, and folate. Moringa, like any superfood worth its weight, is also said to contain all the essential amino acids and free radical-fighting antioxidants, and contains more protein than kale (about 2 grams per cup), along with significant anti-inflammatory properties.
Banyan Botanicals Moringa Leaf Powder (one pound), $21.99 on Amazon
A protein-packed and versatile moringa powder with endless applications!
Though South Asians have been eating it and touting its health benefits for many years, it’s far more recently that the western market has taken notice of this medicinal plant and the myriad health benefits of moringa. Some of the diseases and ailments moringa oleifera is said to help alleviate include high blood pressure, stress, liver disease, edema, and other inflammation-based ailments. High in powerful antioxidants, moringa may help prevent some forms of cancer, lower blood sugar, and has been shown to fight bacterial disease, skin problems, stomach illness, and help prevent bone decay.
Oh, is that all?
Cool, It’s a Miracle Plant—But What Does Moringa Taste Like?
The leaves of moringa oleifera have an earthy spiciness and have been compared to horseradish (hence its nickname, the “horseradish tree”) or arugula. When consumed on their own, raw or cooked, the leaves are not widely known for their great taste, but as a fine powder, it is much easier to incorporate the moringa plant into tasty recipes.
How to Use Moringa
Though you can eat fresh or cooked moringa leaves, the vast majority of folks opt for the powdered stuff. Many health professionals and sources I checked recommend using a natural powder made from the moringa leaves only (which is the majority of them on the market). While there are oils, extracts, and other compounds made from other parts of the moringa plant, like its seeds, pods, root, and even bark, the effects on the body have not been as widely explored through studies and clinical trial. It is recommended to introduce moringa slowly into one’s diet, starting with a teaspoon per day for a week and slowly increasing the daily intake over time to avoid any upset stomach or aversion to the plant.
One of the most popular and simplest ways to add moringa oleifera to your diet, and reap its many health benefits, is as a beverage. Moringa can be mixed into hot water like matcha tea (but without the caffeine), with steamed oat milk for a creamy spiced latte, or blended with yogurt and fruits for protein shakes, breakfast bowls, and smoothies. With savory notes of earthy spice, moringa can also be used in savory soups, sauces, dips, and more.
If you’re looking for more creative ways to use moringa, including an Indian-inspired ice cream, check out our 7 Ways to Use Moringa Powder (and Why You Should).
Related Video: How to Make Super-Food Infused Ice Cream with Moringa
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