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The Health Benefits of Moringa

While we can grow some superfoods in our own backyards (spinach and kale), others come from more exotic locales across the world. Moringa is one such superfood that you'll want to stock up on, and fast. Here is everything you need to know about the benefits of moringa, including why it's worth hunting down. (How many vegan superfoods are already in your pantry?)

What Is Moringa?

The proper name—moringa oleifera—refers to a plant native to dry, tropical climates, says Lisa Dierks, R.D., a wellness dietitian at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program. The trees can grow to be 30 feet tall and are commonly found in West Africa, South Asia, and South America. Some parts of the trees, like the bark, leaves, sap, flowers, and seeds, are used to make medicine. And the plant could actually play a part in spreading nutrition around the world, particularly in places that need it most. "Because the plant is resistant to drought and easy to cultivate, research is ongoing as to how the plant may help alleviate malnutrition in certain areas of the world," says Dierks.

Even though Dierks says the leaves and seeds are the most commonly consumed part of the plant, the easiest way to add moringa to your diet is in powder form, which can be found at a health food store or even on the ingredients list of your favorite granola bars, she says. Just steer clear of moringa root and its extracts—they could be toxic, says Alexandra Miller, R.D.N., a corporate dietitian at Medifast, Inc. (Some people are calling moringa The New Kale of 2016.)

The Health Benefits of Moringa

Moringa leaves are loaded with antioxidants, while the powdered form can help people with diabetes control their blood sugar, finds a study published in Phytotherapy Research. Gram for gram, moringa leaves actually contain more vitamin C than a Florida orange, which is key to keeping bones, teeth, and skin healthy, says Miller. Moringa powder is also a good source of vitamin A, calcium, and iron, but those benefits are somewhat limited by its small serving size. That doesn't mean you should overdo it—anything over one teaspoon could lead to an upset stomach, she adds. However, that one tablespoon serving gives you 3 grams of satisfying protein and only costs about 35 calories.

How to Eat Moringa

Moringa powder can be added to everything from smoothies and oatmeal to pancake and waffle batter. Stir it into guacamole or hummus. Use it in avocado smash (need inspiration? We've got 30 Awesome Avocado Toast Recipes). Or try it in the Morgina-Basil Pesto recipe below.

Moringa-Basil Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups fresh basil
  • 4 tablespoons moringa powder
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil

Directions:
In a food processor or blender, combine all ingredients, adding cheese and oil last. Store in airtight container in the fridge for 4-6 days or freeze in ice cube trays.

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