The moringa tree - or Moringa oleifera - is native to India. It’s here that the tree gets its name the ‘drumstick tree’, thanks a local language’s word for ‘drumstick’ - murungai. You may also hear it called the ‘horseradish tree’, named after its roots’ similarity in taste to the vegetable.
It has been hailed as one of the most nutritious plants in the world, and has been used as a natural remedy for centuries.
The nutritional value of moringa
Moringa oleifera produce leaves and pods - the two main ingredients utilised from the plant. However, outside of its natural habitat, you can usually find the plant in powder or tablet form.
A cup of chopped moringa leaves includes:
- 13 calories
- 2 grams of protein (a 65kg person should typically consume 104g-130g per day)
- 39 mg of calcium
- 71 mg of potassium
- 9 mg of magnesium
- Vitamin A
However, one cup of sliced moringa pods contain:
- 37 calories
- 2 gram of protein
- 461 mg of potassium
- 45 grams of magnesium
- 141 mg of Vitamin C (total ascorbic acid) which is more than in an orange
The two types of the plant have varying essential nutrients, but both have high-quality proteins. These are proteins that contain all nine essential amino acids needed by the body.
They both also both have great health benefits in their own way, and are a good source of vitamins. In the UK, you might be more likely to find moringa as a tablet or powder. Check the label of them to find out their specific nutrients.
What are the health benefits of moringa?
Packed with vitamins and minerals, consuming moringa has lots of positive side effects. The plant:
Helps regulate blood sugar levels
Moringa contains a chemical group called Isothiocyanate. Some scientists believe that this is what is causing reduce blood sugar levels in recent moringa studies.
There aren’t that many studies into this benefit, but initial research looks promising. A study into the benefits of moringa leaf powder proved successful for reducing blood sugar. In fact, the women participating saw an average drop in fasting blood sugar levels of 13.5%.
Helps keep cholesterol levels under control
To have ‘good’ cholesterol levels, you ideally want to see an increase in your HDL cholesterol levels. You will also want to see a decrease in your LDL cholesterol levels.
The effect moringa has on these levels has led to the idea that it can help to reduce the risk of heart disease. A study found that moringa not only reduced LDL levels, but raised HDL levels. This study was carried out on rabbits with high LDL levels. This effect was not seen in the rabbits with already healthy cholesterol levels.
It lowers your blood pressure
Thanks to its nutritional and chemical makeup, moringa can lower high blood pressure. By relieving symptoms of hypertension, regular consumption may, consequently, reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems.
Boosts your immune system
Two of the nutrients that feed a strong immune system are found i moringa - iron and vitamin A.
Helps relieve stomach conditions
Moringa has high magnesium and fiber content - higher than a lot of foods hailed as being good for digestion, like oats. In powder form, moringa could help relieve conditions like constipation, by adding some much-needed fiber to your diet.
Has anti-inflammatory effects
Lots of plants have been proven to help reduce inflammation. According to some scientists, it’s Isothiocyanate to thank again.
One study has linked moringa to reducing the effects of ulcerative colitis. Another study has explored the potential for moringa’s anti-inflammatory properties to have a positive effect on cancer, asthma and arthritis.
Is full of powerful antioxidants
The antioxidants introduced to our body help to fight the effects of ‘free radicals’. These are molecules that damage some of our healthy cells. When this happens, free radicals can give rise to diseases like cancer, asthma and dementia.
Prevents kidney stones
A study has explored the possibility of moringa acting as a preventative medicine in those who might suffer from kidney stones.
Helps protect diabetics from complications
These antioxidants help defend diabetics against oxidative stress. This occurs in those suffering from diabetes, and can cause additional health problems. One study proved that the antioxidant activity of moringa oleifera has beneficial properties in this instance.