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Move over, matcha. Moringa is having a moment.
This article was medically reviewed by Marjorie Cohen, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and member of the Prevention Medical Review Board, on April 19, 2019.
There always seems to be a new superfood powder in the spotlight. In a world with matcha tea and turmeric lattes, it’s no surprise that moringa has finally made its way to our Instagram feeds.
But this trendy green is for more than your morning smoothie. Moringa can be added to oatmeal, soups, and even baked goods, too. Some proponents claim that it’s more nutritious than kale—but is that really true? Or is moringa just another plant powder of the moment? Here’s everything you need to know about moringa powder before your try it for yourself:
Native to India, the plant Moringa oleifera is often called the drumstick or miracle tree. It’s a highly cultivable crop that is also grown in tropical areas of Asia, Africa, and South America, making it a remedy for common health problems (like malnutrition) in less developed countries. The leaves of the plant can be eaten raw or cooked, but the moringa you see on store shelves is typically in powder or capsule form, and is derived from harvesting, drying, and milling the moringa leaves.
“Moringa has been used in folk medicine for many years,” explains Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, author of The Easy 5-Ingredient Healthy Cookbook. “Proponents claim that moringa can help with diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and HIV/AIDS.”
That’s because moringa is extremely nutritious. The plant packs in vitamin A, calcium, iron, potassium, and some fiber, explains Marisa Moore, RDN, a nutritionist based in Atlanta. She adds that the moringa root, seeds, flowers, and leaves also have varying levels of healthy fats and disease-fighting flavonoids.
It’s true that raw moringa leaves contain various nutrients—but its profile is still quite similar to raw kale leaves. Plus, you’ll find a smaller amounts of all those vitamins and minerals in a tablespoon of moringa in its powder form. Here’s the nutrition info for pure moringa powder from the USDA database:
Per one packet (10 grams):
0.05 g fat
5 g carbs (3 g fiber, 1 g sugar)
3 g protein
150 mg calcium
2 mg iron
160 mg potassium
Since it contains lots of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, moringa boasts a bit of a health halo. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most popular health claims around moringa.
It may help with lowering blood pressure. A 2016 study from the American Journal of Hypertension showed that moringa seed powder helped improve cardiac diastolic function, aka the proper way your ventricles relax and stiffen, in spontaneous hypertensive rats, suggesting that it may help with preventing heart disease associated with high blood pressure.
…and reducing your risk of diabetes. An August 2018 study from the Journal of Functional Foods suggests that moringa seed extract has anti-diabetic effects and helped improve glucose tolerance in obese mice. Moreover, a study on PCOS insulin-resistant rats showed that moringa oleifera significantly lowered insulin levels.
It can improve liver function. Another rat study on the effects of moringa oleifera from the Journal of Drug and Chemical Toxicology shows that the antioxidant properties in moringa can help improve liver function by recovering liver enzyme activities.
And might just help you lower your cholesterol. A 2017 study on guinea pigs in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences shows that moringa oleifera leaves may help with lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels, while reducing inflammation in the liver.
Moreover, a 2012 review paper published in Frontiers in Pharmacology determined that although moringa may have some potential in assisting with diabetes and heart disease, there is insufficient scientific research and data to show the safe dosage of moringa and its side effects,” says Amidor, since many of these studies are conducted using concentrated forms of moringa.
Moore agrees, but she notes that preliminary studies show that moringa may offer small improvements in menopausal symptoms, like insomnia and hot flashes.
The problem is many of these studies have been done on mice and animals—not people—so more human research is needed. Other studies point to the plant’s cancer-fighting potential, but unsurprisingly, human trials on cancer patients are lacking. There is some evidence that compounds in the moringa plant (like the leaves and bark) may contain anti-cancer properties that could be useful in future breast and colorectal cancer treatments. Another study proposes that moringa leaf extract can inhibit the growth of pancreatic cancer cells.
Still, it’s important to note that much of this research is in its early stages and uses more moringa than you’d typically eat in a day. More studies need to be done before any definite claims can be made about moringa’s ability to fight disease.
You can purchase moringa powder in health food stores and groceries. They are usually sold in the vitamins and dietary supplements section of grocery stores. You can also find moringa powder online. Here are our top picks:
Moringa isn’t a miracle cure-all, but it seems to be just as good for you as any other antioxidant-rich fruit or veggie.
“I would recommend adding the powder to smoothies, muffins, protein or granola bars, or quick bread. It has a strong vegetal flavor that works well in savory dishes or in recipes with natural sweetness,” says Moore. It can also be steeped as a tea or sprinkled into soups and salad dressings.
If you’re curious about incorporating moringa powder into your diet, whipping up this tropical green smoothie is a good place to start.
Moringa Smoothie Recipe
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