By: Pallavi Vathiar. Practicing Clinical Nutritionist, Mumbai.
Moringa (aka horseradish/drumstick tree) is an edible plant that is native to Asia. India is the largest producer of Moringa worldwide, with an annual production of 1.3 million tons.
In 1990, Moringa was useful for purifying water. Moringa contains charged particles which repel similarly charged particles in natural water, and thus acts as a natural filtration system.
Leaves are used for malaria, typhoid, parasitic infections, arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, immune boosting, cardiac stimulation, contraception, and as a lactation aid
Seeds are used for stomach ulcers, toothache, poor vision, hemorrhoids, and as biomass for bio-diesel production
Roots and flowers are used as an aphrodisiac, to treat hysteria and enlargement of the spleen.
Moringa leaves contain a multitude of compounds, including vitamins (E and C), minerals (calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, zinc, copper, manganese, iron, selenium), protein, fiber, lysine, tannins, cellulose, polyphenols, and quercetin.
Moringa leaves contain seven times the amount of vitamin C as oranges and four times the amount of vitamin A as carrots. One cup of fresh, sliced pods (100 grams) contains 157% of your daily requirement (1).
Moringa leaves are an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals. One cup of fresh, chopped leaves (21 grams) contains: (2)
- Protein: 2 grams
- Vitamin B6: 19% of the RDA
- Vitamin C: 12% of the RDA
- Iron: 11% of the RDA
- Riboflavin (B2): 11% of the RDA
- Vitamin A (from beta-carotene): 9% of the RDA
- Magnesium: 8% of the RDA
However, Moringa leaves may also contain high levels of anti-nutrients, which can reduce the absorption of minerals and protein (3,4).
- One study in women found that taking 1.5 teaspoons (7 grams) of moringa leaf powder every day for three months significantly increased blood antioxidant levels (5).
- Moringa leaf extract may also be used as a food preservative. It increases the shelf life of meat by reducing oxidation (6).
- One study in 30 women showed that taking 1.5 teaspoons (7 grams) of moringa leaf powder every day for three months reduced fasting blood sugar levels by 13.5%, on average (5).
- Another small study in six people with diabetes found that adding 50 grams of moringa leaves to a meal reduced the rise in blood sugar by 21% (7).
- Having high cholesterol has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Studies have shown that Moringa oleifera may have similar cholesterol-lowering effects (8,9).
To date, studies show that Moringa may lead to modest reductions in blood sugar and cholesterol. It may also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Moringa leaves are also highly nutritious and should be beneficial for people who are lacking in essential nutrients.