Ok, so we can’t dismiss the amazing-ness of turmeric; we still love this golden root with all our hearts, and have some great insights about it’s benefit here. However, there’s a new plant on the block that boasts just as many health benefits of our beloved turmeric, and is usually just as accessible to get your hands on wherever you are in the world.
Moringa – or it’s botanical name – Moringa oleifera, is native to North India, and found throughout many Southeastern Asian countries. I live in Bali myself, and get to experience the fresh-cut straight from the tree moringa leaves… they are WOW! If you’re living in a western country, then you’ll probably have seen the powdered or tablet form of moringa, made from the dried leaves. Apparently the capsule form of moringa, however, is not as effective in nutrient supply than the powder or the fresh leaves. Of course, a real, whole food diet always reigns supreme!
Moringa is often described by a few different names; ‘Horse Radish Tree’, ‘Ben Oil Tree’, or ‘Drumstick Tree.’ Though the leaves are most commonly used and eaten, all parts of the tree including roots, bark, fruits, flowers, leaves and seeds can be utilized for food or herbal medicines. It’s been used in traditional cultures all around the world for the treatments of blood impurities, blackheads, asthma, chest congestion, cholera, and many more conditions.
It’s rich in a host of nutrients, such as potassium, phosphorous, essential amino acids, calcium, iron, vitamins A and D and antioxidants such as flavonoids, vitamin C and carotene.
According to The United States Department of Agriculture, you’ll find all of the below goodness in just one cup of chopped fresh moringa leaves (about 21 grams):
RDA: Recommended daily amount
- 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
Here’s the breakdown of the richest elements of moringa as it assists in creating a healthy, vibrant body.
Free radicals can be created in the body through the process of our cell’s energy creation. Without protecting our bodies with the right nutrients, the free radicals can raise to a level where they cause oxidative stress, which can lead to chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Moringa is high in antioxidant plant compounds, such as vitamin C and beta-carotene, as well as, some rare compounds like quercetin (known to assist in lowering blood pressure) and chlorogenic acid (also assists in moderating blood sugar levels).
It was found that regular use of moringa powder lead to an increase in blood antioxidant levels in a study which required women to take 1.5 teaspoons of mooring powder every day for three months.*
Blood sugar levels
High blood sugar often results in diabetes if left unchecked for a long time. It raises the risk of a range of health problems, especially heart disease. Studies report that moringa can help to lower these blood sugar levels, though it should be noted that most of the research has been animal studies, rather than human. The mechanism is attributed to the plant compound isothiocyanates, among others.
In the same study above*, referencing the women taking the powder daily for three months, it was found that their fasting blood sugar levels were lowered by 13.5%.
When the body is injured or ill, inflammation is the body’s natural response to protect itself from greater disease. If the body is inflamed for a long time, however, this can lead to an even greater health issue than this protective mechanism was first related to. Heart disease, cancer, obesity, hypertension, atherosclerosis, and diabetes for instance, are directly linked to inflammation in the body. Turmeric is one very well known anti-inflammatory – in fact – most people would cite this as the greatest health benefit of turmeric, as it is often taken as medicine, or used on the affected area directly.
Moringa follows suit. The leaves, seeds and pods also have strong anti-inflammatory effects, again due to those magical plant compounds isothiocyanates. Still the studies conducted have been based largely on animals, so there is still more work to be done in researching the anti-inflammatory effect on humans.
Heart disease is again mentioned here – and for good reason – as it is still one of the biggest health conditions worldwide. You may already know that cholesterol is very much linked to heart disease. Traditionally in the west, flaxseeds, oats and almonds have been used to assist in lowering cholesterol in the body. The eastern world has also used the wisdom of plant compounds for healing, using moringa to assist in heart disease for decades. Both animal and human studies confirm that moringa really does assist in treating and preventing heart disease, as it has been found to lower cholesterol in the body.
This is another reason why moringa is so special – and it’s a little different to some of the better-known benefits. The contamination of food and water is a widespread problem all around the world – and not just in developing countries. According to the World Health Organization:
“The greatest threat to public health from arsenic originates from contaminated groundwater. Inorganic arsenic is naturally present at high levels in the groundwater of a number of countries, including Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, China, India, Mexico, and the United States of America. Drinking-water, crops irrigated with contaminated water and food prepared with contaminated water are the sources of exposure.”
Long-term exposure is where health begins to really decline over time, leading to poisoning the body system. Studies mostly conducted on animals have shown great benefits of the seeds and leaves of moringa in protecting against some of the effects of arsenic toxicity.
Moringa turmeric tea anyone?
Of course, this all goes to say, don’t discount the golden gem that is turmeric. It’ll always be a loved ingredient for food flavoring and herbal health uses. Though do welcome the new player into this realm, moringa has so much to give your body. If you have the pleasure of traveling to South East Asian countries like India, Thailand, or Bali, Indonesia, you may even get a taste of the fresh, rich leaves!
Now that you’re a moringa lover, a few more on superfoods:
- The five new superfoods you need to know about know
- The gluten-free grain everyone is talking about (and why)
- Here’s the deal with fermented foods
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